Spicy, buttery rearranged cheese biscuits

Apparently I’ve been on hiatus.


I popped by here yesterday to update my plug-ins and noticed I hadn’t done anything in two whole months. You’d think I was starving to death or something.

Which I was, for a while.

After we came back from a gluttonous week in Hong Kong in early October, I sentenced myself to a 30 day detox, cutting out everything that was fun in the universe: no grains, no dairy, no sweeteners (not even honey), no starchy veggies, no nothing. I lived on veggies… and veggies and tuna and coffee and grilled chicken enlivened by the spice rub I brought back from Morocco.

Somehow I survived.

I didn’t do much inspired cooking though. Certainly nothing worth noting here.

Oh, hey, look, it’s another freaking tuna salad!  I can’t wait to document it for posterity!

Oh, no, wait. Never mind.

Anyway, I’m back. I’ve dusted off the oven and prepped myself mentally to regain the 6 or 7 kilos I lost over the past 2 months. After all, it’s winter now and I need to be ready for  the long, unpleasant season of hibernation. Shanghai is bad at winter.



Today’s forecast: dire, with a chance of grim extending to the weekend. Highs of meh, with a projected low of get me the hell out of here.

We don’t get snow or frost or sparkly bright blue skies with crisp cold air. No, no. Shanghai is more subtle than that. We get grey, damp, oppressive clouds that are so vast that they might as well just be a big, grey, chilly lid over the city. And the rain! It will likely rain 75% of the days between now and April.

Since we are south of the Yangtze River, buildings are not legally required to be heated or insulated, so we will be damply cold, both inside and out, with everyone wearing big coats and scarves during staff meetings and at dinner. If the heat is somehow on in a building, it will be counterbalanced by the windows being flung wide open for fresh air.

I’m not kidding. I wish I was.


One thing I discovered during my month of being dairy-free was that coconut milk is awesome in coffee. I’m not sure if 3-4 coconut milk lattes a day still qualifies as a detox but at least I wasn’t having dairy. Because, you know, dairy is evil or something. Yay me.


Back in Dubai, I drank camel lattes. These are better.


Shall I remind you again what we are up against here for the next several months?


At least I’m not walking in this.


Above is my commute. This is why I’m reintroducing dairy, sugar, grains and martinis back into my diet. You would too.


They’ll take care of the situation.


My new hobby has been staging laser-cat invasions of things that annoy me. It’s cathartic.


Anyway, the food.


One of the perks of my new(ish) job is that they feed us. This has also led to a reduction in the amount I’d been cooking in the past few months.

If you’re curious about the Chinese food that Chinese people actually eat in China, here are a few examples.


Eggs and tomatoes, with greens and a metric tonne of rice.


See those little corn-like thingies? Those are crack. They’re like a bizarrely addictive Chinese version of tempura, made with sweet corn kernels.


Also, even back during my detox month we could still safely go out for dinner because a lot of the dishes are totally compliant with the brutal restrictions I self-imposed.

Below: bean jelly noodles with chilies, garlic cucumber, pickled french beans with chilies and pork.


Jelly bean noodles!



Even though I didn’t actually need to, I decided to bake today. It’s a grim and crappy day and I wanted something lovely to accompany my pot of coconut coffee.

I decided to make biscuits. Or as the recipe calls them, butter dips. Because you dip them in a half cup of melted butter before you bake them.

Like I said, I’m making up for lost time (and weight) after that detox month.

Here’s the recipe, gleaned from a site I stumbled upon yesterday. They’re in Vancouver (my homeland!) but they’re originally Malaysian so they’ve got an intriguing outsider’s perspective that I relate to.


 Butter Dips (AKA Straight-Laced Granny Biscuits)



  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 1/2 cup butter


I couldn’t leave well enough alone though, so I added the dregs of our treasured jar of jalepenos, minced, and a rather large bundle of cilantro from the street market  (because they sell it by the bushel) instead of green onions. I also used very very aged crumbly white cheddar. I used coarse kosher salt.


