Sunday 7 January 2018

Buttermilk Biscuits

I had some buttermilk leftover from the cornbread I made on Christmas. The expiry date was looming so I decided to use it up in a batch of biscuits. This is a very simple, basic recipe. It's quick, takes only a few ingredients and goes with any meal of the day. They make a nice side dish to a savoury meal. In the South they like to serve them up with a creamy sausage gravy. Some people like them with butter and honey or jam (both delicious options). You can add cinnamon, brown sugar and raisins to make a sweet version. A lot of people add cheese. The possibilities are really endless. Consider this your bare bones, basic buttermilk biscuits recipe and add anything else you like to the dough. My only advice: keep it simple. The most important rule of biscuit making is not to overwork the dough. In fact the dough is supposed to just barely come together before you start using a rolling pin to very gently roll it into shape. If you add too much stuff it will impede this process. 

This recipe yields about 8 biscuits. I prefer to cook them in a cast iron skillet. You will end up with crispy, golden brown bottoms that way. All that entails is putting the cast iron skillet in your preheated oven while you prepare the dough. By the time you're ready to bake the skillet is sufficiently heated through. If you don't have a cast iron skillet, you can bake them on a cooking sheet with parchment paper or silicon mat. They will still turn out great, but the bottoms won't be as crispy.


2 1/2 cups of self-rising flour (plus extra for dusting)
1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, frozen
1 cup cold buttermilk
2 tbsps of butter, melted
1 tbsp of vegetable oil (only if using cast iron skillet)

Preheat oven to 450 F/232 C. If you're using a cast iron skillet, place it in the middle of the oven to heat up while you make the dough. This will create the crispy texture on the bottoms of the biscuits. 

Sieve 2 1/2 cups of self-rising flour into a large bowl. Take a frozen stick of salted butter and grate it into the flour, tossing with a fork to fully incorporate. Chill in the fridge for 10 minutes to bring the temperature back down.

Make a well into the center of the flour and butter mixture and fill it with 1 cup of cold buttermilk. Fold the buttermilk into the flour and butter with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until everything just barely comes together. About 12-15 turns of your spoon or spatula. Turn the the dough out onto a floured surface and gently roll with a floured rolling pin. Don't roll it more than 3/4" thin. You're basically just using the rolling pin to shape it into a rough square and flatten it into a consistent thickness. 

Fold the dough in half, turn the dough 90 degrees and fold in half once more. For flakier biscuits you can repeat this up to two more times. Just be careful not to overwork your dough or your biscuits won't have that nice, fluffy texture. Use the rolling pin to gently form a rectangular shape with an even thickness of 3/4".

Use a floured 3" biscuit cutter or a floured wine glass to cut out the circular biscuit shapes. Gently press the scraps together to form more dough to make more biscuits. You can pinch the sides together a to seal them a bit but, again, be careful not to overwork the dough. This will create a few biscuits with creases or cracks in them but they will still be delicious. 

If you're using a cast iron skillet, carefully remove it from the oven. Add 1 tbsp of vegetable oil and use the handle to roll the skillet around so that the base is fully greased. Arrange the biscuits all snugged up together in the skillet before returning the skillet into the oven. If you're using a baking sheet, line with parchment paper or a silicon mat and arrange the biscuits on it, evenly spaced apart. Place in the oven and with either method, bake for about 15 minutes or until the biscuits are golden, brown on top.

Allow to cool for a couple of minutes but enjoy warm. 

Homemade, fresh biscuits are so much better than any other biscuit you can find otherwise. Light, buttery, flaky, fluffy... and yet so rich. I find that any biscuit you get from a commercial restaurant chain are almost always too salty. I don't add any salt other than what's already in the butter. It comes out perfect for me. If you're stuck using unsalted butter, simply season your flour to taste. It's a shame that those who may not know fresh, homemade biscuits only get exposed to the commercial ones and think they don't like them because they're too salty. If you've never made fresh biscuits at home you just have to give this a try so you can see for yourself. 

With this batch that I made I cut them open like two pieces of sandwich bread, placed a little square of butter in the center and drizzled with some good quality, runny, unpasteurized Ontario honey. They were simply fantastic. 

I hope you give these a try! If you're cooking for a small group I doubt you will have any leftovers, but just in case, they freeze rather well. Just eat 'em up within a couple of months. If possible, reheat in the oven or toaster oven. Reheating in the microwave will create too much steam too fast and they will be too soft.

Happy New Year everybody!

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