There are some recipes that you stumble upon, and others that you work hard testing and retesting, carefully fine tuning each ingredient until you have an end product that you feel is perfect. For me, these biscuits are definitely the latter. Several years ago, when I was stuck in the middle of no where, on a ranch in the heart of the New Mexico dessert, caring for my ailing grandparents, I started making biscuits (a recipe that, at the time, I had only ever prepared a couple of times). And over the course of the next eleven months I made a lot of them. I tried everything, alternately making them with milk, half n’ half, cream, buttermilk, shortening, butter, and bacon grease. I experimented by adding more salt, or sugar, or less salt and more baking powder. I tried adding eggs to the dough, and brushing the tops of the biscuits with milk, or cream, egg wash, bacon grease, or butter before baking to ensure perfect browning. In the end, I arrived at what I consider to be quintessential buttermilk biscuits. They are beautiful, flavorful, and have just the right moist texture. I can’t imagine anything better than one of these biscuits, hot from the oven, with butter and homemade (ahem, blue ribbon winning) blueberry jam. The best part of these biscuits is that they can be made weeks in advance, cut, frozen, and baked off just before serving, while loosing nothing in appearance, texture, or taste, which makes them perfect for entertaining, or any quick weeknight meal.
I start by combining two cups of flour, two tablespoons of sugar, a teaspoon and a half of table salt, two teaspoons of baking powder, and a half a teaspoon of baking soda in the bowl of my Kitchen Aid Mixer (though you can certainly do it all by hand with a pastry cutter, should you feel so inclined). I add one stick of cold diced butter, and mix until the butter is thoroughly cut into the flour, and resembles the consistency of Parmesan cheese. I slowly add three-fourths of a cup of buttermilk to the flour and butter mixture, and mix until just combined (depending on the day you might need up to one fourth of a cup of additional buttermilk, so if the mixture appears dry don’t be afraid to add an extra little splash). I then turn the dough out onto a floured board, and gently knead it, folding the dough back over onto itself four or five times to create flaky layers. I then pat the dough out with my hands (or a rolling pin) into an even thickness (about an inch), and cut them out using a floured biscuit cutter. (Depending on the size of cutter you use, you will end up with six to eight biscuits, but this recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.) I then refrigerate the cut biscuits for at least one hour (but up to twelve). Line the biscuits up on a parchment lined baking sheet, brush the top of each with a beaten egg, and bake at 400º for about fifteen minutes, or until golden brown, and fully set. These biscuits are light and tender, flaky and flavorful. Serve them hot with butter and jam, and your guests won’t be able to stop talking about them. Enjoy!