Classic Buttermilk Biscuits

Sunday July 22, 2012

Everyone who bakes should have a buttermilk biscuit in their repertoire. Its a favorite bread basket treat. People just love homemade biscuits. And, of course, you have some favorite biscuit cutters in your kitchen drawer or old empty amaretti cookie tin, just waiting to be used. It turns out biscuit cutters is one of my favorite simple gifts to bakers.

Any biscuit recipe can be varied with the shape of the cutter–hearts, rounds, and squares are the most common. When you buy a set, they come gradated, so you can make small to large biscuits as needed.

This classic buttermilk biscuit has a proportion of three parts dry ingredients to one part liquid (preferably an acid like buttermilk, yogurt, sour cream, or sour milk) to create a dough that will bake high and crisp-crusted. Just like it should. It sits as easily, fresh and hot, at a regal or casual dinner, as it does rewarmed the next morning and slightly chewy, spread with jam.

Biscuits have become really popular in the foodie world and they are even a few authors whom have done a single subject book just on biscuits. Who could have known? With a good biscuit recipe, your success is guaranteed. A springboard to infinite flavor possibilities, the variations on the original recipe range from Pecan to Jalapeño to Blueberry, all superb.

If you want to leave out the egg, just add 1/4 cup more buttermilk. Please try them. It ends up you only need one good recipe and the world of the biscuit is yours.

Classic Buttermilk Biscuits

Yield:  About 1 dozen 2-inch dinner biscuits, or 2 dozen 1 1/4-inch cocktail biscuits

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (I use Rumford non-aluminum baking powder)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, margarine, or solid vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup cold cultured buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons each flour and cornmeal, for sprinkling baking sheet

Instructions

1.            Preheat the oven to 425º.  In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

2.            Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or 2 knives.  The mixture will resemble coarse crumbs, with no large chunks of butter.  If the butter gets very soft at this point, refrigerate the mixture for 20 minutes to re-chill.  Add the egg and buttermilk, stirring just to moisten all the ingredients.  The dough will be moist, then stiffen while stirring.  It should be slightly shaggy, but not sticky.

3.            Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently about 10 times, or just until the dough holds together.  Roll or pat out the dough into a rectangle to a thickness of 3/4 inch.  Take care not to add too much flour at this point or the biscuits will be tough.  Cut with a floured 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter, pushing straight down without twisting.  Cut as close together as possible for a minimum of scraps.  Pack together and re-roll the scraps to cut out additional biscuits.

4.            Place 1/2 inch apart on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet that has been sprinkled with 2 tablespoons each flour and cornmeal.  Bake immediately in the preheated oven 15 to 18 minutes, or until golden brown.  Let rest a few minutes and serve hot.

Pecan Biscuits

Add 1/3 cup coarsely chopped toasted or raw pecans to the dry ingredients in Step 1.  Proceed to mix, form, and bake as for Classic Buttermilk Biscuits.  For tea biscuits, add 3 tablespoons of sugar.

Wild Rice Biscuits

Add 2/3 cup cooled, cooked wild rice to the dry ingredients in Step 1.  Proceed to mix, form, and bake as for Classic Buttermilk Biscuits.

Jalapeño Biscuits

Add 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh or canned jalapeños to the liquid ingredients in Step 2.  Proceed to mix, form, and bake as for Classic Buttermilk Biscuits.

Blueberry Biscuits

Add 1/4 cup sugar to the dry ingredients in Step 1.  Add 1/2 cup fresh frozen, unthawed blueberries and the grated zest of 1 orange to the liquid ingredients in Step 2.  Proceed to mix, form, and bake as for Classic Buttermilk Biscuits.

Whole-Wheat Biscuits

Substitute 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour or  2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour or 2 cups white whole wheat flour for an equal amount of unbleached flour and add to the dry ingredients in Step 1.  Proceed to mix, form, and bake as for Classic Buttermilk Biscuits.

Excerpted from The Best Quick Breads, by Beth Hensperger. (c) 2000, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.

Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2012

Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.


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