Cutting Butter. Before today, I was a person who thought of butter as fat put in food to improve taste. Buttermilk, I thought, was for people who think milk tastes bad, and add butter. Kind of like people who add bacon to everything to make it taste better. Someday, following this logic, There Will Be Baconmilk. And if the moon were made of barbeque square ribs, would you eat it? It’s not rocket science, just say yes and we’ll move on.
Well as it turns out, butter is rocket science! It matters if it’s chilled or melted; it matters if you beat the tar out of it or smear it waifishly like one of my mom’s neck massages; it matters that your oven is pre-heated to exactly 450 degrees! For these biscuits, I learned that the secret to their rise is having chilled butter added to the flour mixture in clumps. Do not disturb the clumps, leave them unturned like frozen dog turds in the snow (a revealing comparison for those interested in my current personal vices). The colder the butter is, the hotter the oven is, the more gusto butter’s steam will have inside the biscuits, fluffing them up alongside their partners in rise: the acid-base magic of baking powder and buttermilk. Grate your cold (ice cold) butter like cheese.
from Baking Illustrated
1 c. all purpose flour
1 c. cake flour (I didn’t have any, so I added 1 c all purpose flour and added 2 more tablespoons cold buttermilk and 2 more tablespoons plain yogurt)
2 t. baking powder
½ t. baking soda
1 t. sugar
½ t. salt
8 T. (one stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼” cubes
¾ c. cold buttermilk (or ¾ c. + 2 T. plain yogurt)
1) Preheat your oven to 450°F.
2) Place the flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in the bowl of the food processor. Process with six 1-second pulses (or, just stir the darn thing; food processor is for fancy pantses, ala Alton Brown). Remove cover and distribute butter evenly over dry ingredients. Cover and process with twelve 1-second pulses.
2)Cut the COLD COLD butter with a cheese grater and give a waif-like stir with a fork to distribute.
3) Mix butter in and then add buttermilk. Remove cover and pour buttermilk evenly over the dough. Process until the dough gathers into moist clumps, about eight 1-second pulses.
4) Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and quickly form into a rough ball, being careful not to overmix. Use a sharp knife to divide the dough into quarters, then cut each quarter into thirds. QUICKLY AND GENTLY shape each piece into a rough ball and place on ungreased cookie sheet.
5) Bake until the biscuits are light brown, 10-12 minutes. Serve hot—to your neighbor Janelle, if you are lucky enough to have one.
If you speed-read through this and didn’t click on that link about barbeque spare ribs, and you don’t know what in the heck I was talking about, please watch it. Will Ferrell does Harry Caray.
If you could eat hot, tangy melt-in-your mouth buttermilk biscuits or get mad cow disease, which would you want?
Oh, good, I thought you’d pick the mad cow. I guess I’m just a worrier.