Buttermilk Biscuits

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The best way to learn how to make good biscuits is to apprentice with someone who knows what they’re doing. Their art is less a matter of ingredients (which are generally uninteresting) than in technique, which is deceptively simple. Give the same recipe to five cooks and you will get five different biscuits, each with its own character. The difference primarily is in how much the dough is handled, or more exactly, how little the dough is handled. Generally speaking, the less kneading, the fluffier the biscuit. Please note that the recipe calls for SELF-RISING flour. Plain flour will yield biscuits as flat as cocktail coasters.

2 cups self-rising flour
dash of salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons shortening
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sweet milk
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Lightly grease a 14×16-inch baking pan.

Sift flour, salt, and sugar together into a mixing bowl. Cut in shortening with two knives or your fingers until the mixture is coarse.

Add the buttermilk, milk, and 1 tablespoon of the butter. Mix lightly until combined, but do not overmix. Pour the mixture out onto a floured surface.

With floured hands, knead the dough two or three times. (If biscuits are to be used for sandwiches, such as ham biscuits or other breakfast sandwiches, knead them a few extra times.)

With floured hands, pat out the dough approximately 1/2 inch thick. Using a floured biscuit cutter or standard-size can, cut out biscuits. Do not twist the cutter when doing this — press straight down. (You can re-knead the dough scraps, but biscuits from a second cutting will be tougher, more suitable for sandwiches.)

Place the biscuits on a baking pan. Bake 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Remove the biscuits from the oven and brush them with the remaining butter. Serve immediately.

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