Tomorrow is the 4th of July here in the US, and I can think of no better way to celebrate our nation’s independence than with a hearty breakfast of flaky and tender buttermilk biscuits.
For years I struggled with buttermilk biscuits. Drop biscuits I had down pat. I could make batches of those fluffy little wonders in my sleep. However, the tender, layered biscuits that I grew up with eluded me. They would either be hard as rocks with no layers at all, or they would be too homogeneous and fluffy. If I wanted a flaky biscuit I either had to go to my grandmother’s or whack open one or those tubes of canned biscuits. Really, they were not an option.
All this changed when I attended culinary school. In our Fundamentals of Baking class I learned a few tricks that guaranteed loads of tender layers each and every time. Because I want you all to experience homemade biscuit bliss, here they are:
First – When rubbing in the fat you want a good portion, around 90%, to be the size of pecans. It will look, and feel wrong at first. Trust me on this, big fat equals big layers.
Second – When I say knead the dough I do not mean the traditional push and turn. I want you to flatten the dough with your palm until the dough is an inch or so thick then fold the dough in half over itself. You will repeat this ten times. You will see the dry mess you start with and say, “No way! This will never come together!” Trust me. It will.
Third – When cutting out biscuits NEVER TWIST THE CUTTER EVER! Did I say ever? Yes? Good. Even after you press down and you are sure the biscuit is cut don’t be tempted to twist. Just shake the cutter back and forth gently.
Last – Egg wash. It will turn what would be a tepid biscuit into a gloriously golden, irresistible biscuit. You can skip it, it makes no difference in flavor, but in overall appeal you will not regret it.
You have the knowledge. Ready to give it a go?
Buttermilk Biscuits Yield 15 to 20 depending on cutter size and thickness
5 ounces bread flour
5 ounces all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 ounce sugar
3/4 ounce baking powder
3 1/2 ounces lard or butter, or a mix of each
6 1/2 ounces cold buttermilk
1 egg, beaten well
Heat your oven to 425 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl weigh out your flours, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Blend well then add the shortening.
Rub in the shortening with your fingers leaving the majority of the shortening in large pieces.
Add the buttermilk and gently fold into the flour mixture with a spatula, about five folds. Turn out into a floured surface. The dough will be very shaggy.
Press the dough into a fat disk, then knead it ten times by pressing the dough out 1″ thick, folding the dough in half , turning it 1/4 turn and repeating. Do not over knead.
Dust the surface with additional flour, and dust the dough, then roll out to your desired thickness. (These were rolled out just over 1/2″ thick, but you can make them as thick as 1″ if you want really big biscuits.) Cut out the biscuits with a cutter of your choice (Mine was 3″) making sure never to twist the cutter. You can press the scraps together, kneading then three times using the method above, and cut out additional biscuits. Discard any remaining scraps.
Transfer the biscuits to the prepared baking pan and space them 1″ apart. Brush with the beaten egg, making sure not to let the egg drip down the side. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the tops and bottoms are golden brown.
Serve immediately with butter and jam.
Or my favorite way … smothered with homemade sausage gravy.
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