Buttermilk Biscuits Done Right
Posted on March 05 2019
I started out making drop style biscuits whenever I would make biscuits and gravy. They were okay but could not stand on their own. Once again, I tried recipe after recipe to find a biscuit that appealed to my eye and taste and had the correct texture and perfect amount of rise. The best recipe had been sitting on my book shelf ever since Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook came out (c. 2005).
Martha's recipe is nearly perfect. I did have to make one (okay, two, no three, four) little changes.
Here we go:
4 cups all purpose flour (I use unbleached)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (Martha says 1 teaspoon but it's too bland that way) NOTE: If you are using table salt, use 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 sticks of butter (Martha says unsalted, I say it doesn't matter - use what you have)
1 3/4 buttermilk (I use regular milk and add a splash of vinegar to it)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Measure out dry ingredients. You know, don't press the flour down into the measuring cup, right? You spoon the flour into the cup or scoop it into the cup and level with something flat like the back of a knife, right? If you press it down, it's likely that you'll end up with too much flour and that is going to mess everything up by making the dough too dry. Mix the dry ingredients with a wire whisk to incorporate.
On to the butter. Cut the butter before you put it in the bowl with the flour mixture. How? Open the butter and cut it length wise so that you have four long sticks of butter. Now stack the butter back together and cut as you normally would so that you have a whole bunch of 1/2" squares of butter. With clean hands (I mean, apply the Golden Rule here), rub the butter into the flour mixture. You want to leave some larger pieces of butter here and there. By larger, I mean 1/8" x 1/8" x 1/4". I hope you get the picture. Side note: Some people grate the butter on a box grater. I haven't tried this but I'm sure that would yield very good results.
I now add the buttermilk. This is when I take a fork out and so very gently move the flour around. I'm actually just as inclined to tip the bowl so that the buttermilk coats the flour mixture without touching it - coax the flour mixture and buttermilk together. It's okay if it's not like a batter. It shouldn't be. Far from it actually. If you mess up, it will be here. The dough should be wet enough to hold onto whatever wasn't mixed in yet. You don't want dry dough.
When it's sort of together, pour the mix onto a floured surfaced (you will want to keep checking that there's just enough flour so that it doesn't stick). Lightly flour the dough, the board, and your hands. Shape into a flattened disk. Fold it once. Check the bottom and add flour if necessary. Flour the top if it's really sticky. Fold using the same flouring process no more than seven times (it's the number of perfection) and that's it. Make sure the board is still lightly floured and pat the dough out to 3/4" high (Martha says 1"). Gently pick half the dough up and check that there's enough flour on the bottom. Check the other half too. It's the worst thing when you go to lift the cut biscuit and it's stuck to the board. Cut with a sharp biscuit cutter that you dip in flour. They say that you can use an overturned drinking glass to cut rounds but I disagree. If you don't have a proper biscuit cutter then use a very sharp knife and cut them into squares. Cut straight down and place biscuits onto an ungreased baking sheet. Gently reshape scraps and cut them out too. Remember, the less you handle to dough, the better texture it will have. I leave about an inch between biscuits.
Bake at 375 degrees for 18 - 20 minutes. They will be layered and buttery, a little salty, and irresistibly delicious. Trust me!