The jalepenos were still in the fridge. That cheese cost nearly 60 rmb for the small block. Almost $10! Holy crap!


Here are the additions I made, below. I’m sure the onion would have been nice but we were all out and I was too lazy to go down 16 floors to buy them from the veggie guys on the street.


Chop chop chop. I think using the giant cleaver may have been overkill.


Below is the last of the recipe photos that actually turned out. I think that the low, grim, grey light in the kitchen wasn’t conducive to good photography. You’ll have to imagine what comes next.

In the rice cooker insert, I mixed together the dry ingredients (flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, a few grinds of black pepper), then added the cilantro, chilies, cheddar. Mix them up nicely.


Everything after this point was covered in flour.


After they’ve been mixed, slowly add the milk, stirring it all in until it forms a dough ball. Tip the dough ball out onto a floured cutting board. Knead the ball 10 times or so, tucking all the stray bits of dough back in.

After it’s nicely kneaded, roll it out until it’s about 2cm/1″ thick and cut it into 1 inch squares. Since mine had rolled out into a rough circle, I had some weird isosceles triangle shaped pieces, but they worked out just fine.

Get the oven up to 450 degrees, or 230C. I had to crank my little toaster oven up to the max. I definitely burned off some of the dust from the months of neglect.

While it was pre-heating, I put the half cup of butter into the cake pan I planned to use and melted it in the oven.

When the butter has melted, haul it out of the oven and start adding your dough squares. Dredge the squares in the butter as you add them. Make sure all sides have been dunked.

My pan was too small for all my dough squares, so I added another one, but using olive oil instead of butter. They turned out quite pale but still tasty.


Bake for 25-30 minutes.


Look! Biscuits soaked in butter, nicely browned!


They smelled like heaven, dipped in butter.


And you can see the pale, olive oil ones on the left, below. They were still delicious.  Hopefully I won’t eat all of them before lunch.


And then there were (eventually) none. I started out with 27…


I had originally planned to eat them with the leftover soup that was in the fridge, a lovely experiment that had started as a hearty Lanzhou beef broth but then mutated over the course of the day into an Italian wedding soup, with white beans and a massive bag of baby spinach.

See? They’d go so well with that soup!


I made this yesterday.


With these, I may just be able to cope with winter. Just.


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  1. mjskit says:

    I was wondering where the heck you’ve been! Missed your humor Darlin! Of course it doesn’t sound like there is much humor in the winter conditions you are about the endure. No insulation, no heat? Man – I’m spoiled!!!! However, I would love some of your cloudy,rainy weather. We are in such a drought here that the blue skies, sunny days and 50 degree weather is actually getting boring. NOT! 🙂 I love our weather, BUT I would love to have a raining day once in a while such I could really enjoy soup and biscuits! It sounds SO good, but then I could eat those biscuits any day. Definitely look like Granny’s biscuits! Stay warm and cozy!
    mjskit recently posted..Glazed Carrots with SageMy Profile

    1. MaryAnne says:

      Back when I lived in Istanbul, we had long summers that were cloudless and baking hot and I remember yearning for a cloudy, rainy day, just for a reprieve… We definitely have that here! Luckily we have heaters in our flat (wall mounted heat-exchange things which struggle, as our windows are draughty and walls are uninsulated). At work and in public places… not so much. When I taught at a public university here for 2 years, winters were awful– classrooms were unheated and we had to wear full winter gear during class! It’s not easy writing on the board whilst wearing gloves!

      I’ve got a bunch of recipes queued up in my drafts folder, ready for me to start my round of winter cooking. Comfort food!

  2. Ann Mah says:

    Oh my god. Butter-dipped cheese biscuits? My life feels incomplete without these. (Also, that photo of tomatoes and eggs gave me a pang for my Beijing lunches of yore.)

  3. TracyAnn0312 says:

    Wow! These is really wonderful. I do love to eat biscuits that are very cheesy and soaked with butter. Good thing I have learned another great recipe from your website.

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