Friday, August 19, 2011

Buttermilk Biscuits

Biscuits. Just about the easiest dough to throw together, but man, it's amazing how much finesse it takes to get them right!

I think the experience comes from making them over and over again. And because they're so easy to throw together, I suppose that's how people become biscuit masters. I actually made two batches just to get a better feel for the process. It's that quick.

Buttermilk Biscuits (I used Alton Brown's recipe)

2 cups flour (or 10oz by weight)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons shortening
1 cup buttermilk, chilled (or 8oz by weight)


Begin by preheating the oven to 400F.

Then, measure out your dry ingredients. Doing it by weigh takes care of all the questions of packing the measuring cup, or sifting the flour, etc. If you just weigh it out, there's no debate.

Get your fat ready. It seems to work better at room temp, but work fast because you don't want the fat to turn to liquid in the bowl.

Measure your buttermilk. Yes, I weighed it too.

Now, cut the fat into the dry ingredients.

You can do this with a pastry blender, forks, or fingers. I did it with my fingers. I seem to have more control this way.

You want to pinch the fat until it crumbles. People say it'll look like bread crumbs, but I've never had any bread crumbs look like this. At best, it's "crumblier than it was before". Just shoot for all the chunks of fat to be even in size, shape and distribution.

Next time I'm going to try this in the food processor. I bet it'll be easier, faster and better. But it is NOT traditional. That's for sure.

Make a little well in the middle of the mix when you're ready.

Pardon the blurriness, I was covered in flour and fat
Pour in the buttermilk.

Stir the mix together until it JUST COMES TOGETHER.

This is one of those steps that takes a masterful eye, I think. I barely brought the dough together, maybe I could have stirred it more, but I wanted to err on the side of caution.

Turn out the dough on to a floured surface and sprinkle the top with flour too.

Yet another part of the master process. Forming the dough. Most people in the south do not use a rolling pin. They just form it with their hands as to not over work the dough.

The less you work it, the lighter the biscuits.

Fold over the dough on itself no more than 6 times and form it into a circular shape about an inch think.

This thick
Cut out your biscuits. I used my empty baking powder tin with the bottom cut out (it was 2.5" diameter) and it worked just fine.

Regardless of your cutter, dunk the mouth of it in the flour bag, then press straight down and twist when you hit the bottom. The biscuit will pop right out.

I got 7 out of the first round.

Reform your dough as gently as possible and punch out some more.

Each iteration of this will yield slightly tougher biscuits. Just the way it is. They're still delicious.

Place them on an ungreased sheet pan, just barely touching. This is important for even cooking and for a proper rise.

I forgot to press the centers of each with my thumb. Apparently that's the right thing to do. I don't know because I forgot. Sorry.

Mine cooked for about 18 minutes at 400F. Just keep an eye on them after 15.

Mine didn't get super golden brown on top and I read somewhere that if you brush the tops with buttermilk before you bake them, they get golden. I'll try that and report back. Later.

Overall, these biscuits, while a tad smaller than I'm used to (the 2.5" cutter yielded a better size) ended up really good! I was kind of proud that my first effort turned out so well. They were flaky, buttery and delicious. You cannot get this flavor from a tube of biscuits. Not by a long shot.

You can serve these any way you want. Butter is traditional, but a fatty sausage gravy would be fantastic. (Stand by for that recipe!) Slather on some jam, or make a bacon, egg and cheese breakfast biscuit that'll kill Micky D's any old day.

I can't believe how easy these were to throw together. I can see why traditionally, southern women baked biscuits EVERY DAY for breakfast. Not that I'm going to start baking every morning, but I'll be doing them more often, that's for sure.


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