Buttermilk Biscuits

Monday, June 16, 2008

How many biscuits can you eat this mornin'?
How many biscuits can you eat this evenin'?
How many biscuits can you eat?
Forty-nine and a ham of meat! (sometimes people sing "and a pound of meat")
This morning...this evening...right now...

Do you know that song? It's an old bluegrass song, I think. I sing it in my head every time I make biscuits. Unfortunately that's the only verse I can remember! Then there's another that goes something like "biscuits in the morning, biscuits in the evening, biscuits at..." is it 'biscuits at suppertime'? But suppertime is in the evening, so does that make sense? I may have that wrong.

Likely, because I get lyrics wrong all the time. And I get old sayings wrong too. Seriously, I said this to Av last week:

"Well if that's not the needle in the haystack that broke the camel's back!"

We both had a good laugh over that one - after I realized I had stuck two different things together - but we both knew what I meant!!


Last week I made my buttermilk biscuits and finally took pics so I can post the recipe! These are extra-special because they're made in Av's grandmother's cast iron skillet. And the great thing about old cast iron skillets is that they've been used/seasoned so much that nothing will stick - really. You just have to remember to never-ever put it in the dishwasher, and to just wash it out by hand and dry it off immediately. Good old cast iron skillets can be passed down for generations.

That reminds me of this ad in the paper last year:

The trick to these biscuits is to oil the skillet and put it in the oven cold, then switch the oven to 450* and let it get up to temperature. That's what gives the biscuit bottom a nice crust.

Oh, and if you (like me) don't enjoy rolling things out, there's no rolling with these - overhandling dough makes it tough - so that's another big plus. These are beautifully free-form.

Ingredients (this recipe makes 14 or 15 biscuits but I make half this recipe all the time and it always comes out. In the pictures below, I have made half this recipe.):
oil for pan
2 cups flour - White Lily is my favorite
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp ice-cold butter, cut into small bits, each a little bigger than a kernel of corn
buttermilk - this amount will always vary but start with 1/2c. and add as needed

The first thing to do is to oil the pan - pour some in, swish it all around the bottom and halfway up the sides, then take a paper towel and remove the excess (but don't get it completely dry). Put it in the oven, and then set the oven to 450*.

In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the cold butter pieces and get them coated:
The reason it's so important to keep the butter cold is because of the steam that is generated when the butter melts. The steam is what makes the inside of the biscuit so nice and airy. If the butter isn't still really cold and in little-bitty pieces when it goes in the skillet, it's not going to make all that steam.

Add the buttermilk slowly, just add until you get to a good dough consistency. Not too dry, not too wet (and the amount used will always be different, I guess because of the weather or something. Not sure.). Be careful not to overmix because that will make the biscuits tough. It should still be messy on your hands when you pick it up to make the biscuit shape:

Take a potholder and get the super-hot, 450* skillet out of the oven, then take little mounds of biscuit dough in your hand and put them in the skillet. You'll be able to see the minute you put them in that they will start sizzling on the bottom. Get the potholder and put it back in the oven...

I start checking on the biscuits at 8 minutes but I don't think they've ever been done in less than 15. Mostly they take around 20-22 minutes to get nice and golden brown:

Now that is a pretty biscuit! And it wasn't rolled out or anything! It's just a pretty shape made by hand:

It's got that nice crust on the bottom:

...and super-light and airy inside:
These don't even need butter - they just come out perfect. Well, maybe with a little mayhaw jelly at breakfast...

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