Buttermilk Biscuit Showdown: Part 3–a random food.com recipe

biscuits

I’ve made quite a few batches of my favorite buttermilk biscuits in the last couple of weeks but was it possible they could be even better??

First, I tried a hybrid of the Smitten Kitchen and Alton Brown–mostly the smitten kitchen all butter but with just a little of it replaced with shortening to keep the dough easier to work with. They were good and the dough was certainly easier to work with but they just weren’t great, so I went back to all-butter.

Something really new was needed, so I went searching and found a random recipe on food.com that had some significant differences: sugar on top, less butter and more buttermilk, and a higher baking temperature. It sounded a little like madness but I went for it in the name of science and biscuits.

The dough felt familiar coming together but was much stickier than either Smitten Kitchens or Alton Browns. After cutting the biscuits, I had to kind of peel them off the board which I’m sure didn’t do any favors to their texture. Then came the really crazy part. The recipe called for a HALF A CUP of sugar to be sprinkled on top of the biscuits. What is this? A muffin? I couldn’t bring myself to do it and only managed to sprinkle about 1 tablespoon over the 9.

sugarontop

I knew all along these biscuits would be weird but I was hoping to learn some type of lesson from them. What did I learn?
–More butter and less buttermilk makes for an easier to work dough and a more tender biscuit. These were surprisingly tough despite barely working the dough.
–Sugar on top is madness. I was hoping it would lend some magnificent amount of golden brown coloring to the top of my biscuits. All it did was add a weird sugar-cookie crunch to the top; I can’t even imagine what they would have been like if I had used the entire 1/2 cup.
–Finally, 450 is too high for biscuits. The little wispy edges were dark before the actual biscuits had much color to them at all.

I’m back to using the Smitten Kitchen recipe for now but, even though this batch of biscuits was really odd, I think the new techniques were still worth trying.

dirtybowls

Buttermilk biscuits: The Smitten Kitchen Recipe

biscuit

After having Alton Brown’s Biscuits a few mornings ago, I was on a biscuit roll. Alton’s recipe came together easily but I wanted to try my hand at an all-butter recipe and Smitten Kitchen came to the rescue.

butter

The batter came together similarly to Alton’s but the butter took longer to incorporate into the flour mixture. I took a little extra insurance against butter meltage by sticking the entire bowl in the freezer while I cleaned up the first set of ingredients and measuring cups. It was probably only 2-3 minutes but it did feel a little firmer and colder when I took it out.

batter

I added the buttermilk and plowed ahead. I still don’t have a “proper” biscuit cutter so I used the same straight-sided glass I used for the Alton recipe. I kind of love the charm of the messy last biscuit made from all the scraps.

last biscuit

In the end, these were delicious. More than delicious–buttery, soft, high-rising, and perfect. I have to admit that I am an all-butter biscuit convert. While the half butter/half shortening was easier to bring together as a batter, the difference in flavor was significant.

baked

I finally broke down and bought some cake flour (sadly, White Lily Flour–the southern staple for biscuits–isn’t available where I live. After we move this month, I’ll stock up from amazon). I can’t wait to try the biscuits with the softer flour.

Smitten Kitchen’s All Butter Biscuits

2 1/4 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoons (10 to 20 grams) sugar
1 tablespoon (15 grams) baking powder
3/4 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
9 tablespoons (125 grams) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
3/4 cup (175 ml) buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400. Combine dry ingredients and work butter in as quickly as possible with your fingers. Stir buttermilk in until just combined. Turn onto a floured surfaced and fold dough back on itself a few times. Pat into a circle 1 inch thick and cut out biscuits. Reform scraps and repeat.

I placed mine shoulder to shoulder on the pan so they could lend each other support while baking. Bake 12 to 15 minutes until golden, turning pan halfway if needed.

These are best fresh from the oven (and then to snack on the rest throughout the day. I had one leftover for breakfast the next day and it had dried significantly.

Buttermilk Biscuits: The Alton Brown Recipe

biscuits

I remember my first biscuit. I was around 15 and was working at that amazing icon of fine southern fare: McDonalds. It is really no wonder that I thought biscuits were pretty terrible, right?

dough

Thankfully, I’ve come around to appreciate the southern biscuit. They are so different than the flaky, buttery biscuits I grew up eating and they are also so much more versatile: breakfast, dinner, snack. They can do it all. I made this batch and left it on the counter where we all snacked on them throughout the day.

cutting

I’m certainly no expert on biscuits but I’m working on it. I am starting here with Alton Brown’s recipe. I’ll admit that I didn’t use the White Lily Flour that he talked about on the biscuit episode but I will next time. Mine were clearly flatter than his and I’m guessing the flour makes a substantial difference. I just hated to buy yet another bag of flour so close to an across the country move.

12

Alton Brown’s Biscuits

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

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using your fingertips, rub butter and shortening into dry ingredients until mixture looks like crumbs. (The faster the better, you don’t want the fats to melt.) Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled buttermilk. Stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky.

Turn dough onto floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold dough over on itself 5 or 6 times. Press into a 1-inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter, being sure to push straight down through the dough. Place biscuits on baking sheet so that they just touch. Reform scrap dough, working it as little as possible and continue cutting. (Biscuits from the second pass will not be quite as light as those from the first, but hey, that’s life.)

Bake until biscuits are tall and light gold on top, 15 to 20 minutes.

baked

Project Cornbread: The Alex Guarnaschelli Recipe

slice

I grew up in the mitten-state of Michigan and, therefore, had little exposure to the wonders of cornbread for many years. Even after we moved to the south, I still wasn’t convinced since most of the cornbread I had was terribly dry and grainy stuff from restaurants. It wasn’t until a friend invited me over to her very southern grandmother’s house for a very southern meal that I had amazing cornbread. Moist, just sweet enough, buttery, and perfect for soaking up everything else on the plate.

batter

I’ve made do with just so-so cornbread since but another perfect recipe quest is about to begin: Project Cornbread. I chose to start with Alex Guarnaschelli’s skillet cornbread recipe. I had everything on hand, so off we went!

crust

In all honesty, I should have let the pan heat up longer than I did. I didn’t get the amazingly golden crust I was hoping for. In the end, this cornbread was just ok. For one, it was far too buttery. I love a butter flavor but this had so much butter that, after it cooled, there was solidified butter sitting on top of the bread. Not so good for eating cold out of the fridge (you do that, right?).

Alex’s Cornbread

1 1/4 cups coarsely ground cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup whole milk
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and place a 9-inch cast iron skillet inside to preheat.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients: cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In another bowl, combine the wet team: milk, buttermilk, and eggs. Whisk in almost all of the melted butter, reserving about 1 tablespoon for the skillet later on.

Remove the hot skillet from the oven and reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Coat the bottom and sides of the hot skillet with the remaining butter. Pour the batter into the skillet and place it in the center of the oven. Bake until the center is firm and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes and serve.

Whew–an entire stick of butter. I will try this recipe again but I will dial the butter back to 6 tablespoons.