Buttermilk Biscuits – the sexy side of Buttermilk

I want you to try that Buttermilk-Brined chicken so badly (fan of the blog Rudy Basso already has, to much success!) Therefore, I’ve decided to continue the buttermilk love by including a few more recipes to make good use of that extra buttermilk you’ll have in your fridge.  I had the perfect opportunity to make Alton’s buttermilk biscuits at a brunch birthday party for James’ Dad this weekend (Happy Birthday again, Lou!), that I decided to go ahead and share the step-by-step process.

I do believe that biscuits are the best looking baked-good.  You can have your perfectly decorated cupcakes and marbled cakes, just leave the biscuits to me.  I mean – just look at this glamour shot:

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How can you resist?

Biscuits seem incredibly intimidating.  A well-known culinary delight in the south, the flaky layers and light but rich texture seem like they must take hours and some secret ritual only southern grandmas know.  However, from start to finish, the process takes about an hour – including clean-up!  (There’s plenty of time to clean your dishes while the biscuits bake, which is a major encouragement.)

Once we had tried them at home, we decided to whip them up for James’ parents when we stayed with them last year.  Always the most enthusiastic audience for our cooking, James’ Dad told people about those biscuits for weeks.  The only thing more encouraging than an easy recipe and delicious product to show for it is a boost to your ego.

I hope you will take these on at home and impress your friends and loved ones.  Having never made any kind of complicated pastry before, James is now the biscuit whisperer.  We know you can be, too!

Buttermilk Biscuits

Adapted very slightly from Alton Brown’s Southern Biscuits recipe found here

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder (this is more than you think – make sure you have enough!)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter (cut into cubes and kept as cold as possible)
  • 1 cup cold buttermilk

The Process:

1.  Preheat the oven to 450ºF.

2.  Measure out the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and whisk together to aerate (whisking takes place of sifting here, but you can sift if you like.)IMG_2624

3.  Incorporate the cold butter into the flour.  My method is by hand: coat all of the cubes of butter in the flour and then rub the flour mixture and butter together with your fingers.  You want only a few large chunks to remain.  Here’s how I do it:IMG_2626 IMG_2628

4.  Make a well in the middle of the flour/butter mixture and pour in your cup of buttermilk.IMG_2647

5.  Stir until the dough comes together. IMG_2657

6. Flour a cutting board or some wax paper/parchment paper on the counter and turn out your dough onto the floured surface.IMG_2661 IMG_2667

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This is about how much flour you should use in between folds – a little goes a long way.

7.  Using your hands, shape the dough into a square/rectangle and fold the dough onto itself 3-4 times.  Each time you fold and reshape, make sure to FLOUR the top of the dough before folding again.  This step is very important – and the first time I totally forgot.  I had to knead the dough again, adding the extra flour each time so they weren’t too sticky.  Even with this mistake, the biscuits still came out great.  PHEW!IMG_2669

UPDATED video with the correct technique:

8.  Once you’ve kneaded the dough, pat it down so that it measures about 1″ high.IMG_2690

9.  Use your cookie-cutter/biscuit-cutter/glass (we use one sized 2-3″ usually) to cut out the biscuit shapes.  You may need to do this two or three times.  By the third time, I could only cut out one biscuit and just molded the last one the best I could.IMG_2697 IMG_2704 IMG_2710 IMG_2712

10. Arrange your biscuits on a pan for they are touching each other – but not the sides of the pan.IMG_2722

11.  Bake for 15 – 20 minutes (mine only took 15), until they are lightly golden.20140525_084930

12. If you can, eat them while they’re fresh out of the oven – AMAZING.  If not, as soon as they’re cool enough to touch, wrap them in a cloth napkin or dish towel to keep them warm and moist until serving time. 20140525_085138

13.  Be lauded as a baking prodigy, earn the envy of your friends and neighbors – enjoy it, you’ve earned it.

Time to talk buttermilk: Buttermilk-brined and Baked Chicken

It’s time to talk about buttermilk.

One of my favorite ingredients which imparts tangy flavor and silky texture, is relatively easy to find, and actually low-fat.  What’s not to love?

