Ever have a craving for biscuits? Not the ones that resemble hockey pucks more than pastries, but those tender, lighter-than-air biscuits. The homemade ones so delicate they have to be eaten fresh out of the oven, while they're still warm. Maybe with a little tang from buttermilk, or even a little zing from a touch of ginger. Maybe the ones so perfectly light they're simply called "angel biscuits."
A few years back, Paula Woods wrote a great story for Food on making great biscuits, exploring the secrets and tips to getting them right, and Betty Hallock did a great piece on Los Angeles' biscuit scene, and she highlights some tips for making great biscuits. Here are a few more.
TIPS FOR BETTER BISCUITS
It's an adage passed down by expert Nathalie Dupree in her cookbook "Southern Biscuits." She writes that "no two cooks make the same biscuit." Some swear by cream or a mix of baking powder and baking soda. Some drop their biscuits from a spoon instead of cutting them out. Some people use butter instead of lard, or shortening instead of butter. They cut them big or cut them small. They might dunk each one in melted butter before baking, the way James Beard did. But there are a few tips everyone can follow for better biscuits.
-- Make sure all of the ingredients, including the flour and baking powder, are cold.
-- Don't overwork the dough: Mix just until the liquid is incorporated, and knead just until the dough comes together.
-- Roll the dough so that it's about an inch thick, and not much less, for high biscuits.
-- Cut the biscuits out without twisting the cutter to prevent the sides from getting pinched.
-- Eat biscuits as soon as possible; their lifespan is short.
BUTTERMILK BISCUITS WITH BURNT ORANGE HONEY BUTTER
Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes | Makes about 1 dozen biscuits
Note: Adapted from Govind Armstrong of Willie Jane. Lavender honey is available at select gourmet markets.
4 cups (17 ounces) flour
3 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter
2 cups buttermilk
Cream or melted butter, for brushing
Natural sugar, for sprinkling
1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Cube or grate the cold butter on top of the dry ingredients, and then cut it in using a pastry cutter or fork. Stir in the buttermilk, and gently work the mixture until combined to form the dough.
3. On a floured surface, flatten and fold the dough onto itself three times. Flatten the dough out to a thickness of approximately one-half inch. Using a 3-inch round cutter, cut the dough and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the tops with cream or melted butter, and sprinkle a pinch of natural sugar over each.
4. Bake the biscuits until puffed and golden, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the tray halfway for even baking and coloring. Serve the biscuits warm.
BURNT ORANGE HONEY BUTTER
1 orange, peeled and halved
1 cup orange juice
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/4 cup lavender honey
1. Place a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Place the orange halves, cut-side down, in the pan and cook, turning once, until they have developed a deep caramelized color, about 10 minutes. Add the juice, stirring to lift any flavoring from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the juice is reduced to a syrup, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and press the juice and orange halves through a fine mesh strainer, then cool the syrup to room temperature.
2. Place the butter in a food processor and, with the motor running, drizzle in the honey and syrup to combine (the butter, honey and syrup can also be whisked together in a large bowl). Serve alongside the warm biscuits. This makes about 1 3/4 cups butter.
Each of 12 servings: Calories 486; Protein 6 grams; Carbohydrates 46 grams; Fiber 1 gram; Fat 32 grams; Saturated fat 20 grams; Cholesterol 83 mg; Sugar 14 grams; Sodium 511 mg.