Biscuit Magic

I've been thinking a lot about sleep lately.

Usually this happens when other people are busy doing it, like at 3 AM, when I am sitting up in bed feeding the baby, who then falls asleep on my breast, drooling milk.  Meanwhile, Brian sleeps peacefully next to us.

And I get up and get a glass of water, and I think, Wow, remember being fourteen?  When I could sleep for half the day and want to sleep even more? I walked around in a permanently tousled state, with my huge mess of long curly beach-blonde hair  a rat's nest of snarls, my face puffy, my lips slightly chapped.  I almost always carried around whatever novel I was reading, with my index finger curled between the pages, marking my place. 

You know who got me up back then, at the ungodly hour of EIGHT AM on the weekends?

My parents.

Do you know why? 


I have this gift.

I make amazing biscuits.
I can even bake them in my sleep.  I know this, because when I was fourteen, I did bake them in my sleep, and then climb the ladder to my sleeping loft and go back to bed.

My biscuits are not healthy food.
Unless you are talking about spiritual health, which is a thing.  It's holistic.  
It happens to involve a lot of butter.
And sometimes bacon.

I've been working on my recipe for the last 24 years, and I believe that there are no finer biscuits in the land, for my taste.  They are the perfect synthesis of crunchy golden exterior and layers of flaky, tender, soft, sweet, salty, buttery interior.  They love gravy.  They love to be the sandwichy exterior to fried chicken.  They love a simple smear of butter and dot of strawberry rhubarb jam.  

They make great fried egg sandwiches.
With cheese.
And bacon.

With an extra tablespoon of sugar and all cream instead of buttermilk, they make killer shortcakes.

But my favorite way to enjoy them is doused with honey, hot and steamy out of the oven.

This is all fantasy-land, mind you, given that I'm not eating wheat or dairy, because the baby is intolerant.  

You should eat them.

They're pretty simple.  You toss together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.  You cut in a stick of cold butter, using a pastry blender or a couple of knives.  You could also use the cheese-grater trick, grating very cold butter directly into the flour and then rubbing it quickly together.  You don't want it to get warm, and you want butter pieces that range from cornmeal-grit-sized to pea-sized.  Eventually those little pieces will create the textural lattice that makes the inside of these biscuits special.

Next, you stir in a mixture of buttermilk and half-and-half.  You could also use cream, but it's important to use both buttermilk and something with a higher fat content.  The buttermilk gives the biscuits their amazing flavor, and the two milks together provide the right texture.  Cream alone makes for a very soft, almost smooshy biscuit.  Buttermilk alone makes them kind of tough.
With your hands, you'll form a ball with the dough.  I knead it a few times.  Don't go crazy with this, just get the dough together.  Roll it out, cut it into biscuits, and bake them. 

They are so good.  SO GOOD. 

Buttermilk-and-Cream Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter (very cold but not frozen)
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1/4 cup half-and-half or cream

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. 

Toss together the dry ingredients.  Cut in the butter with a pastry blender, knives, or using the grater trick (above).  Combine the two milks and stir in to the dry ingredients.  Use your hands to bring the dough together, kneading a few times to form a ball.  Roll the dough to 3/4" to 1" thick, and use a biscuit cutter to cut out each biscuit.  I use Brian's wine glass, because it's the perfect size, and is conveniently always on the counter.  (Zing!)  Slide the biscuits on to a cookie sheet and bake for about 20 minutes (they may need up to 24 minutes.  Depends on your oven!), or until the tops are golden.  Eat immediately.  They'll keep in an airtight container for a couple days, but they're really best on the first day.  With my biscuit cutter, I get about 8 biscuits. 

Additions:  If you'd like, after cutting in the butter and before you mix in the liquid, you can add any of the following to this recipe, to increase it's awesomeness. 

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (uh, and 1/4 cup chopped pickled jalapeƱos!)
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese & 1 1/2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
1/4 cup crumbled crispy bacon

Chives, green onions... any herbs you can think of!  Go wild. 

1 comment:

  1. Yum. These look awfully tempting, though I'd rather taste them made by your hands!