If you’ve been around here long, you know of my love for a good biscuit. There is no such thing as too many biscuit recipes (even for a minimalist like myself). There’s a time for flaky layered biscuits and a time for tender buttermilk biscuits. I’ve only just figured out the latter.
This year, we hosted a southern-style Christmas day brunch with our neighbors. I made it my goal to figure out how to make a tender, melt-in-your-mouth biscuit, the kind of biscuit I imagine my mom’s late dad made for her growing up.
The year of the biscuit
This year taught me that it’s good to miss things—your daughter, your husband, your blog, summer produce. I never had the chance to miss Hallie her first two years of life. Mostly because she was glued to my side. Now every time I pick her up from preschool, I get to tell her that I miss her. And I mean it. We’re in a sweet spot in our relationship. I’m doing the same with this space—signing off and going AWOL on weekends and holidays. Because missing something is more productive than burnout. I’ve missed this space.
2016 also taught me that it’s ok, maybe important, to take care of yourself too. So I bought a new hairdryer and started attending to my locks. Though I’m not sure what to do with this new color growing on my head. 2017 may be the year of hair dye. I worked out regularly, swallowed vitamins, and can now button my jeans without a struggle. I even read a whole book in its entirety. A couple weeks ago a friend said, “You seem so relaxed.” I told her it was because I had completed my deadlines for the year, which was true. But I think it’s a result of taking better care of myself.
2016 also taught me that in order to take care of yourself, you have to understand yourself. Would you ever guess that a designer who likes bright white clean spaces has a lot of needs? Me neither. I didn’t like realizing that about myself. I’m particular. It’s part of what makes me a decent designer and recipe developer. It’s also part of what makes me crazy. I’ve also learned that understanding your needs doesn’t mean yielding to all of them. It’s just important to know how the hard drive is wired.
A biscuit worth talking about
Finally, after multiple iterations, this year also taught me how to make (another) great buttermlik biscuit recipe. These biscuits are the perfect buttery, flaky companion to any slather of jam or dollop of honey. Or, you can go savory and pile atop a fried egg, bacon, and slice of cheese for a biscuit egg and cheese sandwich.
I ordered White Lily Flour for the occasion after hearing so many southern biscuit makers swear by it and used Local Milk’s Buttermilk Biscuit recipe as the base. Even when using the highest fat buttermilk I could get my hands on (2%), my biscuits ended up more tough than tender. Though, every pastry made with buttermilk ends up tough in my kitchen. (The common denominator is me.) I decided to try a combination of buttermilk and heavy cream to help my cause. It upped the fat content just enough to take away the toughness of the biscuit without muting the tang of the buttermilk.
In the words of Kev, “They’re jam good.” And maybe one of the best things to come out of 2016 besides comfortably buttoning my jeans. If I learned anything last year, it’s this. If you understand how to take care of yourself, you’ll take even better care of others. Kev, the child psychologist, would sum this up in one word, boundaries. To 2017, we’d like to take better care of you. As for Hal, she’d like to eat more biscuits and get in a couple more swings.
Tender, melt-in-your-mouth buttermilk biscuits adapted from Local Milk. These biscuits come together with minimal ingredients. Because of that, it’s important to use the best ingredients you can find. I’ve listed the brands I prefer for this recipe. A general rule for biscuits: keep everything cold and work the dough as gently as possible. You can manage this by working quickly.
Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into tablespoons and add into the flour mixture. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until pea-sized. In a measuring cup, measure out the buttermilk and heavy cream. If using a lower fat buttermilk, adjust the proportions to use a bit more heavy cream. (The liquids should still measure 1 cup.) Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the liquid mixture. Using a large pastry fork or spoon, gently stir together until a shaggy mass forms. The dough is more wet than it is dry.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Add a bit of flour to your hands and gently press the dough into a rectangle (about 8″ x 5″). Use enough flour to keep things from sticking and no more. The goal is to add as little additional flour as possible. Using a pastry bench, cut the dough in half. Slide the pastry bench beneath and stack the two. Repeat. Gently press the dough out once more until about 1.5″ thick. Using a 3″ (or so) biscuit cutter, press straight down without a twisting motion to cut out the biscuits. Place on a baking sheet. Repeat and place additional biscuits close to one another so that they’ll rub shoulders while baking. Stack the leftover dough making sure the layers are parallel. Gently press out again and cut until most of the dough has been used.
Using the tiny bit of liquid left in the measuring cup (add a little cream if the cup is dry), lightly brush the tops of the biscuits. Bake for 12-15 minutes until the tops are golden and the sides look baked through. Serve warm.
To reheat, preheat oven to 350°. Get a paper towel damp. Place on the top of the biscuits and wrap completely with foil. Bake until warm. The damp paper towel will keep the biscuit from drying out.
*I’ve made these biscuits using regular all-purpose flour as well. It yields a slightly tougher biscuit compared to the White Lily. A tablespoon less of flour might help solve this issue, though barely noticeable.