The January 2008 issue of Gourmet magazine is devoted to southern cuisine, and several recipes piqued my interest. I’ve already tried two of them; buttermilk biscuits and buttermilk cookies.
The annoying thing about buttermilk is that you only ever need it for the recipe you are making. There’s never any other need for it. So, I often purchase a quart (the only size it comes in), use ½ a cup of it and end up throwing out the rest. At least with 2 recipes that required buttermilk, I won’t waste as much.
I made the biscuits for New Year’s Eve, and they were good, but not as good as my usual biscuit recipe (of course, that uses tons of heavy cream, so the buttermilk biscuits are slightly healthier).
The cliché, in this case, turns out to be true: Biscuits benefit from TLC. Peacock recommends White Lily flour, one of the lightest available, along with lard for a flaky texture so fluffy and airy that the biscuits almost float off the plate. One bite may well move you to tears—either with memories of your southern grandmother, or with regret for not having had a southern grandmother.
Makes about 15 biscuits
5 cups sifted White Lily flour or unbleached all-purpose flour (sift before measuring)
Preheat oven to 500°F with rack in middle.
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add lard, coating it with flour, then rub between your fingertips until coarsely blended with some 1/2-inch lumps.
Make a well in flour mixture, then add buttermilk, stirring just until a dough forms (it will be soft and sticky). Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead 8 to 10 times. Roll out dough with a floured rolling pin into a 12-inch round (1/2 inch thick) and, using a fork dipped in flour, prick all the way through about every 1/2 inch.
Cut out as many rounds as possible with a 2 1/2- to 3-inch round cookie/biscuit cutter dipped in flour (do not twist cutter).
Bake, almost touching, on an ungreased heavy baking sheet, rotating sheet after about 6 minutes if browning unevenly, until crusty and golden-brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Brush tops with melted butter and serve warm or at room temperature.
Cooks' note: Flour mixture with lard can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.
Gloria’s Notes: I found that I had to use more liquid than the recipe states to get the dough to come together.
I made the buttermilk cookies last night, and I really enjoyed them. They are different from most cookies, the cookie almost has a cake-like interior and then a slightly crispy edge. Easy to throw together, and great for using up that extra buttermilk.
Miss Lewis mentions buttermilk cookies, which she pairs with ice-cold lemonade, but as far as we know, she never committed a recipe to paper. When we developed one, the big debate was about texture: Soft or crisp? What you see here is the cookie of your dreams, with a tender interior and the slightest bit of crispness around the edge.
Makes about 5 1/2 dozen cookies
Butter 2 large baking sheets.
Whisk together flour, zest, baking soda, and salt.
Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy.
Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in vanilla. Mix in flour mixture and buttermilk alternately in batches at low speed, beginning and ending with flour mixture, until smooth.
Drop level tablespoons of dough about 1 1/2 inches apart onto baking sheets.
Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until cookies are puffed and edges are golden, 12 to 15 minutes per batch. Cool cookies on sheets 1 minute, then transfer cookies to racks.
Gloria’s Notes: I felt the glaze was too sweet and needed some acid to balance it out. I added lemon juice and then more powdered sugar to get it back to the right consistency.