I never personally knew my Great-Grandma on my Dad’s side of the family. She, Clara, lived through stories told by my Dad and my Grandma R. My Dad and his brother lived with his grandparents on a farm in Tennessee for a few years while his mom, my Gram, looked for work and got a job up north in Michigan (times were tough back then for a single mom living in TN and the north afforded more opportunities in employment). Apparently, Clara was quite the baker, pies, cakes and buttermilk biscuits. Stories of Clara live on via my Dad, but I wish my Grandma were alive to tell me more stories (she passed away last year and I feel like our life-long conversation was unfinished. I guess that’s what happens when someone you love dies: there’s always more to say and much left unsaid. I sure miss her). The way she described the farm to me, the smokehouse, the pickling and canning, the baking, it was as if I was there myself. I’d like to think that Clara would approve of the buttermilk biscuits I’ve been making and attempting to perfect lately.
The key to making a nice, flaky biscuit is ice cold butter. Well, that, and don’t over-work the dough and when you cut out the biscuits, don’t twist the biscuit cutter, because then your biscuits will be flat, and no one wants flat biscuits. I also keep my flour in the freezer and I tend to think that helps too. I use all-purpose flour rather than cake flour…mostly because I’ve never used cake flour and never buy it. I usually get up early on the weekends because I can’t seem to sleep late anymore. And, after a cup or two of coffee, or sometimes barely a cup, I get to baking these biscuits. The addition of toasted almonds is a new and I think it works well. Pecans would also be delicious.
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
- 2 1/4 C. AP Flour
- 1TB baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 9 TB cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 3/4 C. buttermilk (can be low-fat)
- 1 TB sugar (optional)
- 1 cup chopped almonds, toasted in 1 TB butter
Chop and toast the almonds until almost browned. Remove from heat, put in a bowl and let cool. Spoon the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and whisk them together. I have tried this recipe with sugar and without. I like them without sugar and prefer a more salty biscuit. Add the cubed, cold butter to the flour mixture. Now, you can use a pastry cutter, or your clean hands. I use my hands because I find it easier. You want to break up the butter until it’s the size of small peas and the dough is crumbly and coarse. If the dough gets too warm from your hands, put bowl in the freezer for a few minutes. Add the buttermilk and toasted nuts (if using) stir together with a spatula until the dough looks craggy and just comes together. Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface and flatten to about an inch or so. Do not use a rolling pin! Use biscuit cutters or a glass to cut out the biscuits. Place biscuits on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper. You can also brush the tops of the biscuits with a little bit of buttermilk. Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes. Do not over-bake. Your kitchen will smell heavenly and your neighbors might be jealous. Enjoy warm biscuits with butter, honey, or preserves.