Carl's Jr. Does Handmade Biscuits. Really?
After all, everything in a fast-food chain comes preportioned and pre-dumbed-down so that anyone can do it, right? Creativity and individuality are swear words in the modern American fast-food parlance, so what the hell is Carl's Jr. playing at with this business of making biscuits in-store every day?
I arrived at my local Carl's Jr. shortly after 6 a.m. and asked the person behind the counter if the biscuits were really handmade. Maybe it was because it had been open for exactly seven minutes and no one had gotten a chance to crack into the (terrible) coffee yet, but it took a few tries to ask a couple of basic questions. Yes, they're made in the store. He wasn't sure he could tell me how often, or whether it starts from whole ingredients, or what fat was used. (It's partially hydrogenated soybean oil--in other words, shortening.)
The ingredients list published by Hardee's is actually relatively innocuous, and the biscuits are surprisingly good. Fluffy, hot, nice crust on the outside, not too baking powdery. If you've ever had a biscuit that tasted slightly metallic, that's what it's from. By themselves, they were a little bland, but for fast food, they were very good.
Biscuits aren't complicated things to make--really, it's flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt with fat (shortening, butter or lard) rubbed into it, then mixed with buttermilk. It's unusual, though, to see a fast-food restaurant following a recipe that millions of Southerners know and actually succeed with it.
You can't get the biscuits by themselves, though--they come as sandwiches or as a side with jam. I bought one of each and took them to the early risers in my office for their judgment.
The sausage biscuit was awful. I mean, awful. Even the best homemade Southern biscuit couldn't redeem that saline, bone-dry hockey puck. Worse, the biscuit somehow amplified the saltiness and the overwhelming sourness of the sausage. Nobody in the group liked it.
Finally, there was the jam biscuit, which had a dollop of strawberry jam in a divot in the top and stripes of white icing slashed across it. The jam was cloying, and the icing didn't help--for Pete's sake, Carl's Jr., you've got a pretty good thing here. Just sell the damn thing plain and offer butter (real butter, thank you, none of that Country Crock garbage) and honey.
And thus concludes one of the only positive stories I've ever written about fast food. I'd actually go out of my way to eat one of those ham biscuits over, say, an Egg McMuffin, and that's saying a lot.
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