Pine State Biscuits co-owner Brian Snyder may not be a chef by trade, but he’s a natural at passing his love for food and cooking down to his family. Growing up the youngest of five in North Carolina, he made it a point to hang out in the kitchen with his mom. He explains, “With a family as big as ours, mom wasn’t worrying too much about being creative—it was more about just getting a meal on the table—but it was our bonding time.”
His 8-year-old daughter, Naomi, echoes that sentiment. “I love cooking because I love science, and being creative, but mostly I like to hang out with my dad—and he cooks a lot.”
The Snyders’ house embodies the best of Portland’s traditional family homes. Nestled in a tree-lined and overgrown Northeast Portland neighborhood, their foursquare is filled with light, love and a scruffy little dog named Charlie. Both Naomi and her older brother, Levi, have tried their hands in the kitchen, but it’s Naomi who’s determined to follow in her dad’s footsteps. Although mom, Justine, claims not to be much of a cook herself, her and Brian’s willingness to let Naomi “free range in the kitchen” have helped fan the flames of their daughter’s passion. “We hang out in the living room and let her go for it,” says Justine. “What’s the worst that could happen? We lose a few dollars of ingredients, or there’s a mess to clean up? Learning from your own mistakes, with your own process, is the best way.”
And, not surprisingly, it all started with biscuits. When Naomi was in preschool, Brian brought in dough for the kids to make biscuits. To this day, the holiday biscuits have fallen squarely on the kids of the family to execute. Naomi joins with her cousins and family friends to make the biscuits at their annual holiday gathering in Ashland. “Come to think of it, the kids don’t know they’re making the Pine State biscuits,” laughs Brian. “Maybe I’ll have them sign a nondisclosure this year.” Naomi has stretched her baking skills lately with cakes and cookies. Trips to the library always yield another cookbook with recipes to try. Most recently, she brought home a vegetarian cookbook so she could make things for her brother. She’s learned the hard way that some substitutions work better than others.
“Once I had a sleepover and we decided to make macaroon cookies. We didn’t have any milk, so we thought mayonnaise would be the next best thing. We also used ghee instead of butter, which made them flat. We all had one taste and spit it out in the sink,” recalls Naomi.
Brian is teaching Naomi how to move away from recipes and develop an understanding of the relationship between ingredients, flavors and technique. They love making omelettes — the structure is the same, but the ingredients are as variable as the imagination. “This summer I was using tomatoes and herbs from our garden for my omelettes,” gushes Naomi.
“Letting kids explore in the kitchen and take ownership of making their own food really helps to develop a palette. Naomi eats almost everything and will give most things a try. Tongue tacos? She likes them,” says Brian. As for her favorite dish at Pine State? “The Reggie, for sure.”
In addition to the chef outfit Naomi sports in the kitchen, she was given her first real prep knife for Christmas last year. This holiday Naomi plans to make her favorite, apple pie.
TOP BISCUIT TIPS
Freeze The Butter
Grate the frozen butter to make it easy for little hands to “rice” the flour to the correct consistency before the butter gets too warm.
A GENTLE TOUCH
Keeping ingredients cool and not over-working the dough is the key to light and flaky biscuits.”
WHEN TO BUTTER
Bake the biscuits for 15 minutes then take them out and brush with salted butter and return them to the oven for 1 to 2 more minutes.
SIMPLE BISCUITS PERFECT FOR COOKING WITH KIDS
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Preheat oven to 450°.
Place your rack in the center of the oven and double-check your oven temperature if you have an oven thermometer.
Mix dry ingredients thoroughly.
A food processor works great for this, if you have one.
Grate the frozen butter into the dry mixture.
Gently toss to evenly distribute and coat the butter in the dry mix.
Rub the butter into the dry mix with your fingertips.
Work just enough for some of the butter to disappear and to make some pea-sized clumps — less than a minute. Put this in the freezer or fridge. The colder the better.
Combine buttermilk, heavy cream and egg, and beat well.
Removing the dry mix from the freezer, combine the dry and wet mixes and gently mix with a spatula just until the dough comes together. It’s OK to see some dry mix still in the bowl. If you are using a stand mixer, keep it on low and use the dough hook. Your dough should appear almost too wet.
Coat a work surface generously with flour.
Press the dough into a 1-inch-thick rectangle. Gently fold the dough in thirds (like a letter). Repeat the press and fold two more times—always gently—adding another dusting of flour as necessary. End with a 1-inch-thick rectangle.
Cut your biscuits straight down and straight up.
Dust your cutter with flour, and do not twist when you cut the biscuits. Reshape leftover dough gently to cut more biscuits.
Place biscuits on a lightly greased cooking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove and brush with salted butter, returning them to the oven for 1 to 2 more minutes. Be careful not to overcook.