January 17, 2011

Buttermilk Biscuits



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.

Buttermilk Biscuits
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.

25 comments:

  1. Biscuits NEED honey.

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  2. True. I ate one withTennessee Sourwood honey and it tasted best.

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  3. I havent had a good buttermilk biscuit in forever. These look delicious.

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  4. Buttermilk biscuits are so insanely good - and yours look fantastic. I've never heard about the need for honey - raspberry jam is the need in our house! - ceecee

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  5. My mouth is watering looking at your biscuits and homemade jam!!! Yum! I'll def have to try this recipe.

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  6. Nice! Who can say no to hot, flaky biscuits?

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  7. I always use a pastry blender when I make biscuits. Never thought about freezing and grating. Genius! I wonder if my vegan margarine will freeze... Time to find out!

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  8. Oh YUM! that warm flaky biscuit would definitely please my taste buds right about now - they look amazing!

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  9. Please let us know if it is freezable or at least grateable. Thanks!

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  10. Biscuits need gravy most of all, but I didn't happen to have any sausage on hand, so no sausage gravy. Therefore it was honey or jam. Jam made a better photo, and tasted really good, but honey is just perfect with biscuits. Unless you prefer jam, of course. ;-)

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  11. Beautiful bicuits! Love the homemade jam...

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  12. Couldn't use store-bought jam on good, fresh biscuits. Aren't there
    biscuit protection laws? If not there oughta be!

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  13. After moving to North Carolina, I feel like I always need a biscuit! Hahahaha! These look great!

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  14. I had never heard of grating butter until now, but what a great idea!

    We always had biscuits with honey when I was growing up - a perfect pair :-)

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  15. I grate the butter in when I'm not feeling lazy, but still, I never got blisters on my biscuits like these!!! These are making me weak in the knees - every time I see buttermilk biscuits, I just come running! Have to try these!

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  16. Mmmmmm......biscuits....people at work are still talking about the scones from last week.....these would never get out of the house though....Hubby and the Boy are biscuit fanatics and I barely get them out of the oven before they snatch 'em up off of the baking sheet!! I am going to have to have a crack at these!

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  17. I'm a big fan of biscuits and in constant search of the perfect recipe. From the look of these, with the blistered tops, I might have found it. Thanks for sharing.

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  18. Thanks! I won't claim perfection, but they're pretty good. The key is
    to begin folding as soon as the dough just barely holds together.

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  19. These look absolutely amazing!! Another fantastic recipe Gareth! I'm going to have to try a modification though. I'm wheat intolerant and would love to see how spelt works in this recipe. I know its not traditional but unfortunately, my digestive system isn't traditional :) I'm out of flour but if I can get some tomorrow I'm making biscuits on Saturday...with honey! Woo Hoo!!!

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  20. Bob's Red Mill produces an excellent Gluten-Free All-Purpose flour
    that makes a darn good biscuit, and you can use white rice flour to
    sub for the pastry flour. Probably wonJt get as much rise, but the
    rice flour will make a very light biscuit. I'd love to see pics of
    your success on the Stumptown Savoury page on Facebook!

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  21. Thanks for the tip! I will try to remember pictures if I can wrestle a biscuit or two away from the hungry husband!! :)

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  22. Gareth: This has to be about the most clear-cut, precise and success-prone biscuit recipe that I've ever encountered. I took the liberty of posting it to my Facebook page with an appropriate credit to you. Kudos...really like the entire site.

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  23. Thanks! I try hard to make it as easy as possible for people to
    succeed. Otherwise, what's the point?

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