I wanted to talk about homemade buttermilk biscuits, and share my thoughts. It’s only timely that the latest issue of Real Simple has a recipe for “golden and flaky” biscuits, you’ll see mine at the bottom of the page.
But before we get to the recipe, some thoughts…
The title of the post comes from Carmen, a reader of Nicole’s blog Pinch My Salt. Here is what Carmen says:
Even in Tennessee where I’m from, when canned biscuits came out, women quit making homemade ones except for my grandmother who is 90 years old and still going strong. We live in Texas now and it amazes me how many people have never had a great homemade biscuit.
I believe convenience food has its time and place. It’s a perfect solution for when you don’t have a chance to cook from scratch (moving to a new house? camping?). But, having eaten my fair share of canned and frozen biscuits/rolls/pie crust/pancakes, etc., I very rarely add them to my grocery list anymore. When I used to buy them it was out of habit, and because it was so hard to pass the mouth watering pictures on the packaging. The truth is, they don’t taste nearly as good as they look in the picture, are usually packed with ingredients I could live without, and are more expensive than homemade.
I often hear that good brands taste just like homemade. I’ve never come across anything pre-made that does. You can always tell the difference.
There is a lot of emphasis on eating natural food and a lot of “healthy” (but weird) food has become popular. For me, a basic biscuit baked from scratch IS the natural food. I wouldn’t want to make and eat biscuits on a daily basis, but for an un-rushed family breakfast on a Saturday morning, they are perfect, even if it takes a bit longer than popping open a can.
One reason people avoid baking from scratch is that baking “from the box” never fails. But failure is a normal part of learning.
If you never made biscuits from scratch before, it may take a few tries to make them come out right. Nobody was born knowing how to bake a good biscuit and the only way to learn is by trying and failing and trying again.
You’ll find a ton of recipes and tutorials online on how to make buttermilk biscuits from scratch. These two are good:
Here is my standard recipe and some variations:
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
6 Tbs. butter
1 cup buttermilk, well-shaken (buttermilk keeps forever. I always have some at the back of the fridge)
- Preheat oven to 450 o F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
- Cut the butter into small pieces, or grate on a large whole of a box cheese grater. Put in the freezer for a few minutes.
- Mix all the dry ingredients thoroughly. Add the butter and rub it into the flour mixture with your figure tips. Do not work the butter too much. The dough should have a coarse crumbs consistency. If using grated butter, no need to rub in, just mix it in with a fork.
- Add buttermilk and stir with a fork till the dough mostly comes together. A little dry flour mixture at the bottom of the bowl is OK. If there is a lot of dry flour, add a tablespoon more of buttermilk or cold water.
- Dump the dough onto a floured surface and pat into a rectangular-ish shape. Fold over and pat again, repeat one more time. This will give the biscuits layers.
- Cut the rectangle into 6—8 pieces, depending on how big you want your biscuits. Alternatively, shape the dough into a circle and cut into wedges, like pie.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes.
- Cheddar and herb biscuits: add 1/2 cup shredded cheddar and 1 tsp of dried herbs like chives, parsley, dill, to the flour mixture before adding buttermilk.
- Cranberry-orange scones: add 1/3–1/2 cup sugar (based on your taste) to the flour mixture, add 1 cup of cranberries and 1 tsp orange zest before adding buttermilk. Add 1 egg to the buttermilk before combining with the dry ingredients.
- Blueberry scones: add 1/3–1/2 cup sugar (based on your taste) into the flour mixture, add 1 cup of blueberries and 1 tsp lemon zest before adding buttermilk. Add 1 egg to the buttermilk before combining with the dry ingredients.
- You can easily freeze biscuits and bake from frozen, no need to defrost– increase baking time by 5 minutes. To freeze, arrange biscuits in a single layer on a plate or a baking sheet, lined with parchment. When frozen, move to a resealable plastic bag.
- Make sure your oven is preheated. I strongly recommend buying an oven thermometer. I have bought one recently and discovered that my oven beeps “ready” when it’s nowhere near the set temperature. Your biscuits will not rise properly if the oven is not preheated.
- Please do not use margarine.
I am fascinated with food history (or any type of history really). Here are some links about how “the ruination” started: