I’ve always admired those apron-clad cooks, who can walk confidently into a kitchen early in the morning and whip up a country breakfast lickity-split. All the while they’re able to carry on a conversation about Aunt Nelly’s gall bladder operation and the upcoming school board election.
I’m talking about cooks, who can turn out buttermilk biscuits, sausage gravy, omelets, hash browns, or a breakfast casserole without breaking a sweat—or referring to a recipe.
In Search of a Better Biscuit
When it comes to recipes, I’m one of those who can never leave well enough alone. I’m always looking for another, even better one than mine. I’ve made many a batch of biscuits. Yet I’m forever searching for an easier, fluffier one.
This recipe from Southern Living, called Our Favorite Buttermilk Biscuits, may just be it. (I think a recipe qualifies as Southern if it specifies King Arthur or White Lily flour.) The ingredients are few and simple: frozen butter shredded on a box grater, self-rising flour, (preferably White Lily :-)), and buttermilk. That’s it!
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Start by making a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the cold buttermilk. Stir about 15 times. (You don’t want to overdo, or underdo, or biscuits will be tough.) There’s no kneading required, but there is some folding of the rolled out dough to achieve layering in the cooked biscuits.
If you like, use your hands to gently flatten the dough and skip the rolling pin. Cut the dough 3/4″ thick with a floured biscuit cutter or the rim of a drinking glass.
From Bowl, to Board, to Baking Sheet
I use a cake pan for biscuits rather than a baking sheet, because they bump together slightly and rise up higher. After brushing tops with butter, slip the biscuits into a 475 degree oven until they’re golden, about 15 minutes.
Gently open cooked biscuits and smear with real butter and/or some of the homemade jelly your aunt gave you last year. Or—my favorite way to enjoy this delicacy—use a biscuit as the base for sausage gravy.
A Few Things to Remember
- When cutting cold butter into a flour mixture, I’ve always used a pastry cutter. But this recipe calls for cutting of the frozen butter on a box scraper. Much easier.
- Chill prepared dough for a while in the fridge to allow gluten to relax and butter to harden. I even chill my mixing bowl.
- Use a light colored, rimless baking sheet on the second or third rack in an uncrowded, pre-heated oven. Dark pans absorb more heat and can cause “over browning”—an euphemism for burnt biscuits. For taller, soft sided biscuits, bump rounds up against each other or use cake pan.
- In the event you “over brown,” the biscuits, just cut off the bottoms (as per Rachel Ray) and fry them in a buttered skillet. Or serve with extra syrup to mask your mistake. 🙂
- If making biscuits with all-purpose flour (not self-rising) and you want to test the age of you baking powder, put 1/2 teaspoon of it into 2 tablespoons of water. If the mixture foams, it’s okay. If it doesn’t, toss it.