It’s a good thing to know how to make biscuits. I mean, at what point of the day would you say “no” to a hot buttermilk biscuit, fresh from the oven? The answer is: “No point of the day, Adam. I would eat a biscuit any time.”
I’m right there with you, imaginary person. I love biscuits and I try to make them whenever I can, especially on Sunday mornings when I send Craig to the store to buy eggs. “Buy some buttermilk too,” I often say because, really, if he buys buttermilk, I have everything else I need to make biscuits. To make fresh biscuits all you need is butter, buttermilk, flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and salt. Everything else is technique.
I’ve always used the same recipe for making biscuits–this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated–but my technique has changed. That original recipe has you incorporate the butter and flour in a food processor, spill it into a bowl, add the buttermilk, then scoop mounds on to a cookie sheet coated in flour and, finally, into a sprayed cake pan which you place into a 500 degree oven. By the time you’re done, you have 12 biscuits and 3,000 dishes. As much as you may love biscuits, you won’t be very happy.
Over time, I’ve discovered I can really do everything in two bowls. Here’s how:
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Spray a cake pan with non-stick cooking spray. Melt 1 Tbs butter in a small pot or pan (ok, ok, that’s an extra dish BUT you can use that same pan to make eggs while the biscuits are cooking. Aha! Clever!)
Now, in the first bowl, whisk together: 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, 1 Tbs double-acting baking powder, 1 Tbs sugar, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp baking soda. Take 4 Tbs cold, cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes and add to your flour mixture. Now take two steak knives and cut cut cut that butter into the flour, dragging the knives across the bowl over and over again for a full minute until the flour looks like coarse meal (or, as Anne Burrell says, “Parmesan cheese.”) Now pour in 1 1/2 cups cold buttermilk and stir together with a rubber spatula just until it forms a dough. You’re done with your first bowl!
In the second bowl, just dump in a bunch of flour (about 1 cup). Now spray a 1/4-cup measuring cup with cooking spray, scoop up the biscuit dough, drop it into the flour bowl, roll it around and place it in the sprayed cake pan. Keep doing this until you fill the perimeter and inside of the pan with 1/4-cup sized biscuits, just like this:
That’s a manageable amount of dishes, right? Now you remember that butter you melted? Brush it on top of the biscuits and pop them into the 500 degree oven. Let them cook for 5 minutes, then lower the temp to 450 and cook 15 minutes more. They come out looking like this:
Those are some pretty scrumptious looking biscuits, you’ve gotta admit. So let them cool for 2 minutes then turn them out on to a clean kitchen towel or paper towels. That’s it! Easy biscuits, very little mess.