Saturday, November 24, 2007

Buttermilk Biscuits

I haven't done a lot of baking the last few days, so I'm using this opportunity to post one of my favorite recipes. Everybody has their own favorite biscuit recipe and most people swear by a particular ingredient or technique. For a lot of people it's shortening to produce a light, airy biscuit, or a combination of shortening and butter, shortening for the texture and butter for the flavor. Still others swear by a particular brand of flour (White Lilly I think it's called) and by cream or milk or buttermilk.

The biscuit recipe I love and have been making for years to great acclaim is all butter and buttermilk. The biscuit is denser than a lot of southern style shortening biscuits, but the flavor is outstanding and I have rarely gone wrong with the recipe. I actually found this recipe in a cook book that I got as a Christmas present years ago based on the recipes from a now-closed restaurant in DC called Red Sage. The recipes in the book produce great food, but most of them are time consuming, poorly written and call for obscure ingredients. Chris loves the book, but the only thing I ever really made from it was the biscuits.

I am not writing the steps in the process as they appear in the book but rather as I make them, just because that's how I think about them. :)

2.5 Cups flour

2.5 tsp Baking Powder
1 Tsp sugar

1 Tsp salt

2 Sticks cold, unsalted butter cut into pieces
1 cup + 3 or 4 tablespoons, buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients (using your fingers -- my choice -- or a pastry cutter) until you have pieces of butter ranging in size from small peas to barley. Make sure the butter stays as cold as possible and that the chunks don't get too small. (When the biscuits bake the chunks of butter melt which helps create layers in the biscuit.)

Add the cup of buttermilk and stir the mixture together. If it doesn't come together fairly easily add more buttermilk a little at a time until it does. (I've added as much as an extra half a cup before it was done.) Try not to over-mix and try to keep everything cold.

Pat the biscuit dough out into a circle until it's about 1-inch thick and cut with a biscuit cutter, or break off even-sized chunks of the dough and form into a loose balls that are about an inch thick, and place them on an ungreased baking sheet.

The recipe says that they bake in about 18 minutes, but I have rarely had mine done in that time. Check after 18 minutes, but if they are not golden on the bottom, leave them in there, checking every minute or so, until they are golden on the bottom, and just starting to get a little color on the top. When I bake them they usually stay in the oven around 24-25 minutes.

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