Don’t you, like me, hate that moment when, in making pancakes or waffles, you mix the melted butter into the other liquid dairy products and the butter immediately seizes up? Yes, the resulting clumpy mess still works in the recipe, but it’s a dismaying sight.
What if I told you I had a recipe that not only makes that clumpy mess a good thing, but also lets you have light, crumbly, yummy biscuits with such little effort that you can add them to any working-day dinner? Or, given what is coming upon us in a matter of days, so that you can instantly have bread for your Thanksgiving table if you were so tied up with turkey wrangling that you didn’t realize until twenty minutes before eating that you forgot the rolls?
I will not say these are the best buttermilk biscuits ever, because that honor so clearly goes to Shirley Corriher’s Touch of Grace Biscuits from Cookwise that we might as well not waste time debating it. If you’ve never tried them, go out right now, do whatever you have to do to find southern self-rising flour, and make these biscuits, because they will blow your mind. (Incidentally, the first time I had them was from Shirley’s very own hand, since we happened upon her giving a cooking demonstration in Reading Terminal Market years ago when the cookbook first came out. You may envy me if you choose. I wouldn’t blame you.)
These are not as good, because they couldn’t possibly be. They do have, however, an amazingly high excellence-to-effort ratio. They come together in minutes, give you crisp edges and fluffy interiors perfect for absorbing extra butter, and you can play around to your heart’s content with adding herbs or grated cheese, or even a little extra sugar and lemon zest for a lightning-quick shortcake base.
The fact that deliberately causing clumping makes you feel like a teeny bit like a mad scientist is nothing to sneeze at either.
Buttermilk Drop Biscuits
(Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen’s Best Drop Biscuits)
Makes 1 dozen
1 cup each unbleached all-purpose and “white” whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup cold buttermilk
Adjust the oven rack to the middle position, and heat the oven to 475F.
Whisk the flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in large bowl.
Melt the butter and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Add in the buttermilk, stirring until the butter seizes into small clumps.
Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just incorporated. Using an ice cream scoop or a greased 1/4-cup measuring cup, scoop the batter and drop onto the baking sheet, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart.
Bake 12-14 minutes, until golden brown and crisp on top. Transfer to wire rack and let cool 5 minutes before serving.
The reason that clumpy butter is a good thing is that melting and resolidifying butter into little bits accomplishes the same thing cutting cold butter into flour under the traditional method does: dispersing solid fat throughout the dough creates a fluffy end product. This gets you to the same place with much less work and mess.
ATK says you can use clabbered milk if you don’t have buttermilk on hand. To make it, add 1 tablespoon lemon juice to 1 cup of milk and let it stand until it curdles, around 10 minutes.
If you really are making these for Thanksgiving, I would use 2 cups total of all-purpose flour for a holiday-appropriate, lighter biscuit instead of the half-and-half mix I prefer for a more workaday dinner or post-Thanksgiving I-should-dial-it-back recovery brunch.