There aren't too many things that make me anxious in the kitchen these days. Over the past few years I've been conquering kitchen fears one by one, from homemade croissants and pasta to deep frying. Still on my list? Pie dough, and - you guessed it - biscuits. And to be honest, it's not that I'm afraid to make them. In fact, I've tackled both of them several times. It's more the anxiety that comes with not having had consistently good results over the years. Each time I pop one of them in the oven, I cross my fingers and hope for the best, not really knowing for sure what the result will be.
Pie dough is less intimidating, I've definitely been having more success with it in the past year. Most of the time, I still struggle mightily with biscuits though. I've done a lot of research and reading so I feel like I know all of the tips and tricks for fluffy, light biscuits, but in practice it's never as easy as it seems. I specialize in short, dense biscuits :)
Occasionally I hit upon just the right recipe though, and am rewarded with biscuit success! These mile-high buttermilk biscuits are one of my most recent favorites. They're basically a drop biscuit (albeit a slightly more involved version, but it's a Cook's Illustrated recipe, what do you expect? :) ), which I love as I find them easier than rolled/cut biscuits. They baked up wonderfully light and tender, with a rich buttery flavor. I made the biscuits for the first time on a lazy Sunday afternoon, intending to serve them with dinner, but I don't think too many of them lasted that long! There's a whole-wheat version of this recipe that's on my to-do list next. Whole wheat = less guilt when we eat way too many...
Mile-High Buttermilk Biscuits
from Cook's Illustrated, July/August 2004 (via Heat Oven to 350)
2 cups (10 oz) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups cold low-fat buttermilk
For Shaping and Finishing
1 cup (5 oz) all-purpose flour, distributed on a rimmed baking sheet
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 500 F. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray. Also, spray the inside and outside of a 1/4-cup measure with nonstick cooking spray.
To make the dough: Add the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and baking soda to the bowl of your food processor. Pulse a few times to combine. Scatter the butter evenly over the dry ingredients then pulse 8-10 times, or until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Dump the contents of the food processor into a large bowl and add the buttermilk. Stir with a rubber spatula just until everything is incorporated (the dough will be quite wet and sticky and somewhat lumpy).
To form the biscuits: Using the 1/4 cup measure you sprayed earlier and working quickly, scoop level 1/4 cup mounds of dough and drop them into the flour on the baking sheet. Continue until you've scooped all of the dough - you should have 12 mounds of dough. Use some of the flour from the baking sheet to dust the top of each mound. Flour your hands, then, one at a time, pick up each piece of dough (coating with extra flour if necessary so you can work with it) and gently shape it into a rough ball. Shake off the excess flour and place in the prepared cake pan. Repeat with the remaining mounds of dough, fitting 9 biscuits around the outer edge of the pan and 3 in the middle.
Gently brush the top of each biscuit with some of the melted butter (don't press down and flatten them). Bake for 5 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 450 F and continue baking for another 13-15 minutes, or until the biscuits are deep golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and let the biscuits cool for 2 minutes, then invert them onto a clean kitchen towel. Flip the biscuits over and break them apart. Allow to cool 5 minutes longer before serving.
(Note: Store leftovers in a resealable plastic bag and reheat at 475 F for 5-7 minutes.)
Makes 12 biscuits