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A biscuit cutter is a kitchen tool intended for cutting biscuits and other pastry shapes. Using a biscuit cutter ensures that biscuits are uniformly sized and shaped, which is important for a number of reasons. Many kitchen supply stores sell biscuit cutters, often in sets of graduating sizes or related shapes. They can also be special ordered through companies which supply such tools.
Typically, a biscuit cutter is made from metal, since the metal can be molded into the desired shape easily and the sharp edge of the metal will cut through biscuit dough cleanly. Some biscuit cutters are also made from plastic, another easily molded material. In a pinch, a baker can use a class or wine goblet as a biscuit cutter as well. When using an impromptu biscuit cutter, try to find one which is not tapered, as this will impact the end shape of the biscuit.
The standard shape for a biscuit is round, but biscuit cutters can come in all shapes. Bakers can make hearts, squares, rectangles, dinosaurs, flowers, and other patterns with biscuit cutters. Unlike a cookie cutter, a biscuit cutter is usually cut in a simple, bold shape without immense detail, since the biscuits rise as they cook, obscuring things like branches of a Christmas tree shape or arms of a human figure.
Using a biscuit cutter is important for several reasons. The first is consistency of cooking. If a cook rolls out biscuit dough evenly and uses the same biscuit cutter, it ensures that the biscuits will have the same cooking time. A sheet of even biscuits can also reveal irregularities in an oven, if some biscuits cook more quickly than others. Uniform shapes and sizes are also important to commercial and professional chefs, since consumers have come to expect them.
To use a biscuit cutter most effectively, biscuit dough is rolled out on a lightly floured surface. The biscuit cutter is typically dipped in flour to prevent sticking, and it is positioned in a corner of the sheet of dough and pressed through the dough in one smooth motion. Most cooks cut their biscuits close together, using the dough as efficiently as possible. Usually, biscuit dough can only be rerolled once, so cooks want to maximize the number of biscuits they get out of one batch of dough.
If you are trying to come up with a way for using up excess biscuit dough, consider making cinnamon rolls. Wrap strips of dough up with cinnamon and pats of butter, and brush the rolls lightly with milk or egg. The dough may not be as light and flaky, since it has been rerolled, but the sweet rolled biscuit will probably be a hit anyway, especially with younger members of the household.
@Scrbblchick -- I only use a biscuit cutter if I'm making something that requires uniform biscuits. Normally, I don't.
I think you're right about the rolling part. I frequently use leftover dough for cinnamon rolls, and because it's only been rolled out once, the dough is much lighter and the cinnamon rolls are, too. They're so easy to make, you can make a batch of biscuit dough just for cinnamon rolls. Leftover yeast roll dough is good for cinnamon rolls, too. I really like those. They're as good as anything you can buy in a bakery. Now I'm making myself hungry.
Some biscuit cutters have a little center metal piece that screws in so you can make doughnuts. The center piece makes the hole! It's also good for cutting out mini biscuits (or "little bones," as my grandmother used to call them). They're usually a decent size for a biscuit.
I prefer to scoop dough out and pat it out a little, rather than roll out my dough. They're much lighter and fluffier when you do that. I think it's because the gluten doesn't develop as much when you don't handle them too much. And light, fluffy biscuits are the pride of every Southern woman.
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