Here’s the thing about me and biscuits: Like any good Southerner — yes, this thoroughly indoctrinated Manhattanite is a Southerner by birth — Like any good Southerner, I love me some biscuits. But I also hate them. I hate them because I’ve never mastered the art of making them. So what better place to embark on my quest for biscuit perfection that to throw down in front of y’all and see if I can’t overcome this most embarrassing handicap. (I know, I know, keep the ingredients cold and don’t overwork the dough. But mine STILL turn out like hockey pucks! Every. Last. Time.)
Daddy makes terrific buttermilk biscuits and my friend Michael – my cake baking advisor from last week’s post – has revived my envy of the skill. Year after year, weekend after weekend at a little piece of paradise in Upstate New York, Michael makes biscuits that leave me in awe. Although he has encouraged me many times, I don’t dare touch the dough lest my hockey-puck curse take hold in his kitchen. So Michael mixes and rolls and bakes and I watch and gobble up a little more than my share of the biscuit bounty.
Now it’s time for me to try. Again. So this past weekend, my sweetie amassed this collection:
And proceeded to try and teach me. A WORD ABOUT THIS RECIPE: IT’S GOOD, BUT IMPERFECT. I have a call in to Michael for some extra tips and thought I’d peruse some other recipes this week to try a variation or two this weekend. So there’s more biscuit intel to come.
Here’s an excellent first start:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Use these ratios:
2 cups flour to 1 cup buttermilk
6 tbsp butter to 1 tbsp baking soda
1 tsp salt to ½ tsp baking powder
Sift the flour and combine the other dry ingredients into a large bowl. Stir with a fork. Cut the very cold butter into chunks about the size of a square centimeter, being careful to keep it cold. Pop it back into the refrigerator if necessary. Better yet (I just thought of this) maybe cut it into cubes the night before and put it back in the fridge. Add the butter to the flour mixture and lightly combine with a fork so it looks like this:
Use the fork to mash the butter thoroughly into the flour until the pieces look like the size of small canned peas (not to be confused with big, plump FRESH peas.) Using the fork keeps the mixture cooler than mixing it with warm hands would allow. When finished, it should look like this:
Flour the counter or a cutting board and turn the dough out onto this surface. Turn the dough over just once, until it’s covered lightly with flour. Now this is the part everyone emphasizes: DON’T OVERWORK THE DARN DOUGH!!! If you do, you’ll get HOCKEY PUCKS!
So my sweetie’s trick is to do only this: press the dough into a disk about 6 inches around:
Then trifold it, folding 1/3 of the disk into the center, then the other 1/3 over that. Turn it over, press out into a disk about 6 inches again and repeat the 1/3 fold-over five times and STOP! Press the dough out until it’s about ¾ inch thick and use the rim of a glass or an empty can with the lid cut off to cut out the biscuit rounds. It helps to dip the rim of the glass in water, periodically wiping the rim of clumping dough.
Butter a cookie sheet, keeping in mind that a true cookie sheet is flat at the edges, allowing air to circulate better around the base of whatever you are cooking. This is not to be confused with a sheet pan that has ridges all the way around, but a sheet pan will do in a pinch. Arrange the biscuits on the pan. We experimented here, positioning some together and some apart from one another and found those with distance between them rose more. Here are the final results:
Definitely not hockey pucks. And better yet:
So here’s the thing. I never actually TOUCHED this dough. This was a lesson, and an overall success. I’m curious to hear and read what others think about using Crisco rather than butter. There was also something just a little tiny bit dry about these to me, maybe just a tad too much baking soda. Thoughts? So this week I’m reading up, gathering advice from my Daddy, my pal Mikey and my friend Dolores. Then it’s time to take what I learn and get my hands dirty again, or doughy, as the case may be.