Buttermilk biscuits

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In my high school culinary class, we spent a class period trying to make the tallest biscuits we could.  It turned into a competition with us measuring our biscuit height and fighting over even the smallest discrepancies.  Let’s just say…I lost.  I have never been a natural with dough.

Now years later, I returned to the kitchen with hopes of making a tall biscuit.  I used a recipe from the July/August 2004 issue of Cook’s Illustrated.  The recipe is for “Mile High Biscuits.”

The recipe was quick and relatively simple, but they still fell short.  Ha.

This recipe explained the science behind biscuits.  It recommended using both baking powder and baking soda for a fluffy texture.  Baking soda is activated when combined with liquid acid.  This is why buttermilk is so important to the recipe.  It is also why my biscuits failed.  I shouldn’t say failed, they were still scrumptious; we ate all of them.

I began making the batter without checking to make sure I had enough buttermilk and it turned out I was 1/4 cup short.  I didn’t even have milk on hand to add in, so I used 1/4 cup of water.  Ah ha!  This must be why my biscuits didn’t rise.  Could that really make a difference?  After reading three-full pages of research done by Cook’s Illustrated’s science editor, it seems biscuits are, in fact, a science.  Whoops.

So here is the recipe.  I recommend trying it because even if you do slip up and fall back to your old ways of not reading the recipe like I did:  They will most likely still be delicious.  Buttery, tangy, salty–in the best way.

Makes 12 biscuits/Cook’s Illustrated

Dough

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon doublt-acting baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups cold buttermilk, preferably low-fat

To form and finish biscuits

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour distributed in rimmed baking sheet
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 500 degrees.  Spray 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.  Generously spray inside and outside of 1/4 cup dry measure with nonstick cooking spray.

In a food processor, pulse all of the dry ingredients for the dough, until combined.  Scatter butter cubes over dry ingredients; pulse until mixture becomes crumbly.  Transfer mixture to medium bowl.  Add buttermilk to dry ingredients and stir with rubber spatula until just incorporated.

To form and bake biscuits:  Using 1/4 cup dry measure and working quickly, scoop level amount of dough; drop dough from measuring cup into flour on baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining dough, forming 12 mounds.  Dust tops of each piece of dough with flour and form into balls.  Tap off excess flour and place into the prepared cake pan.  Arrange nine balls around the outside of the pan and three in the center.  Brush the tops with melted butter, being careful to not flatten them.  Bake five minutes, then reduce temperature to 450 degrees.  Continue to bake until biscuits are a deep golden brown, about 15 minutes longer.  Cool in pan two minutes, then remove and serve.

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