Monday, June 04, 2007

Knee knockin' chest clutchin' buttermilk biscuits

I'm not sure exactly what prompted the jobsite backporch discussion this morning to veer off of punchlist issues and onto the subject of biscuits, but it did, and a couple of my superintendents and I enjoyed regaling each other with stories about how this place or that had biscuits that would just plain lay a man down. We started out, of course, with Hardees, which makes a decent enough dough nugget for a fast food place, and then the talk turned to other favorite diners and chicken shacks that we'd experienced that could really do 'em up right. Then Ralph, a country gentleman from up near Tallahassee, escalated the discussion by telling of the cathead recipe that his momma used to whip up that was so extraordinarily delicious that tears would spring from your eyes just smelling a batch of 'em coming out of the oven, and literally turn a person catatonic with a single bite.

Well, hearing that I just couldn't resist sharing at least the basics of the knee knockin' chest clutchin' buttermilk biscuit recipe that I stumbled upon a while back. I'll admit right here and now that I'm a loooong way from perfecting this, but I can tell you that even a culinarily challeneged homey like me can turn out a dose of these jewels that is, quite literally, mesmerizing. And that's before you add bacon, jam, or cheese.

I passed this recipe around to some family and friends a while back, but this morning's conversation prompted me think maybe I should send it out again. Sort of a public service thing.

Dadgummit, man, I've made myself hungry now....Gotta run.....Check this out and let me know what you think.......

Step 1: heat oven to 425

Next: Ingredients = 2 cups flour (1 cup all purpose and 1 cup cake flour, if you've got it, if not 2 cups all-purpose works OK)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick of lightly salted butter, COLD (not margarine - very important!)
3/4 cup COLD buttermilk

And then: combine dry ingredients, mix with a whisk or fork.

Oh Yeah: this is a good time to melt 3-4 TBSP butter for use later.

Moving on: cut the COLD butter into little pieces, as small as you can get them. Cut these into the flour with a pastry knife, 2 knives, or your fingers. I don't have a pastry knife, so I cut through the flour/butter mix with 2 steak knives for a while, then squeeze the butter pieces with my fingers to help the process, then go back to the knives. You want to end up with the butter cut into the flour so the pieces of butter are very small, for the most part. It should end up looking like a coarse cornmeal with butter chunks. The bigger butter pieces are OK - they help create the little voids in the biscuits that'll hold the honey later on. Gaaaaahhhhhhh!

After that: stir in the butter milk slowly with a fork until you get a sticky ball of dough. Don't stir too much - once the dough mix starts following the fork around in a more or less cohesive lump you've got it. It's OK to add a little more buttermilk if you have to to get all of the flour moistened, but if you do add more do it with very small amounts. You should have a really sticky lump that just barely holds itself together.

And then: pour some flour on the counter to use for keeping your fingers dusted while you roll the biscuits into balls. I like to grab a ball about the size of a tangerine (you know, a little bigger than a golf ball but smaller than a pool ball) and roll it VERY LIGHTLY into a ball. Squeeze it down a little bit and put it on a lightly greased (with butter, of course) cookie sheet. Handle the dough very lightly - the less you work the dough the fluffier the biscuits will be. Repeat the dough-ball-rolling bit until all of the dough is rolled - try to keep an inch or so between the biscuits on the cookie sheet. Use the butter you melted earlier to brush the tops and sides of the little dough balls of joy, and then slide them puppies in the oven. Wait about 12-15 minutes and pull'em out when the tops are a golden brown. The bottoms should be brown and crusty - sort of reminiscent of Mom's cornbread but the bottom crust won't be quite that thick.

Last Step: find a place to sit down where you can be comfortable while you're slathering on the butter, jelly, or other sweetness. Also good with sausage, cheese, bacon, eggs, and other fried commodities.

I ain't jokin': use butter. It matters. Make sure the oven's HOT when you put them in. Eat 'em while they're hot, and plan to take a long nap afterwards.

Variation: add 1/3 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese and about 1 TBSP less butter to the flour mix. Goddam. You don't even know, man.

Enjoy. The first time I made these I ate the whole batch at one sitting. I've made these at least a dozen times now, and each time they turn out a little different, but it's like the difference between nirvana and paradise so there ain't no big loss know what I mean.

Feel free to pass this around to anyone you know who might be interested in this kind of self-abuse.

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