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Buttermilk Biscuits

(recipe, Caroline Cummins)

Introduction

This recipe comes from a friend whose father has made them for years.

Ingredients

  1. 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  2. 2 Tbsp. sugar (see Note)
  3. 1 tsp. salt
  4. 2½ tsp. baking powder
  5. ½ tsp. baking soda
  6. ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  7. ¾ to 1 cup buttermilk (see Note)

Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. (If you don't have a sifter or a sieve, you can simply mix together the dry ingredients with a fork.)
  3. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender, a knife and fork, or your fingers. (Don't overdo this, or the biscuits will be tough. Just cut until the lumps are smaller than the size of peas.)
  4. Make a well in the center of the flour-butter mixture, and add ¾ cup of the buttermilk all at once. Mix together. The dough should be the consistency of play dough; if it's too dry, add the additional ¼ cup buttermilk.
  5. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface. Sift or sprinkle a little flour over the top of the dough, then knead the dough at least four times but no more than 10 times. (Remember that the general idea is to handle the dough as little as possible, so the biscuits will be light and airy.) Pat the dough into a circle about ½-inch thick. Use a floured biscuit cutter or drinking glass to cut circles out of the dough.
  6. Place the dough circles on a cookie sheet so that they are just touching each other (this helps them to rise more in the oven). Place the cookie sheet on the top rack of the oven, to prevent the bottoms of the biscuits from burning. Bake for 12 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes, then remove to a rack to finish cooling.

Note

You can use as little as 1 teaspoon of sugar or as much as 4 tablespoons, depending on how sweet you want the biscuits to turn out. Four tablespoons turns these biscuits into shortcakes. If you don't have buttermilk on hand, stir a tablespoon of white vinegar into a cup of whole milk about 5 minutes before you need to mix it into the dough. You can also mix together a little plain yogurt with the milk.