April 19, 2008
a yearning for biscuits
Okay. You wake up on a Saturday morning and you find yourself, of all unlikely things, living in the South, with a Southerner in Nashville, Tenn. What happens when you then find yourself craving all kinds of unnatural things for breakfast (since you grew up in a Mexican-Italian household where breakfast was either huevos rancheros or Mom's special thin pancakes?) You make buttermilk biscuits, of course!
I will admit I've tried all kinds of biscuits since living here-- the ones from the Loveless cafe, and the ones from that weird place out in the country with Jesus paraphernalia all over the walls, and I'll even confess to trying the kind from a cardboard cylinrdrical pop-open thing (he made me). And recently, we tried some "all natural" (?) frozen variety from the local health food store. But we all know there's nothing healthy about biscuits, nor should there be. That's why they're not an everyday thing. But, as I quickly learned, when you get a craving, you gotta have some biscuits.
But the best kind of biscuit --even IF you didn't grow up with a Southern grandma in the kitchen-- are the kind you make from scratch, steamy and hot, right out of the oven. There are many, many recipes out there and I'm sure they're all the best according to their author, and I say go with it. Do whatever it takes, but just make yourself some biscuits already.
At work yesterday we made them with AP flour and polenta and TWO LBS of butter! Yep, that's right, two pounds of butter. It made about 30 biscuits and they WERE delicious, but still, that was an industrial sized amount of butter. We egg washed them, scattered herbs on the top and served them with fresh local honey and housemade strawberry-rhubarb jam. They were a hit.
But the ones I made one day in my kitchen were just as good, even without the two pounds of butter. I found the recipe in that issue of Gourmet from January this year which I hope you all have, even if you don't live in the South. It was all on Southern cooking and was a tremendous tribute to this region and its important culinary hertiage. That issue stays with me forever.
Crusty Buttermilk Biscuits (adapted from Scott Peacock's recipe found in Gourmet, Jan. 2008)
5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 T plus 1 t baking powder
1 T kosher salt
1/2 cup cold lard ( *if you don't have lard, why not? just use butter or shortening)
1 1/2 c. cold buttermilk (* I make my own using milk and lemon juice)
3 T unsalted butter, melted (for brushing the tops - optional)
Preheat oven to 500 with rack in middle
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in large bowl
Add butter or lard, coating with flour, then use fingertips to mix until coarsely blended with some lumps of butter
Make a well in flour mixture, then add buttermilk and mix --but not too much! just until it comes together (it will be soft and sticky)
Turn dough out on floured surface and roll to 1 and a 1/2 in thick; fold dough over itself and roll again.
Using your biscuit round or round cookie cutter, cut out as many as you can, without twisting the cutter.
Bake, almost touching on ungreased sheet until crusty and golden brown, about 12 minutes. Brush tops with melted butter (or just brush with egg wash before baking).
Serve warm with jam and honey, or however you like your bicuits. There won't be any left over, I promise!