Friday, April 22, 2011
Since I have moved to Alabama I have been trying to build my experience with traditional southern food. It has proved rather difficult though since, being from Upstate New York, I am just not that into it (grits... yuck). There is one staple that I have grown to adore however- the biscuit. Ohhhhh the glorious layers of buttery flaked dough, SO yummy! I know that there are biscuits up in NY and yes, I have had them, but they were always given to me from a refrigerated tube of dough. Here in the South they whip them up in the kitchen on a regular basis like their preparation is almost a memorized motion. For some, I'm sure that it is. I can see why they are part of the standard diet down here- they are just so darn good! And it is true, after you make them once and see that it wasn't so hard to prepare after all, you'll make them again and it'll just keep getting easier every time. Well, I have tried a handful of biscuit recipes and I have got to say, there is nothing like the buttermilk biscuit. I just love anything with buttermilk. The acidity in the buttermilk always makes the product so tender, it's incredible. Between the tenderness attributed from the buttermilk and the flakiness from cutting in cold butter into the flour mixture, buttermilk biscuits are killer. This is my absolute favorite buttermilk biscuit recipe. I'm telling you, it turns out the most perfect biscuit! And I love that it only makes approximately 6 biscuits, just enough for one meal. You really can't have biscuits the next day, they just don't store well and you'll never have that right from the oven steamy flakiness again. So having a small batch is perfect. If you're having a large group of people over then it can easily be doubled as well. As it is, there are only two of us around my home so even 6 biscuits is more than we can handle (these are nice, fat biscuits). So I end up breaking the batch into 8 servings and baking off 4 right then and either freezing them to store or putting them in the fridge to bake the next day. Let me tell you three VERY important rules about making biscuits though before you start. Number 1- All your ingredients need to be as cold as possible. The flakiness comes from the steam created from the layers of fat melting in the oven. If the fat begins to melt before it hits the oven you will loose some of the flakiness (I always cube my butter and then stick it in the freezer for 10 minutes or so). Number 2- Do not handle your dough more than necessary, the more you mix and knead, the tougher the dough will be. Just mix until it comes together and you will maintain the tenderness. Number 3- when you use the biscuit cutter, do not twist it!!! Cut straight down into the dough and come right back up. You will destroy your layers by twisting. Now that you know the rules there is nothing stopping you from making an incredible biscuit, except for having an incredible recipe. Guess what? Here it is! THE best buttermilk biscuit I have ever tasted... enjoy : )
(adapted from The Clinton Street Bakery by DeDe Lahman & Neil Kleinberg)
yield: 6 biscuits
2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 Tb baking powder
1 1/2 Tb sugar (1/2 Tb equals 1 1/2 tsp)
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tb butter, chilled and cubed (I use salted for this)
3 Tb vegetable shortening, chilled and cut into small chunks
3/4 cup buttermilk
1.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the 2 cups flour and other dry ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on low speed with the paddle attachment until combined. *
2.) Add the butter and shortening to the bowl and mix on low speed until the dough reaches a crumbly texture. The butter and shortening should be the size of peas.
3.) Turn off the mixer and add the buttermilk to the bowl at once. Mix very briefly on low speed until the dough just comes together (takes less than 10 seconds).
4.) Turn the dough onto a floured surface and form it into a ball. Lightly knead two or three times until combined.
5.) To bake the biscuits the next day, dust a sheet pan with flour and refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, overnight. Then bring the dough back to room temperature.
6.) Pat out dough to a 3/4 to 1 inch thickness. Shape dough into a rectangle, making the sides high. Using a 2 inch round cutter, cut out 4 biscuits. Place them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and dust with a sprinkling of flour if desired. Form the remaining dough into another rectangle with high sides and cut out two more biscuits.
7.) Place pan in oven and bake 15 to 17 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown and cooked through. Serve warm.
*If you do not have a mixer you can cut the butter and shortening with a pastry cutter or even your hands. Work very quickly if using your hands as to not melt the fats.