Sunday, August 9, 2009

Better Biscuits

Now, as far as I can tell everyone likes hot biscuits, some of us might even say we love them. For a southerner it would not be a stretch to claim passionate love for hot buttermilk biscuits. Passionate love and opinions. In most cases the favored biscuit is whichever style your grandmother or mom made. My mamaw, of sweet tea fame, was really famous for her biscuits. She mixed them in a huge metal bowl with only three ingredients, patted each one out by hand and then pressed the backs of her fingers on top of each perfectly sized ball of pure white dough. They were tender, moist and had the unmistakable tang of buttermilk. Oh yeah, we can't forget the bacon grease she spooned on top before putting them into a hot oven. Girl, it don't get better than that!
All that said, I make completely different biscuits from what Mamaw made. I like to use wheat flour, pure butter and buttermilk or sweet milk depending on what I have. In case you're wondering, sweet milk is any milk that isn't buttermilk. Mamaw would just as soon not have biscuits than to have made them with regular milk. Wheat flour adds flavor and nutrition and I just can't hack shortening anymore. So here is my favorite recipe for baking powder biscuits. I've been making them since I was about 11 years old, no kidding!

Better Biscuits
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cup unbleached white flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup buttermilk
If you don't have buttermilk, use a scant 2/3 cup of sweet milk and omit the baking soda.

Sift together the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or by rubbing between your fingers (This is what I do. Use those hands!) until everything is crumbly looking. Quickly mix in the buttermilk with a fork until dough comes together in a rough ball. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead 5 or 6 times to smooth out the dough. The key to tender biscuits is to not overwork the dough, you don't want to start the gluten to working. Pat the dough out to about 1/2 inch think and cut with a biscuit cutter, or cut with a knife into squares. Place on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes. When they are golden brown take them out of the oven and put them in a napkin lined basket and serve to all the people who are drooling in your kitchen.

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