Sunday, June 24, 2012

Nothing Says Loving Like Buttermilk Biscuits

Buttermilk Biscuits are a quintessential comfort food in the United States.   What can I possibly say about Buttermilk Biscuits that would do them justice?   They are simply delicious.   A little nugget of food that reminds you of a better a time.  A time where food mattered and feeding people was what made cooks cook.  A chance to perfect something so simple yet so complex.   A food of everyday men.  A food that I happen to adore.

Recently I have been paying more mind to learning how to make these delicious little pillows of goodness.  I have spent the last couple of months trying different buttermilk biscuit recipes.  I started with the Irma S. Rombauer recipe from her iconic cookbook "Joy of Cooking."  I mean where else would you start?  I have tried the recipes from numerous online location and of course i have tried chef Alton Brown's recipe (my favorite Food network personality).

Now I must say after trying all of the recipes I thought Alton Brown's Southern Biscuit Recipe was my favorite.  However, despite the fact that I LOVE Alton's recipe I thought there could be a few changes that would plus them up a bit.    I know he is an icon of American cooking but still....I wanted to change a few things.   If in fact he would ever read this, I would hope he doesn't get offended by my changes but appreciates them for the reasons that I give.  After all, I think my biscuit bender was kicked off after watching Alton Brown's Good Eats episode on biscuits :)

Anywho...On to the BISCUITS!

So Alton's recipe calls for the following ingredients:

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons shortening
1 cup buttermilk, chilled

Now there are a few things he has done VERY right in this recipe.  For starters the equal parts of butter and shortening.   His explanation was because the shortening give a good crumb and the butter gives a good taste.  This is 100% agree with.   I have tried all butter, all shortening, 3 parts butter & 1 part shortening, 1 part butter 3 parts shortening, lard instead of shortening etc.. etc.. etc...  He nailed it.   Equal parts butter and shortening = flavor + crumb.

The second thing Alton has done very right in this recipe is the sticky factor in the dough.   His recipe calls for a very sticky dough and then to not knead it very much.  This is absolutely the right approach.  The biscuits come out fluffy and delicious.

The last thing he explains that is VERY helpful is about cutting the biscuits from the dough.  He states clearly:  "Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter, being sure to push straight down through the dough."   At first I wondered why he would be so explicit.   You quickly discover that this is to make sure the biscuit maintains that quintessential biscuit form.   Lesson learned Alton!

The rest of his recipe is available here.  Given it is his recipe you should read it ther

Now what have I changed...

Well for one the baking powder.   I use double acting baking powder and let the dough sit for like 5 minutes after I assemble it.  I do this to get the biscuit nice and fluffy and tall.   Now Alton's recipe is fine but when you use the double acting baking powder and let it set for a few minutes the biscuits come out HUGE.  I love me some huge biscuits :)

The second thing I change is I have changed is I love a little bit of cheddar in all of my buttermilk biscuits.   I feel like the bite of the cheddar really plays well with the buttermilk.  This comes to life especially well in the aftertaste.  Now I dont use alot of cheddar as I am not making cheddar biscuits.   I grate like an eight cup of cheddar cheese and fold it into the dough.  Now because you add in cheddar I reccommend putting in a tiny extra pinch of salt than Alton uses.  This is to blend the flavors a bit.   More ingredients more salt.

The last thing I add is a small pinch of cayenne.  Nuff' said.   Mmmm Heat.

What you get is a tall, tasty and wonderful lil buttermilk biscuit.   Mmmm Yummy.


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