By Jordan Bird
With Betty Crocker as her muse and a naive sensibility for baking out of any kind of box beyond the big yellow one, my midwestern mom forged ahead to nurture us with crumbly, cream, Bisquick biscuits. Weekend biscuit breakfasts were a chance to see my food at eye level; I was mesmerized at how a steaming piece of bread could turn a solid chunk of butter into liquid gold that dripped over the ragged edges and ran hotly down my hand, turning me into a spindly, pig-tailed Midas. An upturned honey bear would spout off a pagan spiderweb of drizzle—creating an unrepeatable mandala—and I would watch in anticipation for the moment that it sank into the bread and became one with butter and biscuit. Few rituals have I observed with such anticipation and solemnity.
These days, in the dark mellowness of slumber when the flannel sheet slips off a bare shoulder and that spiky nip of air is realized, the one thing that can get me moving is biscuits (and the smell of bacon). Alarms don’t work, especially in the depths of winter, and my hibernating is impervious to my husband’s irritating—though well-meaning—attempts to shake me awake. Coffee can be on the nightstand, and it’ll be cold before I even grasp that it’s there. But, damnit, throw some gluten into the air, and I’ll Sonic-the-Hedgehog myself to the kitchen to eagerly await whatever warm, bread-y thing is lurking in the oven. Granted, most of the time I’m the one making the bread-y things, but as long as I know there’s even an option of something warm for breakfast…I’ll get a move on.
The day that I found this particular recipe was the day my life changed. These are the fluffiest, tangiest, most flavorful biscuits I’ve ever had (much less made myself). This pan of biscuits gave new meaning to a hallelujah chorus, and I’m certain I looked at the ceiling after trying the first one and said, “LORD.” Humans find church in many different places…mine just happens to be in bites. And every future bite of biscuit that comes out of my kitchen will be regarded with a holy respect, not only in homage to my childhood devotion, but in thankfulness for something that this wanderer can take hold of and call a root.
Adapted from Local Milk
Serves 4-6, depending on size of biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ cup unsalted butter, cubed and well-chilled
1 cup buttermilk, well-chilled
- Preheat oven to 425°.
- In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Your fingers are the best tools, so use them to cut the butter into your flour mixture to about the size of a pea. Do this quickly, before the butter gets too warm.
- Pour the buttermilk into your flour and butter mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon (or your hands, which I usually do) to achieve a densely shaggy dough. You don’t want it to be too dry or too wet. Add a tiny bit more buttermilk if it seems like it needs it, or add a little more flour to your work surface if the mixture seems too sticky.
- Turn your dough out onto a floured surface and pat it into a loose rectangle, about an inch thick.
- Fold the rectangle in half to form a square, and roll out dough gently. You’re trying to roll this dough out with as little effort as possible to create flaky, buttery layers. Fold rectangle in half lengthwise again, and roll out.
- Repeat the fold-and-roll two more times, and end on a fold.
- Roll the dough out to about an inch thick (thicker is always better!). Cut your biscuits out using a floured cutter, but DO NOT TWIST THE CUTTER. If you twist it, the edges will seal and your biscuits will not rise with the same kind of splendor. Re-roll out the scraps until all of the dough has turned into biscuits.
- Place your beautiful biscuits on a baking sheet (I like to line mine with parchment paper for easier cleanup). Make sure the biscuits are touching, because they use the power of groupthink to help the rising process. Seriously, get those things cozy with each other.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes. They should come out looking very fluffy and slightly golden. Let cool for just a few minutes (for the sake of your fingers).
- Fork those puppies open, breathe in the buttery steam, and slather with whatever your heart desires. My favorite is butter and honey (classic), but these are also to die for smothered with sausage gravy… just sayin’.
Jordan Bird is a lifelong Alaskan, introvert, and currently works as Art Director for the Bear Tooth, Moose’s Tooth, and Broken Tooth. She’s emotionally attached to Mexican street tacos, You’ve Got Mail, Bon Iver, white Christmas lights, and Oxford Commas.
*City Kitchen is a series of recipe blog posts contributed by community members, including my food journalism class at UAA.