Saturday, February 16, 2013

Fluffy Buttermilk Biscuits

Is there anything better than a fluffy, warm biscuit on a weekend morning?  Pancakes?  Waffles?  Nah.  The Biscuit is where it's at.  Golden on the outside and soft on the inside, still steaming from the oven when you pull it apart.  Ready for jam or honey or gravy or even a little egg sandwich.  It's the rustic, unassuming hero of breakfast foods.

In case it's not obvious, I like biscuits.  You should, too.

The key to any delicious biscuit is the buttermilk.  Here's a fun fact - despite its name and thick, cream-like consistency, buttermilk is not actually that high in fat.  No more so than regular milk, in fact.  It's called buttermilk because it originally came from the milk left over after the process of churning butter.  These days it's made by combining sweet milk with a lactic acid bacteria culture.  The acidic buttermilk does two things for your baked goods: 1) Gives them a nice tang and more complex flavor, 2) Gives them a more moist, tender crumb.  This is why it's so perfect for cakes, guessed it: biscuits.

There are two basic styles of biscuits:  drop biscuits and cut-out biscuits.  Okay, there's also the canned biscuits, but those really shouldn't be in the biscuit category, because their resemblance to true biscuits is shallow at best.

There are some important things to remember with either type, though, if you like tall, fluffy biscuits, like I do.  Do not overwork the dough.  Handling the dough too much is the enemy of a tall biscuit.  If you desire a layered, cut-out style biscuit, I wouldn't fold the dough over more than twice.  And always use a sharp biscuit cutter.

The recipe I'm about to share is nice because it allows you to handle the dough as little as possible while still giving a round biscuit shape.  Also best for tall biscuits:  Bake them in a round pan, right up against each other.  Some biscuits are baked spread out on a cookie sheet, but keeping them together will help them rise more.

Of course, if you don't desire a tall, fluffy biscuit, you can ignore everything I just said.  But then I have to wonder what's wrong with you.  On to the recipe!

Fluffy Buttermilk Biscuits (from Cook's Illustrated)

2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 Tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

For forming biscuits:
3/4 cup flour
2 Tablspoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 500°F.  Spray a 9" cake pan and 1/4 measuring cup with cooking or baking spray.

Combine 2 cups flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in the bowl of a food processor, or regular bowl.  Pulse or mix to combine all the dry ingredients.  Add the butter and pulse or use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles course meal.  At this point, if using a food processor, transfer your dough to a separate bowl.  Add the buttermilk and use a wooden spoon or spatula to mix just until the dough comes together.

Put 3/4 cups flour in a rimmed baking sheet.   Using the greased 1/4 measuring cup, scoop out the dough and drop into the flour (if dough starts to stick to the measuring cup, feel free to re-grease with the spray).  Flour your hands and gently form the mounds of dough into rounded balls.  Shake off any excess flour, then place in the greased cake pan.  You should be able to fit 8 biscuits on the outside circle and 3 on the inside.

Brush the dough with the melted butter and put in the oven at 500°F for 5 minutes.  Lower the temperature to 450°F and bake for another 13-15 minutes.  Allow biscuits to cool for 5 minutes.  Serve warm.

1 comment:

  1. This is my go-to biscuit recipe! I've also passed it along to multiple people and they all love it! Thank you for sharing cousin! - Anna