The secret to tender buttermilk biscuits is a cold truth
I like mine slathered with sweet butter and molasses, or stuffed with salty country ham. I am not picky: I like them for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner. This summer, I wanted to serve them with fried chicken at a big picnic and pondered how I could make 100 hot, fresh biscuits with everything else that needed to be done.
I decided to experiment with my simple three-ingredient recipe, freeze the biscuits and bake them from frozen. Not only did they bake beautifully from frozen, they baked better. They were the best biscuits that I had ever made. In fact, some of my friends loaded up on the biscuits and forgot the fried chicken.
These biscuits are so simple that anyone can make them. I use self-rising flour, which means that the leavening (what makes things rise) is already in the flour. I add lard and real buttermilk. Once the biscuits are cut and on the cookie sheet, I brush the tops with melted butter before and after baking.
If you have never made biscuits from scratch before, you need to know that biscuit dough is one of those doughs that "feels right" when you are kneading it or rolling it out. What that means is that when it is soft and tender to the touch, not dry and not sticky or too wet, you will know it. I like the flaky tender crumb of a lard biscuit and the lard is very easy to mix in with the flour. Weather affects the humidity of the flour, which is why I suggest beginning with 2 cups of flour and 1/2 cup of buttermilk and adding more of each if necessary until the dough feels right.
Other than that, there are a few tips to making biscuits whether you are baking them fresh or freezing them for later:
- Keep the fat and buttermilk cold
- Cut lard into a small dice. If using butter, grate with a box grater
- Use a blending fork or two knives to cut the fat into the flour
- Don't over-work or over-mix the dough or it will be tough
- Use a floured biscuit cutter and cut straight down, don't twist the cutter
- Preheat the oven so the biscuits begin to rise immediately
- Brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter before and after baking
Praise the lard buttermilk biscuits
Start to finish: 30 minutes (Inactive time: 15 minutes)
2 1/4 cups self-rising flour, divided
1/4cup cold (1 stick) lard (or cold butter that you grate with a box grater in a pinch)
1/2-3/4 cup real buttermilk
1 stick salted butter, melted
Heat oven to 425 F. Place parchment paper in cookie sheet or half- sheet pan.
Place 2 cups of flour in large bowl. Cut in shortening, using a pastry blender or blending fork.(or pulling 2 table knives through ingredients in opposite directions), until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add 1/2 cup of buttermilk; stir with fork until soft dough forms and mixture begins to pull away from sides of bowl. If the dough is too wet, add the extra 1/4 cup of flour, little by little. If it is too dry, add the extra 1/4 cup of buttermilk, little by little.
On lightly floured surface, knead dough 1 to 2 times, or just until smooth. Do not over-work the dough. Roll out dough to about 1/3-inch thickness and fold over. Roll out the folded-over dough so that it is even. Cut straight down with a floured 2-inch round cutter — do not twist the cutter. Place biscuits on the sheet pan. Brush the tops with the melted butter.
Place in the center of the oven and bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven. While the biscuits are still on the sheet pan, brush tops again with the melted salted butter. Transfer from sheet pan to a cooling rack.
Serve warm with butter, honey and molasses or your favorite jam or ham.
Chef's note: If making in advance to freeze, follow recipe up until you brush the tops with melted butter. Place on a piece of parchment on a tray and place in the freezer without any wrap. Let freeze and when biscuits are completely frozen, slide the parchment paper and biscuits into a heavy-duty freezer bag. If the bag is too small, fold the piece of parchment paper and place in the bag with the frozen biscuits. That way, you will have the parchment to bake them on in the bag. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425 F and bake until tops are brown and the biscuits are done, about 15-17 minutes. Brush tops with melted butter as soon as they come out of the oven.
Nutrition information per serving: 149 calories; 89 calories from fat; 10 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 20 mg cholesterol; 256 mg sodium; 13 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 2 g protein.
Elizabeth Karmel is a barbecue and Southern foods expert. She is the chef and pit master at online retailer CarolinaCueToGo.com and the author of three books, including "Taming the Flame."
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