Monday, June 3, 2013

buttermilk biscuits.


I used to firmly believe that unless you were born south of the Mason-Dixon Line it would be impossible to bake a perfect biscuit.  (I also like to imagine that when you are a baby born in the South that the first solid food you are given is a buttermilk biscuit but that’s probably not the case since I don’t think babies are supposed to eat butter.) I’ve struggled with having them emerge from the oven as towering golden brown masses that when broken open reveal a steaming fluffy interior perfect for stuffing softly scrambled eggs into.  Instead, when I opened the oven I would be greeted with something that resembled a tan hockey puck (which is never a good look or very tasty).   I continued to try tirelessly and then practically gave up until my (imaginary) best friend Deb over at Smitten Kitchen revealed her go to biscuit recipe and then all was right in the world.  These are perfect; tender and buttery with an incredible tangy undertone.  I’ve served them slathered with spicy honey as an accompaniment to this fried chicken, as the perfect base for strawberry shortcakes, and with butter and homemade rhubarb jam as a side to scrambled eggs.  This is a recipe everyone should have their repertoire because they are exactly how I imagine a perfect Southern biscuit tastes. 

Buttermilk Biscuits
Recipe via Smitten Kitchen

Makes 6 large sandwich style biscuits or 9 normal-sized biscuits 

As Deb notes on Smitten Kitchen the sugar can be dialed up or down depending on their use.  For me I prefer to keep the sugar content low as I find if I am using them in a sweet manner (i.e. Strawberry Shortcakes) that there is enough sugar in the other components to balance out the biscuits.  Freezing these pre-formed is also rather genius as it allows you to wake up on Saturday mornings and simply turn on the oven to bake them up and in about 20 minutes you have the perfect accompaniment to eggs!

2 1/4 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons (my prefernce) to 1 1/2 tablespoons (10 to 20 grams) sugar (to taste, see note above)
1 tablespoon (15 grams) baking powder
3/4 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
9 tablespoons (125 grams) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
3/4 cup (175 ml) buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 °F and cover baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in large, wide bowl. Using fingertips or a pastry blender, work butter into dry ingredients until the mixture resembles a coarse meal, Add buttermilk and stir until large, craggy clumps form. Reach hands into bowl and knead mixture briefly until it just holds together.

To form biscuit rounds: Transfer dough to floured counter and pat out until 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick (err on the thin side if uncertain, as the tall ones will literally rise and then tip over, like mine did the day I photographed these). Using a round cutter (2 inches for regular sized biscuits, 3 inches for the monstrous ones shown above), press straight down — twisting produces less layered sides — and transfer rounds to prepared sheet, spacing two inches apart.

To drop biscuits: Drop 1/4-cup spoonfuls onto baking sheet, spacing two inches apart.

Bake until biscuits are golden brown on top, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cool slightly, then serve warm, with butter/jam/eggs//fried chicken/macerated strawberries and cream.  The possibilities are rather endless.  

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