Let’s take a break from politics and discuss one of my favorite breakfast foods. Many believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I don’t know about that, but it is the most enjoyable for me. Setting down to a meal of bread, eggs, and sausage or bacon with a cup of my dark roast coffee is heaven on earth. I like my sourdough bread or my heart-healthy pancakes at this meal, but biscuits have to be my favorite.
Not just any biscuit, but the ones I make from scratch. I read somewhere that making biscuits at home from ingredients purchased separately is cheaper. They say it will save money; maybe from some ingredients, but not the ones I use. Store-brand canned biscuits are far less expensive than any I make. Plus, they don’t have the texture I grew up with and like – my mothers.
Some use shortening or lard. I like the flavor of butter. Not just any butter; I use the best. I have tried many butter brands over the years, even European Vat cultured butter. I have found that Irish butter is the best. It has a higher butterfat content, superior flavor, and the creamy texture helps with the cutting-in process. Irish butter is unique because the pastures their cows graze on are ideal for creating a far better product. Kerrygold Pure Irish Unsalted Butter is available in my HEB store.
For flour, I use all-purpose flour from Breadtopia. Sure, any all-purpose flour will do. I have tried various flours. Getting my flour from HEB, even organic flour, would be easy. Again, I am picky about my ingredients. Many fellow bakers swear by King Arthur flours, but nothing beats Breadtopia flours for me. I also use their bread flour. I usually order 40 lbs in 10 lb bags to save on shipping.
I am not as fussy about my other ingredients. Store brand buttermilk in pints. I buy pints because my recipe uses a whole pint. Makes it easy. Salt, baking soda, and double-acting baking powder complete the remaining ingredients.
Knowing the ingredients and their proportions is essential. To make good biscuits out of them is the trick. Many years ago, I researched the techniques for putting the ingredients together and the tricks of the trade. There seemed to be as many ideas on how to make them as the people telling them. I readily found out that some of those techniques were unique to that person’s kitchen. For instance, room temperature, which means the counter, mixing bowl, utensil, and flour temperature, could be very different from yours. For those who say, “Grandma just cut in the butter by hand,” do we know whether her hands tended to be cold or hot? The point is that you have to manage the conditions of the environment as well as the ingredients. I have found an easy solution. The kitchen is always cold in my house, even in summer, but my hands run hot, so I use a pastry cutter for cut-in. I use a bamboo spoon for mixing – which I recommend in any case. If your kitchen is hot, chill the bowl and flour in the refrigerator for 15–20 minutes. Cut your butter in a chilled glass bowl.
Areas that seemed to be emphasized as problems when I researched were cutting in, mixing, and rolling out the dough. In the photos and text following the ingredients, I will attempt to show how I make a good batch of biscuits.
- 600 grams of all-purpose flour
- 1 pint buttermilk – reserve 4 tablespoons
- 140 grams of unsalted Irish butter
- 25 grams double-acting baking powdered
- 12 grams of salt
- 3 grams of baking soda
Begin by measuring out the salt, baking soda, and baking powder.
Measure out flour in a large bowl. At this point, I set my oven to preheat to 425° F
Cut butter into small pieces. I cut it into pats, but any shape will do.
When cutting in, be sure to mix and cut so that all of the flour gets a chance to be coated with butter. The creaminess of the Irish butter helps with this. You will end up with bits of butter from the size of mustard seed up to pea-size. These chunks will help with the flakiness of your biscuits.
Pour the buttermilk in, and using a wooden, flat spoon, mix until you have a wet, sticky dough.
As it starts coming together, dig deep into the bowl to pick up most of the crumbs in the bottom of the bowl.
As you form your ball, you will be able to scoop up the last of the crumbs by working them by hand into the dough.
In advance, I generously sprinkled flour onto my table, leaving a pile of flour to draw from as needed. Here, I have flattened my ball of dough by hand. I will then fold and flatten 2-3 times. Finally, I will use my rolling pin to flatten it to ½ to ¾ of an inch for cutting my biscuits. I usually try for close to ½ inch but don’t measure.
I believe I am close to ½ inch on this batch. One important thing to do if you want your biscuits to rise evenly. Push the cutter straight down and don’t twist the cutter or drag it. Just move the scrap dough aside, pick up the round, and place it on the sheet pan.
I always hear, don’t overwork the dough. I ignore that. I take the scraps and mash it, squeeze it, and push it to get the dough back into a smooth ball. I roll it out again and cut more rounds. Then, with the last scraps, I do it again and usually get two more round biscuits. I make the final scraps into a lump or log and bake it that way.
As you can see on the right, I have a round lump and a log. I have brushed the tops with the leftover buttermilk, about two tablespoons. I put them in the oven on the middle rack at 425° F for 20 minutes.
Ahh, the finished product. The log on the right was dipped in sweet sorghum syrup and eaten while still warm. One last comment: If you like soft, airy, tender biscuits with no crusty bottoms, ignore this recipe and go for the store-bought biscuits.
If you have questions not answered here, please feel free to comment, and I will do my best to help.