The buttermilk that I buy in the grocery store, the one most of us living in the northern USA are familiar with today, is a cultured buttermilk, made with low-fat milk and lactic acids, and containing good-for-you bacteria which aids digestion (like yogurt.)  True buttermilk is very hard to find in a store – usually only found at dairy farms, it is the by-product of churning cream into butter.  (For true nerds and baking enthusiasts, you may find this history of buttermilk courtesy of Slate.com interesting.  Thanks, Slate!)  I wouldn’t recommend drinking it by itself, but as an ingredient, buttermilk is rather versatile.  You’ll find it mostly in baked goods, and I’ve made my share, but my favorite recipe using buttermilk is actually a breaded and baked chicken recipe.

Adapted from a Bon Appetit article I read years ago, I’ve created a low-fat breaded chicken recipe that you can prepare mostly overnight, for a quick week-day dinner.  And it’s a recipe that I think about all day, one I can’t wait to get home to.  The breading is so flavorful and complex, it’s like the best shake and bake you ever had.  No – better.  And the usual flour-egg-breading process isn’t necessary, because the buttermilk brine is viscous enough to stick to the wet, raw chicken breasts AND cling to the breading.  (Ooh, or maybe the dijon mustard in the brine actually emulsifies it and gives it that eggy quality – I just thought of that right now!)

And the best part – the recipe doesn’t call for nearly all the buttermilk you bought (it usually comes in quart-sized containers), so you’ve got leftovers for all the carby baked goods you want to try.  A crave-inducing low-fat recipe that gives you an excuse to make super indulgent baked goods – now who ever said I didn’t treat you right?

Buttermilk Brined Baked Chicken

Marinade:

  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2 TBL dijon mustard
  • 1 TBL olive oil
  • 1 TBL lemon juice
  • 1 large garlic clove, pressed (check out my technique below, which avoids cleaning the garlic press.)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1.5 lbs boneless, skinless, thinly sliced chicken breasts (Bought these at Trader Joe’s and I’m not looking back.)20140406_152930

Breading:

  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs (aka Japanese style, a drier, more crunchy form of bread crumb, pretty readily available in grocery stores – try the Asian aisle)
  • 1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano cheese
  • 3 TBL flour
  • 1/2 TBL dried thyme
  • 3/4 tsp lemon zest (zest the lemon used for juice in the marinade before juicing, it will be much easier)
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (if you don’t own this yet, buy some for this recipe and thank me later.   A myriad of applications are now open to you!)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

The Process

  1. Measure out the wet ingredients in the marinade and mix together in a bowl, so that mustard is incorporated.  
  2. To press the garlic, you can use a garlic press.  If you don’t have one (or hate washing yours, like me), you can sprinkle some salt over your minced clove and press it by hand with a knife.
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Minced garlic
Sprinkled with Salt
Sprinkled with Salt
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Press down with the flat of your knife and drag across the cutting board

20140406_15400820140406_1540283.  When marinade is mixed, add your chicken (in a gallon Ziploc bag, or in flat dish with sides, like this 9×9″ baking dish I used – nonstick and very easy to clean) and coat thoroughly.  Cover and marinate overnight. 20140406_154402

4.  If I’m prepping the dish the night before, I like to assemble the breading at this time, too.  As long as I’m doing dishes… this makes next day assembly super fast.  Just mix all ingredients in an air-tight plastic container and slap its lid on – done and done.  You can bread the chicken right in the container – just be sure to pick one with enough space, 2-3 times the surface area of the chicken breast.

5. The next day, heat your oven to 450ºF.  Place a cooling rack inside (or on top of) a half-sheet pan (18″x13″) – you can line the pan with foil for easy clean-up.   The cooling rack will keep the chicken elevated so it’s crispy on top and bottom.

6. Take your marinated chicken out and place the marinated chicken and breading right next to the pan, for easy transfer.  Bread the chicken as thoroughly as possible in that delicious, delicious coating.  Transfer to the rack.20140406_180629 20140406_180638 20140406_180704

7. Carefully put your chicken in the oven for 20 minutes.  The rack-on-pan can be a little unwieldy when being carried.

8.  When the baking time is over, take care when transferring chicken to your plate – you’ll see below that I scraped a little breading off with my tongs.  You may want to wait a few minutes before transferring (if you can bear to wait any longer), or gently transfer with a spatula or even your dining utensils.

9. Enjoy some badass breaded chicken.

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