Classic Buttermilk Biscuits
Source of Recipe
"The Southerner's Cookbook: Recipes, Wisdom, and Stories"
"If you only bake biscuits once or twice a year for special occasions, the results may turn out fine, but chances are they won't quite reach the pinnacle of the form: light, fluffy biscuits like so many Southern mothers and grandmothers made 365 days a year for a lifetime. Making great biscuits isn't rocket science, but it requires a certain finesse. This recipe, distilled from dozens of handwritten recipes and stove-side sessions, doesn't call for any fussy techniques like rolling and folding multiple times, or weird secret ingredients like sour cream. It does rely on a few tried-and-true Southern staples: A mix of butter (for flavor) and lard (for puff); tangy buttermilk; and extra-fine soft winter wheat flour. Beyond that is where the experience and skill of the baker comes in. Two things to keep in mind: 1. Be flexible when adding the buttermilk. If it's a humid or rainy day, there's already moisture in the air (and therefore in your flour), so your dough may need a little less liquid to come together. On a cool, dry winter day, it may need more. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients (which you've sifted, so the baking powder is thoroughly distributed), slowly pour in the buttermilk, stirring all the while, until the dough just comes together. 2. Don't overwork the dough or touch it too much with your warm hands, which can cause the butter and lard to start to melt. You want those little chunks of fat to melt in the oven, releasing steam and reacting with the baking soda to form bubbles of carbon dioxide, which help the biscuits rise to light and airy perfection. (Okay, so there is SOME science involved.)"
List of Ingredients
◦ 2 cups all-purpose flour
◦ 4 teaspoons baking powder
◦ ¼ teaspoon baking soda
◦ 1 teaspoon kosher salt
◦ 1 teaspoon sugar
◦ 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus melted for brushing
◦ 2 tablespoons cold lard, cut into small pieces
◦ ¾ to 1 cup cold whole buttermilk (¾ cup on a rainy day; 1 cup on a clear, dry day)
Preheat the oven to 450° F.
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar together into a large bowl. Blend the butter and lard into the flour using a pastry blender, two knives, or two forks until the mixture resembles coarse meal with fine flakes of butter and lard dispersed throughout. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, then slowly pour in the buttermilk, stirring until a dough forms (if this happens with ¾ cup, stop; if not, keep slowly adding buttermilk until the dough forms).
Turn the dough out onto a floured pastry cloth or work surface.
Roll out or pat the dough out to ½ inch thick and, using a biscuit cutter, cut out as many rounds as possible. Gather leftover dough and roll it out again to get several more biscuits. Transfer to a baking sheet, arranging biscuits on the pan so that each one just touches its neighbor; they'll "climb" each other as they bake. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the biscuits have risen and the tops have begun to brown. Remove from the oven and brush the tops with melted butter. Serve warm.
Makes 6 to 8 biscuits
(depending on the size of your cutter)