I have a deep fondness for buttermilk biscuits. One of my earliest cooking memories is sitting with my father on top of our counters sifting the flour for our breakfast biscuits on any given Sunday morning. I loved to watch the flour "snow" into the bowl or wax paper and I loved spending the time with my father. He still comments about me being so little that I could scoot all the way under our cabinets and sit with my back against the back splash. As my father learned how to make a softer and softer biscuit, so did I. I learned from all that my father did and now replicate THE biscuit recipe often. Sometimes I want a biscuit from Popeye's or KFC...buttery, tender, flaky...my biscuits are not like this. My biscuits might be considered a little more "gourmet" and they are definitely softer. If you do not follow this method you will not have the softest possible biscuits. The choice is yours and yours alone!
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon baking soda (I lean towards the 3/4 side)
2 cups bread flour (not All-purpose, not self-rising...definitely not cake)
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt (I often measure just shy of a teaspoon)
1/3 cup oil (not olive)
2/3 cup buttermilk
Measure milk and oil in the same cup, but do not mix together. Set aside. Sift your dry ingredients together...twice...do not skip this part. Matt's mom thought that sifting was for mixing dry ingredients, but that is not the case. The purpose of sifting is for aerating the ingredients thus creating a lighter and fluffier product. Pour the milk and oil all at once into the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined to make a soft dough. Sometimes I need to add a touch more buttermilk, you should know if you need more buttermilk by the third or fourth stir. I tend to stir less and have a bit of extra flour at the bottom of the bowl. This ensures a softer biscuit because I have not worked the bread dough. If you overwork the bread dough you will start to develop the gluten...this makes chewy bread...which is great for baguettes...not for biscuits.
As you can see in the picture above I am delicately forming the biscuits in my hand, usually with the help of a fork. I don't usually roll and cut my biscuits (goes back to the whole gluten thing). I take a biscuit sized glob with the fork, make sure it holds together, and place it on a greased pan. I then cook the biscuits (this recipe yields about 8 biscuits) in a 475 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Begin checking these suckers at 10 minutes or so...you want a nice golden brown color.
Now serve with eggs, sausage, gravy, jelly, whatever! These are not biscuits you can make into a sandwich...they will fall apart. I really like a good cream gravy with sausage bits in it, but do not make it that often. I prefer more "traditional" jellies like peach/apricot (they don't taste that different in jelly form) or strawberry, and sometimes some really good honey while Mattie likes "crazy" jellies like cherry, blackberry, and raspberry. Enjoy one morning! I am looking forward to one day making these biscuits with my own little one.
Aside...as far as sifters go I am a fan of the old "crank" style sifter, rather than the trigger/spring style sifter. It is less effort on your hand and seems much less pretentious when making something as homey as biscuits!