Recipe developer Julia Turshen is at it again, with a guide to culinary satisfaction that’s won the praise of Ina Garten, April Bloomfield and Ruth Reichl. There’s nothing like pulling a perfect tray of something delicious out of the oven, which is why we’re cooking our way through Small Victories.

Reading the late, great Edna Lewis’s seminal book The Taste of Country Cooking so many years ago helped me, a young New York Jew whose entire family lives in the tristate area, begin to understand the nuances, depth and incredible appeal of Southern cooking traditions and techniques. One of the stories about Edna that I love the most is when tasked with making a huge amount of biscuits for an event, she did so one batch at a time. She said it was only way she would do it, because she did it by feel. If she scaled up the recipe, the biscuits just wouldn’t be the same. She worked with a true understanding of the physicality of baking — the intuition that comes when you let your hands tell you when the dough is right.

Biscuits are a great introduction to the wonderful small victory of making dough without any tools except your own two hands and learning “the feel.” By using your fingers to work the butter into the flour, you can create little pockets of fat that, in turn, create steam when the biscuits are in the oven, which results in the flakiest baked goods (this skill also translates to making pie dough and scones). Here, I cover the biscuits with all the toppings you would typically find on top of an everything bagel (and put some inside the dough, too). A mash-up of my two favorite carbohydrates, this is my New York nod to a Southern gem.

Spin-offs: Skip the seeds inside and on top of the biscuits and try all sorts of different toppings (or just brush with buttermilk and leave them plain). Before baking, brush the biscuits with maple syrup and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Or go sweet and savory with a brush of maple syrup and a sprinkle of coarsely ground black pepper. Or spread with mustard and top with a bit of grated cheese.

For cheddar and scallion biscuits, add a handful each of thinly sliced scallions and coarsely grated cheddar cheese to the dough (leave out the poppy seed mixture).

For jalapeño popper biscuits, leave out the poppy seed mixture and substitute ½ cup cream cheese for ½ cup of the buttermilk and add a small handful each of chopped pickled jalapeños and coarsely grated cheddar cheese to the dough.

For croque monsieur biscuits, add a handful each of diced ham and coarsely grated Gruyère cheese to the dough. Don’t add the poppy seed mixture to the dough.

For chicken and biscuits, add an extra ¼ cup buttermilk to the dough (leave out the poppy seed mixture) and drop it by large spoonfuls on top of a pot of simmering chicken soup (filled with shredded meat and vegetables), cover the pot, and cook over low heat until the topping is cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes. Or cut out biscuits, put them on top of a baking dish filled with pot-pie filling, and bake at 400°F until the filling is bubbling and the biscuits are gorgeously browned, about 25 minutes.

Reprinted with permission from Small Victories