Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Amber's Biscuits

In blogging my kitchen adventures, I've several times mentioned "my" biscuit recipe. A couple of my readers have asked me to share it, and so I've decided to do so today.

I do hope these biscuits live up to the way I made them sound! I suppose I should give a little background:

Roughly two years ago - about the time I conquered bread-making to the point that I wasn't biting my nails the entire time the loaf was in the oven - I was searching for a new field to challenge me. At the time I was becoming interested in "southern cooking," a topic I have to teach myself, since my parents were both raised in the North though all their children are Virginia-born.

I don't wish to steal from any region of our wonderful country, but the south eastern states are really the ones most people think of when they think of high, flaky, golden biscuits. Corn bread, fried chicken, biscuits...you're just not a southern chef if you can't fix those things. ...Or so the cookbooks from the library told me.

I was interested. Mom fixed biscuits occasionally, but they weren't at all common at our house. With youthful confidence, I decided biscuit-making would be my next conquest.


You know how cookbooks say biscuit-making is really an art, and that it takes years of practice to achieve the results we dream of?

They're right.

After a few attempts, I decided to try for something edible before I worried about flaky, high, and golden. I tried loads of recipes. My poor family.

But after two years or so, I believe I've become about as comfortable with biscuit-making as with bread-making. That doesn't mean I've perfected the art. Read here if you doubt that. *grin*

After trying all those recipes, I decided to toss out the ones that kept flopping, and create my own.

You know what? It worked!

That's the one I'll share with you today. Just be warned, however, that in my experience, biscuits rely more on the method you use to put them together than the recipe itself. It's possible to flop a good recipe by using lousy mixing methods. I'll try my best to describe what I do to get these to come out, but you'll really have to "get it" yourself to consistently turn out biscuits that are edible. :)

(Again, lest you think I'm claiming to know something amazing about biscuit-making, please read this post, "Pride goeth before charred remains.")

Ahem. Now for the recipe.

Amber's Biscuits

3-3/4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
3 TBS brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1-1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup lemon juice

Note: All ingredients except baking soda and sugar should be cold (stick in flour in freezer for ten minutes to chill it if you don't keep your flour in the refrigerator.) If you have buttermilk, use 1-1/2 cup of that instead of the milk and lemon.

Use a large mixing bowl. Combine all dry ingredients well with a fork. (Reserve 1/4 cup of flour, to be used later.) Slice butter into tablespoon-size chunks, touching with your hands as little as possible, to keep the butter cold. Add to bowl, and toss to coat with flour.
Cut the butter into the flour mixture, using a pastry knife (above). The is really a key to getting flaky biscuits. The butter must coat every speck of flour, and it must be done quickly, before the butter softens. I love my pastry knife! (Thanks, Mom!)

Now clear a spot on the table to roll out your dough, and get out the baking sheet you will be using to bake the biscuits on, as well as a rolling pin and a 2" biscuit cutter. Start preheating the oven to 350 degrees. You want everything ready to go, because from the time you combine the wet and dry ingredients, the clock starts ticking. The faster the biscuits get into the oven, the higher they will rise.

Dump 1/4 cup flour onto the place where you'll roll out your dough.

Now pour the milk into your bowl, and immediately add the lemon juice. (Don't worry - I know it sounds like a lot of lemon, but we've never been able to taste it, and it makes the biscuits oh-so fluffy!)

Fold the flour into the milk, using gentle strokes, until all the flour is incorporated. Use as few strokes as possible. The dough will be very sticky. Dump it out onto the 1/4 cup of flour, scraping the bowl to remove all the dough.

Knead the dough gently, pulling up some of the flour into the dough, but leaving a little under it. Make layers of dough as you fold it - this will make flaky layers in your biscuits. Gently roll out the dough to 3/4" thick, sprinkling flour (from that 1/4 cup) where you need it.

Dip your biscuit cutter in flour (this is important) before cutting each biscuit.

This recipe should make 12 biscuits. You'll have to gather up your dough and roll it out again about three times, and you'll have no dough left over at the end. Most books say you can't roll out your dough twice and still get good biscuits, but I've found it is possible. The second and third rollings will rise just a wee bit less, but I cut them a little thicker to make up for that. Remember to make the folded layers with each rolling-out.

Bake on an un-greased cookie sheet for 20-25 minutes. Keep an eye on them until you know how long it take for your particular oven! (experience talking!)

Hope you enjoy these!


Sarah said...

Thank you for sharing this recipe, Amber! I'll have to give it a try. :) The biscuits sound like they would be delicious!

Sarah Jane said...

Thank you for sharing this recipe! I've not yet found the "perfect" biscuit recipe so am always eager to try out new recipes. . .yours sounds incredibly promising! Thank you!

Amber said...

Sarah Jane and Sarah - you're very welcome; thanks for your interest. If you do give the recipe a try, please let me know how they turn out. I'm curious to know if my instructions make enough sense for someone else to follow. :) With your kitchen skills, I wouldn't be surprised if y'all improve the recipe!