I picked up some basics in the early stages:
- Keep the butter and buttermilk icy cold.
- Don’t overwork the dough.
- Whisk the flour well to aerate it if you can’t sift
- Don’t twist the biscuit cutter. It will seal up the edges and prevent them from rising.
Cursing myself and wishing I had instead decided to perfect a squid-ink pasta recipe I sought the help of professional. South Miami’s Whisk Gourmet Food & Catering has long been loved for their lunchtime fried chicken and biscuits. Pastry chef Lorena Inostroza agreed to meet me at 6 a.m., two hours after the start of her day, to get things straight.
Before diving into the recipe it’s important to note that Whisk’s biscuits, and many others around town, are drop biscuits. The dough isn’t rolled out and cut. It’s mixed into a gloppy mass then dispensed onto a sheet pan with an ice cream scooper and baked.
If you’re going to attempt biscuits at home go with the drops. Why? Because they will prevent you, the overly ambitious home cook, from overworking your dough. Second is they’re quick to make, which is convenient and guarantees your biscuits along with the butter contained within to remain ice cold, allowing it to melt in the oven and billow into the savory, buttery little pockets you’re looking for.
Inostraza’s recipe calls for the following
- 240 grams of all purpose flour
- 3 ounces of high-fat butter (or bacon fat, as the restaurant uses)
- 1.5 cups of lowfat buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of pepper
Now, in order to get those buttery hideaways inside your biscuits you’re going to need some sizable chunks of fat. That means when you first cut it into the dry ingredients you can’t mash it down into pebbles as some recipes suggest. Squeeze the butter together with the flour until most of the pieces are about the size of a dime.
Did you measure out your buttermilk beforehand? Good job. You’re a master of mis-en-place. If you didn’t, pop your flour into the freezer and dole yourself out some of the dairy. Here, again, the biscuits become difficult. Inosotroza mixes the dough by feel, adding about a third a cup of buttermilk at a time until it become a gloppy mass, almost like a very thick batter or a well-mayoed tuna fish salad.
Inostroza made three massive biscuits, though you can portion it out to as many as six. Pop in the oven for 10 minutes, then rotate to cook until golden for another 10 minutes.
Though this seems confusing and labor intensive, using drop biscuits drastically cuts down on the mess and time it takes to produce a single batch. That means you can practice it over and over until you get it right. Or, you can just go to Whisk and let them do the work.
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