Rustic Buttermilk Biscuits

I adore comfort foods, and I’m lucky that I get to travel to Atlanta 3-4 times a year. I’ve had some great southern comfort food there. Fried chicken and waffles, great BBQ, shrimp and grits, and of course buttermilk biscuits.

My wife and daughter love biscuits too. Actually, let me rephrase that. They love my biscuits. I’ve been making them as long as I can remember, and I make a pretty good version of them. It’s one of those dishes that’s incredibly simple, but is easy to screw up, and takes a little experience to make well.

But when they’re made well, they are delicious. Tender, moist, and flaky interior, with a slightly crunchy crust. And if all you’ve ever eaten are biscuits from a fast food joint, or from those tubes in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, you’re missing out.

My wife and daughter love to eat them with some honey drizzled on top. I love them slathered with butter, or with my homemade gravy. Or, with a runny egg, cheese, and ham, bacon or sausage. They make a great breakfast sandwich.

The recipe I use is from James Beard’s American Cookery cookbook, and it’s a good one. I don’t modify it except in how I handle the dough and cut the biscuits.

One of the things I’ve learned is it’s critical to handle the dough as little as possible. Each time you touch the dough you warm it (thus melting the butter which makes it less flaky), or you work it a little creating more gluten, and gluten is the enemy of tender, flaky biscuits. I’ve developed a system where I handle the dough as little as possible.

I don’t use a biscuit cutter. When you use a biscuit cutter, you have to gather together the scraps and work them back together. Then you do it again, and maybe if there’s still dough left, you’ll do it one more time. Those few last biscuits will be denser and chewier, and we don’t want that. We want our biscuits to be light and tender.

I use a wooden spoon to mix the dough, just until it comes together. Then I pick it up and put it on a cutting board and gently push it into a rectangle. I don’t roll it with a rolling pin. I just cut it up, and that’s it. No scraps to rework. The dough gets worked very, very, little and it spends less time on the cutting board, helping to prevent the butter from melting. Plus, I like the look of oddly shaped biscuits. They’re rustic and unmistakably homemade.

One other thing I do is I make them thick. The recipe calls for you to roll the dough 1/2 inch thick. I make mine closer to an inch thick. I think it makes for a moister biscuit because there’s a greater interior to exterior ratio.

Lastly, I brush melted butter over them before putting them in the oven to give them a nice golden brown color.

Rustic Buttermilk Biscuits:

2 cups AP flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup buttermilk

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk to mix evenly.
Add butter and work with a pastry whisk until the butter is a little smaller than pea size.
Add buttermilk and mix just until the dough comes together.

Place the dough on a floured board and shape roughly into a rectangle and about an inch thick.
Cut into 6 or 8 biscuits
Put on a cookie sheet, and baste with melted butter
Put in a 450 degree oven 12-15 minutes until golden brown, being careful not to overcook them.

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