The day it was 40C (104F) outside, I had the sudden urge to bake biscuits... the kind of recipe that requires the oven to be preheated to 425F! I don't even like biscuits, but when I want to bake something, I have to or else it drives me crazy. These were so much fun because everything is done by hand. I made easy drop biscuits before, but I've never attempted buttermilk biscuits because I was afraid they wouldn't get those flaky layers or rise. These were inspired by Em and Kelly (who offers really great tips for getting those perfect layers and height). I used the recipe from Chris Kimball because I had all the ingredients available except that I subbed the shortening for butter. It's probably me, but the last time I made banana bread with shortening to see if there was a difference in texture with butter, it sort of had a meat aftertaste. Since these are not flavoured, I didn't want beef tasting biscuits...gross!
I was pretty pleased with the rise, but the texture wasn't as soft as I would have liked. I think it was my fault for over working the dough though. I wanted those layers so badly that I folded and patted the dough down more than I should have. Next time, I'm going to buy some lard so I can try Em's recipe. Overall, I would say that these were a success because my brother who I usually have to beg to try a cookie, brownie or cupcake had 4 of these!
Baking Powder Biscuits
If you do not have buttermilk, you can substitute regular sweet milk as indicated below. For extra height, let the cut biscuits sit on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before baking.
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons chilled butter
3 tablespoons chilled vegetable shortening (I used butter)
2/3 to 3/4 cup buttermilk
(I just used my fingers to rub the butter in and skipped the food processor)
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in the bowl of a food processor. Process for 2 seconds to mix.
Add the butter, cut into 1-tablespoon bits, to the flour and pulse 6 times for one second each. Add shortening and pulse another 5 times or until mixture looks like coarse meal (the flour should take on a slightly yellowish hue from the butter).
Place mixture into a large bowl. Using a rubber spatula, fold mixture together while adding buttermilk in a very thin stream. When mixture starts to hold together, press the dough with the side of the spatula. Note that you may use a little more or less than the 2/3-cup of buttermilk called for in this recipe.
Turn onto a floured surface and roll out dough very gently to a thickness of 1/2 inch. (I patted the dough down and folded it over a few times)
Use a biscuit cutter to cut the biscuits and then place on a cookie sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes, turning the sheet after 5 minutes in the oven.
Makes 10 thick 2 3/4-inch biscuits or 16 2-inch biscuits.
Substitute milk for buttermilk, add 3 teaspoons cream of tartar, and reduce baking powder to 1 teaspoon.