Friday, March 7, 2014

Cornmeal Buttermilk Biscuits

If you just barely whisper the word "biscuits" in a crowded room, you will likely get everyone's attention.  When it comes to a breakfast or brunch indulgence, biscuits are among the first thing that comes to mind.  And there are so very many luscious biscuit recipes out there, it's fun to try something new every once in a while.

Biscuits are similar to scones, a tradition from the United Kingdom.  However, judging from early 19th century cookbooks, it appears the American South is the home of the biscuit, where they were intended to be sturdy enough to hold up to scooping any gravy lingering behind on a plate.

Biscuits are so easy and quick to make and require such basic and simple ingredients, it's a great pleasure to practice making them in your own kitchen.  They are so far superior to anything pre-made at the market, I'm betting you won't go back.  There really is nothing like a biscuit fresh out of the oven.

I've replaced some of the flour in this recipe with finely ground cornmeal.  It adds just a hint of flavor and texture and goes well with any other breakfast items on your plate.  I think these would also be great with a dollop of honey or a drizzle of maple syrup.

Bench notes:
- I like a finely ground cornmeal for these biscuits, which I buy at my local bulk grocery.  You can use medium ground for more texture.
- Cornmeal can sometimes have a bitter taste in baked goods, so the sugar is there to compensate.
- Work the butter in quickly so it stays cold and doesn't get absorbed by the flour.
- Cornmeal doesn't absorb liquid in the same way that flour does so the dough will be very soft and sticky, not like regular biscuit dough.  Dust your hands and work surface lightly with flour before handling and shaping the dough.
- You want to just pat the dough together until it holds its shape.
- I like to shape the dough on a piece of parchment so I can just lift or slide the whole thing onto a sheet pan without handling the biscuits too much.
- Once the biscuits are cut out, turning them upside down to bake gives them better loft.
- Also try the basic Buttermilk Biscuits recipe.

Cornmeal Buttermilk Biscuits
Makes 8 biscuits

1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 oz) flour
3/4 cup (3 3/4 oz) cornmeal  [I used finely ground]
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (17 g) sugar
4 oz (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
1 cup (8 oz) cold buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Prepare a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat.

Sift the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar together in a bowl.  Cut the cold butter into 1/4" pieces and add to the flour mixture.  Toss to coat all the pieces of butter with flour.  Working quickly with your fingertips, pinch the butter into flat pieces, breaking it up until it looks like oat flakes.

Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour the cold buttermilk in the well.  Using a fork, fluff the flour into the center and gently stir and turn the ingredients until you have a soft wet dough.

Lightly dust a piece of parchment or a work surface and your hands with flour and scrape out the dough.  Gently pat it together with your hands into a rectangle that is about 9" x 5".

Use a bench scraper or a sharp knife to cut the dough into 8 biscuits, each one about 2 1/2" x  2 1/4".  Turn the biscuits over (bottom side up) and use a pastry brush to dust off any excess flour.  Place them bottom side up on the prepared baking sheet.  Brush lightly with melted butter.

Bake the biscuits until they are puffed and the bottoms are golden brown, about 12 - 14 minutes.  Serve warm.

6 comments: said...

"If you just barely whisper the word "biscuits" in a crowded room, you will likely get everyone's attention."

Isn't that the truth?! Also, if you post absolutely beautiful photos of biscuits, you will likely make everyone hungry. I totally want some of those biscuits right now! (Pinning your lovely photo!)

pastry studio said...

Hahahaa! Thanks, october-moon!

Kate said...

Swooning over these hot from the oven slathered in butter, fresh strawberries and softly whipped cream.... all while heading into 2 weeks of South Beach trying to locate my belly-button :\

pastry studio said...

HA! Way to go, Kate! STRAWBERRIES & CREAM.

Sage Trifle said...

The marriage of a cornbread muffin and a biscuit. Why didn't I ever think of that? These look so beautiful and delicious. Thank you for sharing a great idea.

pastry studio said...

Sage Trifle, that's a pretty good way to describe them. Thanks!