Sweet Cooking

Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits

In Biscuits, breakfast on May 6, 2010 at 6:42 am

I asked my friend, Keedick, to guest blog because he is an experienced chef and food lover. He is a Georgia Tech graduate – that explains all the scientific detail! I hope you’ll try to make the biscuits. I know I will!

As a southerner living in New York it sometimes takes me a while to recognize what I have been missing. Recently, its been buttermilk biscuits.  Over the last several weeks I have been on a hunt for a place with good biscuits.  I’ve also experimented at home.

Keedick's Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits

If you look through biscuit recipes you may be surprised at how much they vary.  Biscuits are not as much of an exact science as other baking projects.  Unfortunately, making biscuits is more about practice and feel.  Here’s the recipe I settled on which results in about 15 biscuits.  It’s a hybrid from two of my favorite southern cookbooks, The Taste of Country Cooking and The Gift of Southern Cooking.  There are four ingredients for buttermilk biscuits:

1. Flour (5 cups sifted all purpose flour – sift then measure) – Look for something with no more than 11% protein content (higher protein will result in a rubbery biscuit) but ideally about 9%.  You likely won’t find anything lower than 10% outside of the southeast – southern wheat has less protein.  If you’re serious you can order White Lilly flour but you can get good results with Gold Diamond all purpose flour.

2. Fat (half a cup lard plus 2 tablespoons butter) – Lard is the best way to go.  Its authentic, more fun, gets better results, and is better for you.  You can buy lard at Faicco’s on Bleeker (and at numerous markets around the South).  However butter has more flavor so I like to add just a little bit of butter as well.

3. Buttermilk (about 1.5 cups) – They’re called buttermilk biscuits.

4. Baking powder (5 teaspoons), baking soda (1 teaspoon), and kosher salt (2 teaspoons)– Some people swear by homemade baking powder made with cream of tartar.  Store bought baking powder can give biscuits a metallic taste but I haven’t noticed.

Mix the dry ingredients together.  Use your fingers to mix in the lard and butter that have already been cut up.  Get your hands into the flour first and roll the pieces of lard and butter around in the bowl until they are covered with flour before you start to really mix it up.  You don’t want to melt the fat with the heat of your hands.  Every recipe calls for a specific amount of buttermilk, but my guess is that not one of the people that wrote a good recipe has every measured the buttermilk.  Start with 1.25 cups add it all at once and then use a heavy wooden spoon or spatula to mix the dough.  If you need more to get the dough just wet enough to cling together go ahead and add more, but you don’t need to create anything as doughy as bread.   Now flour your hands and surface and move the dough to the surface.  Push the dough down with your hands until it spreads out to the size of a dinner plate, fold the edges toward the center with about three folds, flour the top, turn it over, and now roll it out.  Flour your rolling pin and roll the dough carefully. You want to roll the dough to about half an inch to three-quarters of an inch (the thicker they are at start the fluffier they will be at the end).  Now cut out the biscuits with a 2 inch floured cutter (don’t twist when you cut the biscuits) and place them on an ungreased heavy baking sheet so that they are touching, this will help them rise.  Place them in a 500 degree oven and check on them in 8 minutes.  They probably need about 10-12 minutes but there is no magic time.

Some tips:

  • Before you do anything else turn on the oven and put your fats in the freezer.  Do this 15-30 minutes ahead of time.
  • If you feel its getting too hot when you start working the fat into the flour put the bowl in the freezer for a minute

And if you want to skip the work or compare your results to a pro, I suggest Pies and Thighs and Egg.

Buttermilk biscuits from Pies & Thighs with fried chicken and honey.

Go for the country ham biscuit at Egg.

Both restaurants are in Williamsburg (a great Brooklyn neighborhood) so you can make an entire day of it.  But keep trying at home, you’ll get great results after 5 or 6 tries!

  1. keedick, your biscuits look better than the other two! looks like you had a good time guest blogging and eating biscuits.

  2. I knew that lard was the “secret” ingredient for great southern biscuits, but I thought that it would be worse for you than butter or crisco. Can you explain how it is better?

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