A collection of seasonal recipes and stories

buttermilk biscuits

On a typical weeknight Chris and I like to watch Jeopardy and then, once I’ve finished kicking Chris’s ass, Alton Brown’s Good Eats.  Such is the exciting life of nerds.  Truth be told, I only beat him at Jeopardy about half the time and Chris only tolerates Good Eats because AB occasionally talks about bacon.  We mostly watch because I kind of have a thing for Alton Brown, what with his geeky culinary evangelism and his cheesy impersonations of historical figures.  But the other night instead of Good Eats we caught a very old rerun of the first ever episode of Feasting on Asphalt, in which AB meanders through Georgia and the Carolinas sampling collards and pinto beans, fried chicken and pickled pigs’ feet, and cornbread and biscuits.

It was the biscuits that got me.

“I really miss biscuits,” I sighed, and the next thing I knew tears were trickling down my cheeks.  Suddenly I missed all sorts of things the biscuits represented:  the smell of the ocean, Krispy Kreme doughnuts hot off the line, magnolia blossoms swaying in the warm breeze, little old ladies who call you honey and, of course, my family.  It’s funny how a big ol’ thing like homesickness can just sneak up on you like that.

So I put on Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “I am a Town” and had myself a good cry, then I mixed up some biscuits and called my mama (who is from Brooklyn; let’s not kid ourselves here).  She was too busy — doing lord knows what — to chat with me, but I did have an interesting conversation with my brother, who suggested I electrocute my cats.  It wasn’t quite the consolation I’d hoped for.

But the biscuits, well holy Catfish Hunter, as my grandfather liked to say.  The biscuits were damn near perfect — light and airy, tender and crumbly, with a crisp crust and a slight tang.  Best of all, they tasted just like home.

Buttermilk Biscuits
from Baking Illustrated
(makes 12) 

This recipe uses both all-purpose flour and cake flour; the all-purpose flour give the biscuits their crispy crust while the cake flour is responsible for the tender, crumbly texture.  You could use all-purpose flour by itself, but you’d have to add a bit more liquid (maybe 2 T?).  The biscuit dough is made in a food processor; it’s important that the fat (in this case, butter) melt while baking rather than while mixing so that the biscuits rise properly, and I find the best way to ensure this is to mix quickly in a food processor rather than by hand.  I learn all this stuff by watching Alton Brown and reading Cook’s Illustrated.

1 c. all purpose flour
1 c. cake flour
2 t. baking powder
½ t. baking soda
1 t. sugar
½ t. salt
8 T. (one stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼” cubes
¾ c. cold buttermilk (or ¾ c. + 2 T. plain yogurt)

1) Preheat your oven to 450°F.  

2) Place the flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in the bowl of the food processor.  Process with six 1-second pulses.  Remove cover and distribute butter evenly over dry ingredients.  Cover and process with twelve 1-second pulses.

3) Remove cover and pour buttermilk evenly over the dough.  Process until the dough gathers into moist clumps, about eight 1-second pulses.

4) Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and quickly form into a rough ball, being careful not to overmix.  Use a sharp knife to divide the dough into quarters, then cut each quarter into thirds.  Quickly and gently shape each piece into a rough ball and place on ungreased cookie sheet.

5) Bake until the biscuits are light brown, 10-12 minutes.  Serve hot.

11 responses

  1. Oh, man…I can see how the biscuits on TV could do that. I have those moments every once in a while, and mine don’t even involve being away from family.

    Thanks for the recipe.

    March 22, 2009 at 8:32 pm

  2. yummmmmm

    I miss fresh picked summer fruit cobbler. I miss it a lot. That’s my favorite kind of biscuit… except for biscuits with cream gravy, which I am afraid to eat because it is sooooo sinful for someone my age. (sigh)

    March 22, 2009 at 9:18 pm

  3. kirby

    Put some bacon inside that biscuit, and now you’re talking.

    March 25, 2009 at 7:39 pm

  4. kneadtoread

    Oh how delicious those biscuits look. It is the simple things in life that can make us so happy.

    March 26, 2009 at 8:01 am

  5. Melissa

    Ah, you’re still a gal after my own heart, in so many ways! (My husband used to think “biscuit” meant “cookie” – I fixed that. I scoff at thee, South African!)

    March 26, 2009 at 5:42 pm

  6. I am glad I read this post, because my biscuits NEVER rise, and it kills me. Maybe I am overmixing.

    March 27, 2009 at 1:58 pm

  7. Oh, and looking at all the great books you have featured, I am wondering if you have ever read “How to Read a French Fry.” Very interesting book about food chemistry.

    March 27, 2009 at 2:00 pm

  8. You can make cake flour by mixing regular flour with corn starch, but I can’t remember the proportions. I think you take a cup of flour and take two tablespoons out and add two tablespoons of cornstarch.

    Those look yummy!

    (I made cheese danish for a brunch this weekend and thought of you. My food photos never turn out well, but they tasted great)

    March 28, 2009 at 5:36 am

  9. jab4u

    My wife makes the best buttermilk biscuits and I love them with honey. Her recipe is the same as yours, but no cake flour or sugar.

    April 11, 2009 at 3:23 pm

  10. Thay look so damn goooood! Buttermilk biscuits that come along with Popeyes Fried Chicken are my favorite. I will try these, thanks for the recipe.

    June 12, 2009 at 8:39 am

  11. As I was reading this entry in your blog it reminded me of the movie Ratatouille. I can so relate to your experience here and I also love the “Baking Illustrated”. Your blog is interesting and fun

    January 8, 2010 at 4:32 pm

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