buttermilk sugar biscuits

I am a total sucker for simple recipes with basic ingredients and outsized promises of greatness, so last month when I came across a NYT recipe for a biscuit that had Eric Kim, a NYT Cooking food writer, saying things like “this biscuit is such a new taste for me” and “very unique” and “so different from any other biscuit I’ve ever had” — and he’s from the South! — I knew I had to make it.

Friends, he is right. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but this biscuit is different from regular biscuits.

The butter-flour ratio reminds me of pie pastry. The sugar in the dough made me think they’d be similar to scones, yet they are definitely not scones and I have zero interest in smacking in some add-ins like fruit, nuts, or chocolate. The folding method is reminiscent of puff pastry, but in a craggy, this-is-not-that way. And the addition of buttermilk makes me feel like these really ought to be like ordinary biscuits, and yet they aren’t.

These are less bready, maybe, and more special — part ordinary food and part divine dessert. The inside is tender and the outside has a decidedly un-biscuit-like crunch.

Whatever the case, the salty-sweet ratio is spot on. Absolute perfection. Amen.

The whole family gobbles them up, and I save the leftovers for breakfast. Even three days out, I still wake up excited for my breakfast biscuit. 

A few notes:

  • Use a sided baking sheet because sometimes some of the butter bakes out in the oven. (When this happens, the biscuit edges fry in the butter which turns them deliciously crispy, o happy day!)
  • The instructions call for grating the butter, freezing it for 10 minutes, and then tossing it with the dry ingredients. I’ve grated the butter on the big grater holes and the small ones (Eric says the small holes are better), and have found that the smaller butter shavings were so fine that they clumped back together and became lumps. I’m not convinced either way. 
  • The cutting and stacking of the dry dough until it turns into a cohesive, many-layered block of buttery, flaky goodness is totally worth it. Also, it’s fun. Try it!
  • Shaping the dough into a 1½ inch-high square and then cutting it into 9 pieces is smart: it’s fast, and there are no scraps to reroll. (I actually skipped the rolling pin entirely and just used my hands.).

It never ceases to amaze me how the same ordinary ingredients can yield such vastly different results with only the smallest of tweaks. What thrills!

Buttermilk Sugar Biscuits
Adapted from the NYT Cooking YouTube channel.

I used homemade butter, and I replaced the buttermilk with clabber. The amount of salt (I used non-iodized Kosher salt) is perfect; don’t skimp.

425 grams all-purpose flour
100 grams sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
2½ teaspoons kosher salt
2 sticks (277 grams) butter, grated and frozen for only 10 minutes
300 grams buttermilk or clabber
More melted butter and flaky Maldon salt, for finishing

Toss together the dry ingredients, and then add the lightly frozen, grated butter and toss to combine. Add the buttermilk/clabber in 2-3 additions, tossing after each addition. The dough will be quite dry and shaggy.

Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and, using your hands, shape it into a rough rectangle. Cut the dough in half and stack one half on top of the other. Press/roll the dough back into a rectangle. Repeat the cutting and stacking process 4-5 more times. By the end, the dough should be much smoother and hold together well. 

Press the dough into a square that’s 1½ inches high. Cut the dough into 9 squares, place them on a parchment-lined, sided baking sheet, and bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Brush the tops with butter and sprinkle with flaky salt. 

Serve warm, with butter and jam. Leftover biscuits can be bagged and stored at room temperature (before heating, reheat for 15 seconds), or frozen.

This same time, years previous: milk relief, the quotidian (5.18.20), flying, flashfloods, and firebombs, pinned, moo, campfire cooking, the quotidian (5.19.14),


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