Friday, August 7, 2009

Buttermilk Biscuits

*Note from Rebecca: Sorry about the big break in posting - we were in the process of moving! You may notice a new kitchen in the background. This kitchen has slightly better lighting and is much more open, which makes taking pictures of the cooking process a lot easier.*

When I was a kid, the absolute ultimate breakfast was built on a single foundation: the biscuit. Upon this rock, an entire city could be built from gravy, eggs, cheese, bacon, jelly, honey; a thousand variations of delicious breakfast snacks. Make them into mini-sandwiches! Tart them up like little flaky strumpets! Biscuits could do no wrong.

The problem: my mom’s biscuits involved a rolling pin, a clean counter, lots of flour, and a hell of a cleanup process. And so after I moved out of the house, I avoided the simple biscuit. Too much work for too little gain.

Oh, sure; I tried drop biscuits. They weren’t satisfying. Weird little guys that were never round, never tall. Just irregular blobs, unsuitable for splitting and making into sandwiches or dressing with sausage gravy. It was a real shame. Once a year, I’d go to my parents’ house for Christmas breakfast, and there they’d be again: the magnificent biscuits of my youth.

And now? Now, I have a new recipe, thanks to the geniuses at Cooks Illustrated. These are tall and fantastic; they are flaky and delicious. You will love them. And you’ll never have to break out a rolling pin.

Buttermilk Biscuits (Makes 12 biscuits, serving 4-6)

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes


Nonstick cooking spray, oil, or shortening (to grease pan)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces)
1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder (The fresher your baking powder is, the better these will be.)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (COLD), cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 ½ cups buttermilk cold, preferably low-fat

To Form and Finish Biscuits
1cup unbleached all-purpose flour (5 ounces), distributed in rimmed baking sheet
Optional: 2 tablespoons melted butter

1. Heat your oven to 500 degrees. Spray a 9” cake pan inside and out with nonstick cooking spray. Or coat with oil or shortening. Whatever you’d like. Keep that cooking spray out; you aren’t done with it!

2. If you have a food processor, bully for you; this will be a snap! Process 2 cups of flour (10 oz), baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Otherwise, whisk it together real nice in a bowl!

3. Really, the food processor is your best friend here. You want to process the butter into the flour mixture so that the butter is in little pea-sized portions. You’ll be able to run your fingers
through the dough and it’ll feel kind of like cornmeal. So sprinkle the butter cubes over the flour mixture and do 8 one-second pulses with your food processor.

Now, if you don’t have a processor - you don’t want the butter to melt, so you can’t use your fingers to do this. You can do this with a couple of forks; just kind of grind the butter into the
flour. You do like butter, right? You want your biscuits to be flaky, right? It’ll take a few minutes, but do it!

4. Put the flour / butter mixture in the freezer and wait til your oven is good and hot. While you’re waiting, spray or grease a ¼ cup measuring scoop. The hotter the oven gets, the quicker – and higher – your biscuits will rise. Patience. Meanwhile, spread a cup of flour across a rimmed baking sheet. Line up the baking sheet, your greased baking pan, and get ready to rock.

5. You’re ready. The oven is burning hot. This next steps will need to go a little quickly. Here’s what you’ll do now: mix together the flour / butter mixture with the cold buttermilk. Mix it well, but just until it all comes together. You don’t want to overmix these guys.

Stirring action shot!

6. Immediately afterward, begin scooping biscuits with the ¼ cup measure. Make them SCANT quarter cups; you’ll get twelve. Drop each biscuit scoop onto the floured baking sheet. Now you should have twelve clumps of biscuit dough!

7. Gently roll each biscuit into a ball and roll it in flour. Put nine biscuit balls around the perimeter of your cake pan and then put the last three biscuit balls into the middle. Look here!

8. If you really like, you can brush the biscuit tops with melted butter. Otherwise, pop that pan into the oven and wait 5 minutes.

9. After five minutes is up, drop the temperature to 450 degrees and bake another 15 minutes, until the biscuits are golden brown.

10. Let them cool two minutes in the pan on the stovetop.

11. Take out your giant biscuit mass and separate into twelve biscuits. Cool for 5 minutes; otherwise, they will be a little underdone! Patience, grasshopper.

12. Eat them!

Robert’s take: My favorite biscuits EVER. Pretty easy to make, too. Though I do prefer the homogeneity of the shape of my mom’s circular rolled biscuits, these guys are outstanding in flavor and texture.

Rebecca's take: Super delicious! When I was a kid, the only biscuits my mom ever made were the Pillsbury kind from a can. I feel lucky to be presented with these homemade biscuits for breakfast on a fairly regular basis. They're awesome with honey, jam, or bacon and eggs if you prefer! Mmm..

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