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Fear Conquered: Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits
Buttermilk biscuits are time portals. One sniff, one bite and I'm back reliving warm summer evenings on Lake Erie with Boyfriend Javelin and a bucket of KFC extra-crispy chicken. Back when driving to the lake for a sunset picnic was the ultimate romantic mini-vacation. Just the two of us, just a sunset and just that bucket of chicken. And of course, that red box of the Colonel's biscuits.
Another bite, another taste and it's Saturday morning over brunch with friends at Bob Evans. Those tasty, fluffy buttermilk biscuits in a shared basket. Biscuits with friends, biscuits with family, biscuits with Boyfriend Javelin. Biscuits to celebrate new jobs, new baby arrivals, new significant others, new board games. Biscuits for the holidays. Biscuits for the bleary-eyed after a 12-hour flight from Hawaii.
Like I said. Time portals. And while KFC and Bob Evans' biscuits may be tasty transport to happy memories, they're also a frightening ride to transfats, preservatives, bleached flours, MSG and who knows what else. To kick the habit without losing my time-travel fix, I had to build my own buttermilk biscuit time portal. Made at home, made from scratch.
I took everything I knew about flaky pastry, everything I knew about butter, everything I knew about flour and started crafting. A gloriously towering biscuit to block out billboards for KFC and Bob Evans. A biscuit easier than drive-through takeout. Fluffy on the inside, crispy on the outside, buttery beyond belief. It's a biscuit for cherished moments.
No kneading, no rolling pin. No baking experience required. Just dump, pulse, stir and pat. Bake for 10 minutes and nosh. See if these don't make you forget all about KFC and Bob Evans. And Pillsbury Grands. And definitely Bisquick. And pretty much every other easy biscuit you've ever had. Yeah. That kind of good.
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|Start with 3/4 cup (12 Tablespoons) very cold unsalted butter.|
|Dice the butter into 1/2 inch cubes and return to the refrigerator to chill while you prepare the other ingredients.|
|Add the cake flour and unbleached all purpose flour to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.|
|Measure your baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt and granulated sugar and add to the flours in the food processor.|
|Pulse the dry ingredients 5 or 6 times to combine.|
|Add the cold cubed butter.|
|Pulse the flour and butter 10-12 times until the butter has been broken into small pea-sized pieces within the flour.|
|Pour the flour/butter mixture into a medium sized bowl.|
|Add the cold, shaken buttermilk.|
|Fold the buttermilk into the flour/butter using a spatula.|
|The dough will slowly moisten and look very rough and crumbly. That's perfect.|
|Dump the bits of dough onto a well-floured surface.|
|Press the dough together and keep turning the dough until it forms a ball.|
|Pat out the dough to roughly 1/2 inch thickness.|
|Fold the dough in thirds.|
|Gently pat out the dough to flatten.|
|Fold the dough in thirds again.|
|Gather the dough into a ball and pat out again to 1/2 inch thickness.|
|Cut out biscuits using a 2 inch diameter biscuit cutter.|
|Transfer biscuits to a ungreased baking sheet.|
|Bake biscuits for 10-12 minutes at 450F until golden.|
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Easy Buttermilk Biscuits
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 10-12 min
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Ingredients (8 biscuits)
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 cup unbleached cake flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup (12 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, very cold, cubed
- 1 cup buttermilk, very cold and shaken
- Preheat the oven to 450℉ and dice the cold butter into 1/2 inch cubes and return to the refrigerator to chill for at least 10 minutes
- Add the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade; pulse 5 or 6 times to combine
- Add the cold cubed butter to the food processor and pulse 10-12 times (depends on how cold the butter is and how fast it breaks into pea-sized pieces)
- Dump the flour/butter mixture into a medium sized bowl and add the cold buttermilk, folding together with a spatula until just mixed. The dough will be very lumpy and initially look too dry - thats ok
- Scrape the crumbly dough onto a well-floured surface and gather the bits of dough into a ball, pressing together. Keep turning the ball of loose bits and pressing with your fingers until the dough no longer crumbles apart. Do NOT knead
- Pat out the dough to approximately 1/2-inch thickness; fold the dough into thirds and pat out slightly, then fold into thirds again and gently shape into a ball of dough
- Re-flatten the dough to 1/2-inch thickness and use a 2-inch diameter biscuit cutter to cut out the biscuits, gathering the scraps of dough together and re-patting out the dough as needed
- Evenly space the biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes until the biscuit bottoms are crispy and browned; serve immediately
An original recipe by Javelin Warrior. © 2012 Javelin Warrior. All rights reserved.
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Hungry for Tips?
- Cold Butter: Really cold butter is critical to light and fluffy biscuits because when the extreme heat of the oven hits the fat solids, it vaporizes the water in the solids to release steam, creating the fluffy interior structure.
- Cake Flour: Cake flour keeps these biscuits incredibly delicate, so if you don't have cake flour, I really suggest picking up a box for just such occasions. In a pinch, you can use all purpose flour: just remove 2 Tablespoons of flour per measured cup and add 2 Tablespoons of corn starch.
- No-Knead: Resist the urge to knead this dough; your warm hands will melt the butter and your loving kneads will activate the gluten in flour, destroying that fluffy biscuit structure. Press the dough together when necessary, but NEVER knead.
- Folding: Why all the folding and re-patting out of the dough? It all comes down to fluffiness. For maximum fluff, you need layers of butter pressed between layers of dough (the laborious trick to puff pastry). In this case, folding the dough a few times creates a similar structure for the biscuits. When the heat of the oven hits all those layers of butter, the biscuits puff up beautifully. So if you skip the folds, you'll miss out on the fluff.
- Biscuit Cutter: Cutting the biscuits with a real biscuit cutter actually helps to create the fluffy layers as these bake. Why? I'm not quite sure. But it works. While you can use a makeshift biscuit cutter (like the rim of glass), your biscuits will not puff as grandly. So spend $5 at Walmart for a cheap set of biscuit cutters.
- This dough may seem a little dry at first and later a little too wet - resist the urge to add more buttermilk or extra flour. Instead, keep the dough moving around on a generously floured surface and dough will quickly come together (and stick a bit to your fingers in the process).
- Don't be afraid of the salt - I know it looks like a typo, but these biscuits need the salt. Besides, I use kosher salt which has a more delicate flavor than table salt.
- Don't be afraid to let these biscuits develop a healthy tan while baking - the crispy bottoms are absolutely the best part.
- If you have leftover biscuits, let them cool completely before storing in airtight containers; to reheat the biscuits, place an ungreased baking sheet in the oven, then preheat oven to 450F; place the biscuits directly on the cookie sheet and bake for 4 minutes. The biscuits will be fluffy with crispy bottoms once more.
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