October 23, 2011 2 Comments
You know that I always try to have a little backstory to go along with a recipe, because I think that it’s much more fun to find out why someone cooks or bakes something than just read a recipe, which you can do on any cooking site. A lot of times, though, I have no good tale after I try a recipe, but I really want to share it and so I wander around trying to fit the recipe into a story, any story, so I can write about it. I mean, I’m not crazy (or committed) enough to go do something just so I can post about it and give you a recipe, but I do have a backlog of tasty treats that are hanging out just waiting for the right moment.
This is not one of those moments. The true story is that I bought a quart of buttermilk (seriously, who needs a quart of buttermilk?) in order to make sweet potato muffins for a brunch. Since the recipe only calls for 1/3 cup of buttermilk I had a full container when I was done. I was thrilled when the lemon poppyseed cake called for a cup; I thought I could at least put a dent in the quart. But it’s obvious that buttermilk regenerates, because I swear that the carton was as full as when I started (and I made three of those cakes). So as the expiration date approached, I started thinking about what else I could do. Biscuits were the first thing that popped into my mind, but I dismissed them because I’m not a fan. The ones I’ve had have always been heavy and chewy and too buttermilky–the tang of buttermilk is overpowering to me. But I couldn’t find any recipes other than cakes and pancakes, so biscuits won by default.
Having never eaten a biscuit that I actually liked, I had every intention of just making them, taking a few pictures and pawning them off on my coworkers. What really ended up happening is that I was late for work, because I was standing in my kitchen eating biscuits dripping with butter and honey like it was my job. I moved from the “I’ll pass” camp to the “you’ll pass over all the biscuits now if you know what’s good for you” camp in less time than it took for them to cool. They were light and layered and had a bit of sweetness (even without the honey) that balanced out the tartness of the buttermilk. Even the next day they were soft and had none of that chewiness that I think plagues other biscuits. Of course, I wouldn’t really know how they hold up for too many days, because there weren’t any left after day two. But, you know what was still hanging around? 1/2 a quart of buttermilk. I kid you not.
Buttermilk Biscuits, courtesy of The Homesick Texan (I think I originally found the recipe on epicurious, but think it’s better to link to her actual site)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading (9 ounces)
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, plus more to taste (I used just 1 teaspoon)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold (1 stick)
- 3/4 cup half-and-half or buttermilk (I added a bit more to the dough, because it was a little dry as I was mixing)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and grease a baking sheet or cast-iron skillet.
Mix together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Cut the stick of butter into pieces and work it into the flour mixture with your hands or pastry blender until it resembles pea-size crumbs. Add the half-and-half or buttermilk, mixing until the dough is a bit loose and sticky.
Pour the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for a minute. Dough should be smooth and no longer wet. You can sprinkle more flour on the surface if you find it’s sticking. Make the dough into a ball and hit it with a rolling pin, turning it and folding it in half every few whacks. Do this for a couple of minutes (I actually just picked up the dough and threw it down over and over (fold over before throwing it down again). Good tension release and upper arm workout).
Roll out the dough until it’s 1/4 of an inch thick, then fold it in half. Using a round biscuit cutter (you can use a glass or a cup if you don’t have a biscuit cutter–I used a measuring cup), cut out the biscuits from the folded dough. Place on a greased baking sheet or in a cast-iron skillet close together, about 1/8 of an inch apart (so they rise up not out), and bake for 15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.
NOTE: If you don’t want to roll and cut them out, after kneading and beating the dough you can drop the dough onto the baking sheet with a spoon. They’re not as symmetrical (dropped biscuits are also known as cat-head biscuits), but they’re no less delicious.