Happy Holidays, everyone! I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend with your families, getting and giving gifts and just enjoying company. I know I did. I loved being with my mom and my dad for the holiday. I wanted to make it special, so I decided to surprise them with breakfast. The night before, I had noticed that I had actually forgotten to buy more eggs, I only had two! Enough for the pancakes, shoot. I told them that we didn’t really need eggs, that they were pointless, and it would be breakfast and a day without them. They sighed and agreed, and the next morning, I woke up at seven, got into my car and high-tailed it to the barren, tumbleweed-ridden streets of my hometown. Well, maybe the tumbleweed is a bit of an exaggeration, but all I can say is that, Christmas morning, there is NO ONE. NO. ONE. out in the streets. It is so quiet you can hear a pin drop. It was so eerie, so I blasted Christmas music to calm my nerves. I found that the gas station that I always run to when I suddenly need sugar, flour, butter, anything happened to be open. I was so stoked to find this, because they had a new shipment of eggs. Breakfast could commence. I was meaning to make pancakes, eggs, and bacon, but I also had a hankering for biscuits. What could I say? It’s the holidays, and I had to do more excercize anyway.
This is from the Williams Sonoma Bread cookbook, one of my favorites. I haven’t made a bad recipe from it yet! This was no exception!
First, you have your flour. In this recipe, there is actually two kinds of flour used, cake flour and all-purpose. This plays with the crumb structure in the finished biscuit, leaving it light and flaky, but not so much that it turns to mush, the all-purpose gives the biscuit some structure and stability. Its simple science, really, a science of wonder. Absolute wonder.
Butter. Add it.
Then you pulse the food processor (or, like I would normally use, the pastry cutter) until the mixture looks a bit lumpy. These are the butter bits, all tiny and cut up, strewn throughout the batter. When these hit the high heat, they’ll release steam as they cook, making the biscuit puff up and become flaky. This process is extremely similar, if not identical to making the poifect pie crust. Except for one thing.
Buttermilk, wonderful buttermilk. Despite its name, if you use the low-fat buttermilk, it really is actually healthier than normal milk. However, its tang is a bit strong, hence the newer method of making it with added cultures. Buttermilk is essentially a thinner yogurt. Its also healthier. The cultures offer up some acid, with, in chemistry, acts to help with baking powder to help prolong browning, add tang, and assist with the ‘puffiness’ of the biscuit.
Science, mah fwands. SCIENCE.
Then pulse until it forms a sticky ball! Easy peasy. Now, coat your fingers with flour and whatever surface your using as well. This stuff is not a smooth and elastic batter. Its a moist dough that is really barely held together with the buttermilk. You knead the dough for a few seconds then pat it out.
Then fold it, like a letter.
See? I think that this helps with adding even MORE layers!
Then you pat it out again and then use your biscuit cutter (or a circle cookie cutter, I won’t tell.) and, listen to me, push the cutter straight down, then lift straight up. DO NOT TWIST. If you twist the cutter, the little air pockets on the sides of the dough will seal up and, well, your biscuit won’t rise very well. I’m sorry. It just happens.
See? I didn’t twist! You can see the layers! Yay! Just remember, don’t be like a cookie and twist. Did that make sense? No? Oh, get over yourself.
What it doesn’t say in the recipe is to melt some butter and take the biscuits out, at about halfway through, then brush the tops with them. But you didn’t hear that from me.
And there you have it! Biscuits like grandma-ma used to make! Enjoy them and have fun!
From the Williams Sonoma Bread cookbook
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour, plus extra for sprinkling
1 T sugar
4 tsp. Baking Powder
1 1/4 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Baking Soda
10 T. Cold Unsalted Butter, cut into pieces (plus 2 T. butter, melted, for brushing)
1 C. Well-Chilled Buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a food processor, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Process briefly to mix. Add the butter and, using pulses, cute the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the buttermilk all at once, and pulse just to moisten all the ingredients. The dough will stiffen during mixing. It should be slightly shaggy, but not overly sticky or wet. Do not overmix.
Sprinkle a board with cake flour. Scrape the sides and bottom of the work bowl and turn out the dough; it will be very soft. Sprinkle the top with cake flour. With floured hands, gently knead the dough just a few times. Press and pat the dough into a loose rectangle about 1.5 inches thick. With a plastic dough scraper or large rubber spatula, fold the rectangle like a letter, overlapping the short sides in the middle to make three layers. Roll or pat out the dough into a rectangle 1 inch thick, sprinkling a little flour beneath the dough as needed to prevent sticking. Using a 2.5 inch biscuit cutter dipped in flour, cut out the biscuits by using the cutter straight down and lifting up without twisting. Cut as close together as possible for a minimum of scraps. Pack together and reroll the scraps to cut out additional biscuits.
Place the biscuits on a prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Bake until the biscuits are firm to the touch and the tops and bottoms are golden brown, about 15-18 minutes (taking the biscuits out of the oven after about 7 minutes and brushing them with the melted butter first!) Let rest for a few minutes, then serve hot.