Thursday, October 19, 2006

Tim's buttermilk biscuits supreme

These are perfect for breakfasts (slathered with red raspberry preserves or drizzled with honey), to accompany soups (dip 'em!), even--our favorite--as a superior replacement for shortcake in summer berry desserts.

2 cups sifted flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup buttermilk (no buttermilk in the fridge? Substitute yogurt mixed with a little milk)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients in mixing bowl. Cut in that cube of butter until it resembles bread crumbs.

Now flour the surface on which you'll be pressing and cutting the dough.

Back to the mixing bowl: add the buttermilk--and here's where I get lusciously tactile with these primal elements: I flour up my hands, plunge in, mix the mass to a yummy dough, and toss it onto my floured surface. I press it out with my fingers instead of rolling it...the biscuits just turn out better for some reason. (Effect of body heat in fingers on the butter crumbs? A rougher, more textured biscuit topography rather than slate-smooth?) I prefer thicker rather than thinner biscuits, maybe 1/2 inch, although I stack them in pairs (see below).

Cut out the rounds with a sharp-edged cutter, not a mere drinking glass. (Reason: the rounded-edged glass doesn't cut the dough as much as squish and seal the sides--which inhibits the biscuit's baking process.) I stack the rounds two high on a cookie sheet, so the biscuits break easily in halves after they're baked.

(Family tradition requires, at this point, to save some slivers of the uncooked dough that I walk around and feed to whomever's in the house, directly to their mouths. It is considered a treat. I always feel like something between a father bird feeding nesting babies, or a priest giving a biscuity sacrament to household parishioners: "The body of Christ, broken for you...dinner is in ten minutes...go now, my child, and wash your hands...")

Bake around 10 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Depending on how thickly or thinly you press your dough, and assuming you stack the rounds in pairs like I do, this recipe makes about 8 biscuits. It doubles well for larger gatherings.

Actually, it works better with patting than rolling due to the fact that you are working the glutens in the flour less hard by hands than with a rolling pin. Glutens bind together to make dough more elastic-and therefore more uniform, as in bread dough-which is not a virtue in a flaky dough such as the biscuit, or the scone. The less you work the dough, the more you allow the fat to layer into the dry ingredients, producing the perfect biscuit.
Thank you, mccool!
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