There are many ways to make biscuits, whether drop style, cream biscuits, lard or shortening biscuits, angel biscuits, you name it. But this recipe and method makes a very flaky and tender biscuit, and the lamination method described below causes the biscuits to rise open like an accordion, creating flaky layers.
Peter Reinhart is the “Chef on Assignment” at Johnson & Wales University here in Charlotte where, for the past 14 years he has taught classes on bread baking, pizza making, and food media production. He also serves as the Executive Director of the Johnson & Wales International Symposium on Bread. Peter is the author of 11 books on bread, food & culture, and, of course, pizza. His most well-known book, The Bread Bakers Apprentice, was the recipient of the James Beard and also the International Association of Culinary Professionals “Book of the Year Award,” and he has also won three other James Beard Awards.
Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits
Ingredients (Makes 18-24 biscuits)
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (1 pound of flour)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 pound (8 oz., or 2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups cold buttermilk (for an even lighter biscuit, you can substitute an equal amount of whipping cream mixed with 2 tablespoons white or apple cider vinegar)
- Extra all purpose flour (about 1 cup)
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a mixing bowl.
- Cut the cold butter into small pieces, about the size of a nickel (use a pastry blade or a knife). Toss the butter pieces into the flour mixture and quickly mix it with your hands to coat all the butter with flour and to evenly distribute the butter throughout (but don’t squeeze the butter – use your fingertips only and leave the pieces about the size of a nickel or dime).
- Stir in the cold buttermilk with a large spoon and mix only as long as it takes to form everything into a fairly wet but coarse lump of dough. If the dough seems dry or tough, or if any of the flour has not been absorbed, drizzle in more buttermilk to fully hydrate the flour. The dough will be soft and sticky at first, but will stiffen and become drier as it absorbs the additional flour during the rolling and folding stages that follow.
- Turn the dough out onto a well-floured counter (use a spatula or a plastic bowl scraper), sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and dust your hands with flour. Press the dough to flatten it into a rectangle about 1/2-inch thick (you can also use a floured rolling pin), and then fold it into thirds, like folding a letter. Sprinkle more flour under the dough to keep it from sticking and use the rolling pin to, again, roll it into a rectangle about 1/2-inch thick, and repeat the letter fold. Do this roll-out and letter fold step two more times (continue to sprinkle your hands and the counter with flour as you go, and scrape off any dough from your hands and add it back into the dough). After the fourth letter fold, sprinkle the top of the dough with flour, scrape the counter top under the dough to loosen it from the counter, sprinkle more flour on the clean surface, and flip the dough over into the floured surface. Sprinkle the top of the dough (the former bottom side) with more flour and use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough into a rectangle or oval, 1/2 inch thick, (the rectangle will be approx. 12″ X 10″).
- Use a floured biscuit cutter or a pastry blade to cut out biscuits (don’t twist the biscuit cutter, just cut and remove–twisting toughens the sides). OR, use the pastry blade and cut triangles or small squares (less scrap this way). Flour the cutters as needed. If there is any scrap dough, press it together and cut out more biscuits.
- Line a sheet pan with baking parchment or with a silicone baking mat (aka, silpat); do not grease the paper or mat. Place the cut biscuits on the lined pan, about 1/2 inch apart (use two pans if necessary). Bake at 450 degrees for about 12 to 15 minutes, on the middle shelf of the oven, until golden brown (rotate the pan halfway through for even baking). If using convection, bake at 425 degrees for about 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the hot biscuits from the pan onto a cooling rack or cutting board, and cool for five minutes before eating. (Option: you can brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter before transferring them to the cooling rack, if you like.)
Photo credit: Scott Phillips & Fine Cooking
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