Senior Web Editor—and baking convert—Jessica Mordo tried her hand at buttermilk biscuits, falling in love with a Kitchen-Aid along the way.
Why this recipe?
When I flipped through the pages of Heartlandia and stumbled upon this recipe for biscuits, I knew that it was a baking challenge I had to take on. Full disclosure: I love biscuits. Like, really, really love them, more than any non-Southerner should. And yet I very rarely indulge in this particular culinary weakness of mine. What better chance to do so? (Note to self: Don’t screw them up.)What was it like to make the dish?
Easy and satisfying. I’m always a fan of recipes that require only a few ingredients, most of which I already have in my pantry. I couldn’t, however, find any cake flour, so I Googled substitutions and found a handy guide from The Kitchn. (You sub in the same amount of all-purpose flour that the recipe calls for, then you add a proportional amount of cornstarch.)
The recipe gives the cook the option to mix the dough with a stand mixer or by hand. My small kitchen doesn’t justify owning a KitchenAid (even though I’ve always lusted after one), but I dreaded the idea of mixing the dough by hand, since the recipe calls for blending in chunks of chilled butter. This always takes longer than you think.
But here’s a major perk of cooking at the office, especially when you work for a lifestyle magazine: I was graciously allowed to borrow our Test Kitchen's stand mixer, and my first foray with this appliance was outstanding. The dough came together so fast! I could multi-task and measure out my buttermilk as the butter and dry ingredients got mixed for me! LOVE.
Folding, turning, and rolling the dough was easy and fun. The other kitchen tool that the recipe called for was a biscuit cutter. Um…who actually owns a biscuit cutter in California? Sunset magazine, that’s who. Our Test Kitchen has a drawer full of them! I’m sure that I could’ve cut the biscuits by hand, but using a tool made the process a cinch.
And then there was the aroma that filled the kitchen once the biscuits went into the oven. Intoxicating. I had to hold a meeting with our home editor in the kitchen while they were baking (there I was, multi-tasking once again!), and she claimed that the smell was heavenly to the point of distraction. #sorrynotsorryHow did it turn out?
Delicious, albeit slightly dense, as a fellow Cookbook Club member also noted. The recipe cautioned taking a light hand with mixing the dough, so perhaps I got carried away with the KitchenAid-ness of it all. Or perhaps it was the cake flour substitution that did it; the recipe headnote mentions that cake flour gives the biscuits “a more delicate crumb.” (Well, isn’t that precious?)
I don’t think the biscuits suffered too much for it, though. The group that gathered for our meal vocally enjoyed them. I didn’t serve them with butter, jam, or honey, as the recipe suggests—I thought condiments would be overboard, what with the filling Cookbook Club spread—but I’m sure those extras would only enhance the yumminess.
Let’s put it another way: It wasn’t a tragedy to have a plain biscuit on hand to sop up the good stuff from Cookbook Clubber Soni Obinger's sinfully good Mashed Potatoes and Sausage Gravy.Will I make this dish again?
Yes. Now that I know how easy it is to make biscuits, I can give into my craving DIY style…once I’ve bought my own stand mixer.
Makes 12 to 14 biscuits
"In America’s heartland, biscuits are practically their own food group," writes Jackie Sappington. "They play an equally important role at the restaurant, where we serve them with gravy, on top of our shellfish potpie, and by the basket with honey or preserves on the side. I worked this recipe years ago by using cake flour to create biscuits with a more delicate crumb. Whether you make them in a stand mixer or by hand, only work the dough until it just comes together. Going past this point can overwork it, leaving you with a stringy, stretchy dough and tough biscuits. By taking an easy hand, you’ll get great results every time."
2 1/2 cups (12.5 oz./356 g.) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 2/3 cups (6.5 oz./185 g.) cake flour
2 tbs. baking powder
2 tbs. sugar
2 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled, plus more for serving
1 1/4 cups low-fat buttermilk, chilled
Jam or honey, for serving
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the mixture is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the buttermilk and mix on low speed until the dough just comes together. (You can also whisk the dry ingredients together, cut the butter in by hand, and stir in the buttermilk with a spatula or wooden spoon, if desired).
2. Turn the dough out onto a clean, lightly floured work surface. Press the dough together so it comes together and form it into a rectangle. Take the far end of the rectangle and fold the dough in half over itself. Press down on the folded mass and give the dough a quarter turn. Repeat, folding and turning for eight turns. (This process makes layers in the dough that create nice, flaky biscuits as they cook.)
3. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough out until it is 1 inch thick and, using a 3-inch biscuit cutter, cut biscuits out of the dough. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and transfer the biscuits to the baking sheet, placing them about 1/2 inch apart. Gather the remaining pieces of dough, reroll to 1 inch thick, and try to get a few more biscuits out of it. Place the biscuits on the baking sheet. Discard any remaining dough.
4. Cover the biscuits with plastic wrap and place the baking sheet in the freezer for at least 20 minutes or up to 1 week. When the biscuits are chilled, arrange a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 425°F.
5. Place the biscuits in the oven and baking for 10 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet and decrease the oven temperature to 400°F. Bake the biscuits for 5 minutes more, or until the tops of the biscuits are golden brown and the sides are set but not yet golden brown. Dig in with butter and honey or jam on the side.