Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Southern Buttermilk Bicuits

When I found myself with a pint of buttermilk leftover that would surely go to waste, I decided to browse for recipes to see what I could do with it. And then it hit me...buttermilk biscuits! I mean, duh, right? Besides buttermilk pancakes, its the only thing with buttermilk in the actual food title. Oh, and I guess buttermilk ranch dressing. Dammit.

And so I began my quest for a great buttermilk biscuit recipe. But before I tell you about the one I chose, let me give you some back story about my perfect biscuit...

My perfect biscuit is dense, yet fluffy at the same time. My perfect biscuit is NOT a crumbly, dry mess. My perfect biscuit has a perfect round shape, NOT glumpy bumps all over the top. In short, my perfect biscuit is the biscuit made at the lavish, one and only country store, Cracker Barrel. I know, it's not my typical foodie fare, but man do they know how to make one hell of a biscuit! I'm drooling just thinking about it.

After hours (yes, hours) of searching for a copycat recipe for the Cracker Barrel biscuits, I could not find a single recipe that seemed right. So I just started looking at random biscuit recipes. And then I figured it out...yeast. To make the biscuits fluffy, they need yeast! Apparently, using yeast in biscuits is a "Southern" thang. Hence, why these are called Southern Buttermilk Biscuits.  

So I found great recipe that had all that I could ever want in a biscuit. And they turned out great!

They weren't as tall as I had hoped so next time, I won't roll out the dough as thin as I did. But other than that, they biscuits were perfect! The flavor was there and the center was so wonderfully fluffy. Mmm.

Recipe (adapted from Bijouxs: Little Jewels from the Kitchen):

1 cup low-fat buttermilk
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour (sift-then measure)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup solid vegetable shortening, chilled
2 tablespoons salted butter

In a small saucepan slowly heat the buttermilk until it bubbles around the edges (the buttermilk with curdle). Cool to lukewarm. Prepare two baking sheets by lining with parchment paper or non-stick liner such as Silpat.

Sift the pre-sifted flour with the baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a medium bowl and then add the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Stir in the lukewarm buttermilk.

Cut the shortening into the flour mixture using two forks (like scissors) or a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, about 5 – 10 minutes.

My first pastry blender! It work so much better than 2 knives

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and then pour in the buttermilk mixture all at once. Stir, starting around the edges of the bowl first, with a fork to mix well creating a stiff dough.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured board. Knead the dough gently, by picking up the dough from the far side and then folding the dough over towards you; press lightly with the heel of your hand. Turn the dough 1/4 turn and repeat kneading process until the dough is smooth, about 5 minutes.

Using a floured rolling pin, gently roll out the dough, beginning at the center, all around until 1/2-inch thick. This is important, especially if you want thick biscuits. With a 2-inch floured round cookie/biscuit cutter, press straight down into the dough. Re-roll the trimmings to 1/2-inch thick and cut more biscuits. Place the cut biscuits on the prepared baking sheets 1-inch apart.

My new biscuit cutter! I get much too excited about my new gadgets.

Prick the tops of the biscuits three times each with a fork, cover loosely with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place (75-85°) free from drafts, for 30 minutes, or until doubled in bulk, about 1-inch high.

Meanwhile, preheat the over to 400°. Lightly brush the tops of the biscuits with the melted butter right before baking. Make sure it's salted butter so that the biscuits don't taste bland. Bake the biscuits 10–12 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

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