Mmmm....biscuits. Is there any better breakfast food on a cool fall morning than a homemade biscuit? For me, biscuits are the bomb, especially when they turn out towering, moist and flaky.
Son of Hubmeister shares my fondness for biscuits. He has sampled all of my attempts, which have been numerous because I can't leave biscuit recipes alone. My official biscuit (and pancake) guinea pig, he has become a pretty good judge of them in my house and beyond.
On our recent trip to Georgia, we were starving and pulled off the highway for breakfast at Cracker Barrel, where I ordered eggs and biscuits. I thought their biscuits were bread-y inside and overly buttery outside, but I liked their loftiness. Son of Hub said he didn't care about the mile-high rise, agreed that the Barrel's product had a breadlike consistency and said he liked mine better. No fool, this kid. Son of Hub is going to make some woman very happy one day!
While in Athens, we had a quick breakfast at a college hangout called Daily Bread. Son of Hub ripped off a piece of his biscuit and said, "Mom, taste this." Sweet. Neither of us cared for the sweet taste, especially when it was sandwiching eggs. If you travel and order biscuits at a number of restaurants, you will notice how the biscuit's taste and texture change as often as the landscape.
On the home front, I made these fine specimens last weekend. Because I wanted more poof to a recipe on which I made the notation, "Best Biscuits Ever," I added an additional 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder to the original measurements.
I cracked open one of my few remaining jars of spring strawberry preserves and relished a bit of biscuit bliss.
Give thanks for the Almighty Biscuit and make these next week. They will take about 15 minutes to prepare and, except for buttermilk, you probably have the ingredients in your fridge and pantry. Go get you some buttermilk! My recipe is specific because I have discovered that a ton of factors affect the outcome of biscuits, from the brand of flour and baking powder to the pan used for baking.
Buttery Buttermilk Biscuits
(Food and Wine, February 2007)
2 C all-purpose unbleached flour (King Arthur)
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder (fresh Rumford Double-Acting)
1 tsp. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into cubes and chilled
3/4 C buttermilk (Friendship Light)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups of flour with the baking powder and salt. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the cubed butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the buttermilk and GENTLY stir with a fork or wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead 2 or 3 times, just until it comes together. If the dough is falling apart and crumbling, add a touch more buttermilk. A touch!
With floured hands, pat the dough out until it's about an inch thick. This is when I let the dough rest a couple of minutes. Using a lightly floured biscuit cutter or the rim of a standard drinking glass, stamp out biscuits as close together as possible. Don't twist the cutter as you stamp; go straight down. Pat the dough scraps together and stamp out more biscuits. You'll end up with 5 or 6 biscuits. Handle the biscuit dough as little as possible. It's as temperamental as pastry, if you ask me.
Transfer the biscuits to a 9-inch round cake pan. Place biscuits, touching, in the pan. If you like your biscuits with crispier sides, place them a few inches apart on a sheet pan. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the biscuits are golden. Brush hot biscuits with additional melted butter, if desired.
Note: In an amazing coincidence, today I saw someone making biscuits on "Martha Stewart." The chef, who swears by White Lily Flour, doesn't pat or roll the dough after mixing it but forms each biscuit roughly by hand. More experimentation awaits.