For a long time, I didn’t understand why anyone would care, particularly, about biscuits. I thought they were okay; useful in a pinch when you didn’t have time to make proper bread. Then, chance brought me to the Loveless Cafe, an (apparently) legendary spot in Nashville’s swankiest suburb. (Think Santa Monica with pickup trucks.) As a life-long professional cook, I’m quite jaded, and, honestly, rarely actually enjoy dining out. Dinner at Loveless, however, was awesome — so good, in fact, that I woke up early and went back for breakfast the very next day. And the biscuits — transcendental.
“Oh,” thought I, suddenly a committed biscuit-phile, “so that’s what a biscuit can be.”
Early this year, I forget exactly why, I set about developing a biscuit recipe of my own, using, of course, the Loveless biscuit as a gold(en-brown) standard. I cannot — will not — assert that the results are of Loveless caliber. They’re more inspired-by that imitation-of, and the Loveless recipe for the genuine article is a closely-guarded secret. Nonetheless, these are some mighty fine biscuits.
A few notes about the recipe, material and otherwise:
- Flour is an important component here; a generic, all-purpose flour will not yield satisfactory results. Tipo “00″ is Italian in origin, and is unique in that it is ground extra fine from soft (i.e. lower-protein, warm-climate) wheat. Also excellent for fresh pasta, the finer grind produces more surface area and subsequently absorbs liquids more efficiently than other flours. The lower protein content produces a supple, forgiving and workable dough and a tender finished product. (King Arthur produces an Italian-Style flour that, though I haven’t actually tested it, I’m confident would perform very well.) If one must substitute, try White Lily, or a similar (generally Southern) lower-protein flour.
- Like most superlative stuff, these biscuits contradict almost all conventional biscuit wisdom. For one, they’re drop biscuits, so no rolling, cutting or dusting with flour required. For two, no butter!
- The yeast in this recipe is mostly for flavor; the baking powder does the leavening. Apparently, however, recipes, like this one, that feature multiple leaveners belong to a tradition of “newlywed” recipes that feature a sort of systemic redundancy as insurance against domestic disquiet.
- I use yogurt instead of buttermilk, because we always have it on hand. Modern “buttermilk” is cultured, and really just a thinner consistency yogurt anyway, so while these may not be, in the strictest sense, “buttermilk biscuits” I won’t tell if you don’t. (For the detail-oriented, we use Butterworks Farm‘s whole Jersey milk yogurt — it’s local, and the Jersey cow’s milk is exceptionally rich and flavorful.)
- Variations: beyond enjoying with jam and butter, try studding these biscuits with extra goodness (bacon, cheddar & chiles, for example). They also make a dandy crust for fruit cobbler.
Manor Buttermilk Biscuits
Yeild = 20 ea.
Preheat your oven: 375° F for convection ovens, 415° F for still (standard) ovens.
Prepare a baking dish (roughly 10 inches x 12 inches) with a light coating of non-stick spray.
- .6 ounces instant yeast
- .3 ounces sugar
- 3 ounces warm water (about 110° F)
Let stand 15 minutes someplace warm.
In a seperate bowl, whisk together:
- 18 ounces tipo 00 flour
- 4.5 ounces cornstarch
- .9 ounces baking powder
- .6 ounces plain salt
- 1.2 ounces sugar
To the flour mixture, add:
- 7.5 ounces vegetable oil (use a neutral-tasting oil, like canola or soy)
Stir gently 3-4 times before also adding:
- 9 ounces whole milk + 9 ounces yogurt (preferably whole milk or “full fat” yogurt)
- the yeast mixture
Mix until just combined. The dough should be more-or-less cohered, but will be wet and shaggy. It’s okay. Don’t over-mix. If your dough is smooth and soft, you’ve over-mixed.
Allow the biscuit dough to rest/rise for 10 minutes before proceeding to scoop 2 ounces mounds (about 1/4 cup each) into your baking dish (a #16 ice cream disher does this most efficiently and uniformly, but feel free to improvise). Make sure the mounds are close together — right next to each other — so they push against one-another as they rise in the oven. Fear not! they’ll break readily into individual biscuits once baked.
Bake in your pre-heated oven for 10 minutes, rotate the pan, and continue baking 7-9 more minutes.
Removing the biscuits from the oven, while they’re still hot, brush/sprinkle the tops with:
- 3-4 tablespoons whole milk
- 1/2 tablespoon sugar
Allow to rest for 15 minutes in the pan before turning out on a wire rack to cool. Or, eat ‘em right away, piping hot from the pan.