Several years ago, The Washington Post ran an article in their food section called “Building a Better Biscuit,” which my grandmother saved for me, and which I have referred to many times since. The article gives some good suggestions: Don’t overwork the dough; to get maximum rise, bake the biscuits soon after they are cut; and use buttermilk, fine sea salt, and a combination of baking powder and baking soda. Light, flaky and buttery, these biscuits are delectable!
The original recipe called for eight tablespoons of shortening, but I, conditioned by my mother, use all butter instead. This recipe can be adapted — I made a cashel blue cheese and chive variation for St. Patrick’s Day — and the dough, unbaked, can be frozen and baked straight from the freezer. I prefer to eat these just as they are, maybe with a little butter, but they also make a nice base for poached eggs, Ben’s favorite way of eating them.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2¼ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons sugar
8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
¾ cup buttermilk plus more for brushing
Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Cut the butter into the flour mixture and using a fork, mix the butter and flour until the butter has broken into small bits and flakes.
Pour buttermilk into flour mix. Stir with fork just until the dough comes together to form a mass — Do not over-mix. Gently gather the dough in the bowl to bring together, adding an extra tablespoon of buttermilk if necessary. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Pat the dough into a ¾-inch thick circle. Using a two-inch round cutter, cut the dough into eight biscuits. Transfer to an ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing the biscuits 2-inches apart.
Brush each biscuit lightly with buttermilk. Sprinkle a pinch of sugar over the top of each. Transfer sheet to the oven, immediately increasing the temperature to 425ºF. Bake the biscuits for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack to cool or serve immediately.