With all the snow blowing around outside, I feel a need for biscuits. Just plain old buttermilk biscuits, flaky and buttery and begging for some of the raspberry jam I made last summer while still in Oregon.
5½ oz (1 scant cup) all-purpose flour
3½ oz (1 scant cup) pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter (frozen)
1 cup cultured buttermilk (quite cold)
If you ever wondered why bakers and pastry chefs weigh ingredients rather than use volume measures, notice the weight difference between the two flours. If you don't have pastry flour, just use a total of 9 ounces of all-purpose flour and expect slightly heavier biscuits. Measure out the dry ingredients and whisk them together in a mixing bowl.
Using a large-hole grater, grate the frozen butter into the flour mixture, stopping now and then to toss the flour and incorporate the butter. Once it's all grated, gently rub the butter into the flour for a few moments until there are no pieces of butter larger than peas. Yes, you can cut the butter and do a regular rub, or use a pastry blender, or even forks, but the biscuits won't be as flaky.
You may not need the whole cup of buttermilk, so only pour about three-quarters of it into the mixing bowl. Stir until the dough just comes together. If it doesn't come together, add more buttermilk until it does. I usually end up with about a tablespoon of buttermilk left in the measuring cup, but not always. If it's a particularly dry day, or the flour is a bit old, I might actually need an extra tablespoon or so.
Generously dust a work surface with all-purpose flour, then turn the dough out onto the surface. Dust the dough liberally with flour, then pat it into a rough rectangle with well-floured hands. It's sticky and barely holds together at first. Fold the dough into thirds like a letter, then roll it out into a rectangle about ½" thick. Toss more flour on as needed. Fold into thirds, turn it over, roll it out. Repeat two more times so that you have folded it a total of four times. After the final fold, either roll it into a rectangle to cut square, diamond, or triangle shapes, or into a circle to cut round shapes.
Place the biscuits on an ungreased sheet pan--you can line it with parchment or a Silpat if you wish. At this point the biscuits need to rest so the gluten can relax, so now is the perfect time to preheat the oven to 500°F. It's a good idea to heat your oven to about 50° higher than the temperature you want so when you open the door to put things in and lose about 50° you'll end up right about where you want to be.
After 15-30 minutes of resting and preheating, put the biscuits in the oven and turn the heat down to 450°. Bake for 8 minutes, then rotate and continue to bake until the biscuits are a nice golden brown both top and bottom. It should take about 8 more minutes, but may take as little as 6 or as much as 10, depending on all sorts of variables.
When the biscuits are done, remove from the oven. Let them cool for about 3 minutes before serving. They'll stay warm for about 20 minutes, more if you put them in a nice bread basket and cover them with a napkin.
Be sure you have unsalted butter at room temperature to serve with these. It's also good to offer honey, because biscuits not being served with gravy should always be served with honey. Or so they say in this part of the U.S.
I have some bananas that are turning brown. They should be perfect for some quick bread.