Buttermilk Biscuits

Buttermilk Biscuits just waiting for some butter

Beautifully Browned Biscuits just waiting for some butter

 

I just finished teaching a bread and soup class, but ran out of time (and forgot the buttermilk) to do the biscuits and I told my class I would post it on my website. So here it is, just in time to go with your Easter Ham.

 

In an attempt to recreate Shirley Corriher’s most ethereal biscuits I did start with her recipe.  Shirley is a famous food scientist and southern cook with whom I took many classes a long time ago. She is a great teacher with a warm and energetic personality whom I haven’t seen in many years. I am sorry she is so far away.

You would think that her recipe would be the only thing necessary, but nooo.  It can’t be that easy.  I’ve tasted Shirley’s amazing biscuits and the wonderful white lily self rising flour she uses is not readily available in our area and I rather use an unbleached flour.  The dough for her biscuits is so wet that the process to form them is tedious and really messy even though it does yield  the most wonderful results.

What could I do differently? I thought that the White Lily flour was a pastry flour so a combo of cake (lower protein count) and all purpose flour (higher protein count) should approximate a pastry flour which has a slightly higher protein count than cake flour.  I also didn’t want to have to shape that wet mixture so I cut down the liquid a bit.  Good but not great yet.  I then happened to look up the protein count of the White Lily Flour and saw that it was 2 gm.  2 is cake flour, so why am I adding all purpose flour into the mix?  That made it easier too, since I was now only using the King Arthur unbleached cake flour even though the protein count was 3 gms.  You see the protein count of flour is how much gluten is in it.  Gluten is the protein that gives bread it’s structure and “chew”, something you don’t want in a biscuit – you just want enough to hold the biscuit together.

I also thought to form the biscuits with a scoop or disher so I wouldn’t have to form them by hand and could then add back a little more buttermilk.   The extra liquid in the mixture creates more steam and makes the biscuits really light and tender, so I added enough buttermilk to make the dough very soft, but not so soft that it didn’t form a ball when I used the disher (scoop) to form them. That extra 2 tablespoons of buttermilk really did the trick.

Buttermilk Biscuits

  • 2 C (8 oz) King Arthur unbleached cake flour or regular cake flour*
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 T sugar
  • 4 T (48 gms) shortening ( I use palm oil shortening)
  • 1 C plus 2 -3 T buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 450°F.  This is important to get that oven spring to have your biscuits light and fluffy.

I use a scale to measure the flour and shortening. It makes putting the biscuits together really fast. If you don’t have a scale, no worries, just measure like you always do, making sure you fluff the flour before you scoop it into the measure and level it off with a straight edge.

Weigh out the dry ingredients

Weigh out the dry ingredients

Weigh out the flour into a bowl. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix.

buttermilk biscuits

Set the scale back to zero and to grams and add the shortening

Switch the scale to grams, hit tare to bring back to zero.  Scoop out the right amount of shortening into the bowl.

Remove the bowl from the scale and work the shortening into the flour with 2 forks, a pastry blender, or my favorite,  fingers, until the mixture looks crumbly and there are no pieces of shortening bigger than a small pea.

buttermilk biscuits

Squish the shortening into the flour by grabbing some of the flour/shortening mixture and quickly moving your thumbs from your pinkies to your index fingers

I usually shake the bowl and the larger pieces will come to the top allowing me to find them and smash them into their proper size.

buttermilk biscuits

I shook the bowl so the bigger pieces come to the top

 

Add the buttermilk and gently incorporate into the flour mixture until virtually no dry mixture remains.  The mixture will be somewhat loose.  Allow to set a couple minutes so the flour can hydrate. They mixture will still be somewhat loose.  It is this extra moisture that makes these biscuits so light.

buttermilk biscuits

Gently stir the buttermilk into the flour mixture

Spray an 8″ cake pan with oil.  Gently scoop out 7-8 biscuits into the pan. They should touch.

I use an ice cream scoop. I have them in several different sizes.  They are also great to use for making evenly sized muffins and cookies.

buttermilk biscuits

Biscuits nicely and neatly formed

Pop the pan in the oven and cook the buttermilk biscuits for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and let cool a few minutes to set up.  Remove from pan, separate and enjoy with butter and preserves, peach is my favorite, but these guys are even great plain.

*To make this even easier, you can use self rising flour.  Use 8 oz self rising flour, omit the baking powder and salt.

If you do not have buttermilk, use a 50/50 mix of plain yogurt and milk.

I use an enameled cast iron pan.  I preheat the pan in the oven as the oven is preheating.  I find I get a better oven spring and lighter biscuits doing that.  If you are using an aluminum cake pan you do not have to preheat it since it conducts heat very fast.

 

Any questions?  Ask them in the comments.  Enjoy!


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