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Monday, May 14, 2012

A Biscuit, A Basket

This is my final product. Not bad for a first try.
Having not been raised in the South, biscuits weren't something that I knew a lot about as a kid.  In fact, the closest I had ever come to a biscuit was back when I lived in Los Angeles.  We used to regularly eat breakfast at John O'Groats and they served the most delicious little biscuits.  Those were the biscuits on which I based all of my biscuit knowledge.

I actually never even thought about making biscuits either.  I knew I liked them, but like bagels, I figured biscuits were something I would never master.  I mean, come on.  What Jewish girl from Los Angeles can make a light and airy biscuit?

But curiosity got the better of me when I saw instructions for how to make buttermilk biscuits in the latest issue of Fine Cooking Magazine.  They didn't look hard to make.  The instructions didn't even look all that intimidating so I decided to channel my inner Paula Deen and give the recipe a whirl.

Let me just start by saying that there's a lot more to making a biscuit than following a recipe.  In fact, I think that biscuits are probably one of those foods that have a style that's personal to the baker and that's what makes them really good.  I suspect that biscuits have family histories that span generations.  Being a Jewish girl from Los Angeles, I had no such history to draw on.  Jews are not traditionally biscuit makers.

But I digress.  The biscuit recipe was deceptively easy.  Only a couple of ingredients were called for and pulsing the mixture in the food processor took just seconds.  It was at this point that I ran into trouble.  I was being very careful not to overwork the delicate dough.  I also didn't want to allow the heat from my hands to melt the little pieces of butter that would cause steam to release from the dough in the oven.  This was actually easier said than done.

But I persevered and before I knew it I had six beautiful biscuits ready to go into the oven.  I popped them in and waited for magic to happen.
These are my biscuits ready to go into the oven. Pretty impressive, huh. 

These are the biscuits from Fine Cooking Magazine

When the biscuits were done baking I pulled them out, and brushed the tops with melted butter.  They looked lovely, although a little more spread out than the ones in the picture in the magazine.  I attributed that to the fact that I did not have a food stylist on standby.

I've got to tell you.  They were tasty, although probably not quite as light as they might have been, but tasty nonetheless.

Not bad for a Jewish girl from Los Angeles.

Recipe: Southern Buttermilk Biscuits
(Fine Cooking Magazine, June/July, 2012)


9 oz. (2 cups) chilled all-purpose flour, preferably White Lily; more as needed
2 Tbs. baking powder (preferably aluminum free, such as Rumford)
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
4 oz. (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, plus 2 Tbs., melted
3/4 cup buttermilk; more for brushing


Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F. Chill a food processor blade and bowl as well as a large mixing bowl. Line a cookie sheet with parchment.

Pulse the flour, baking powder, and salt in the food processor until combined. Add the cold butter and process with ten 1-second pulses; the butter should be the size of small peas. Transfer the mixture to the chilled mixing bowl. Add the buttermilk, moving your hand, with fingers apart, in circles to incorporate it into the dry ingredients. The dough is mixed when it just barely comes together.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Pat and roll it into a 1-inch-thick square. Using a floured 2-1/2-inch round biscuit cutter, cut out as many biscuits as you can, dipping the cutter in flour between cuts to prevent sticking and making sure to lift the cutter straight up, without twisting. Arrange the biscuits on the parchment-lined sheet so they touch.

Gently gather the remaining dough scraps and press them into a 1-inch-thick rectangle. Cut out as many biscuits as you can and arrange them on the sheet, snug against the others. You should have 6 or 7 biscuits.

Brush the tops of the biscuits with buttermilk and bake until golden-brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush with the melted butter. Serve warm.

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