Although I love cooking, my greatest food-crush is on baking. There is something magical about putting raw dough in an oven and having something completely different emerge minutes later. What was once a gooey mass of flour, water, and yeast becomes a loaf of chewy rustic bread or a lump of sticky cookie dough grows into a crumbly, buttery, chocolate cookie.
The only problem with the magic that I love in baking is that something about it that intimidates people. Maybe because baking is a less forgiving process than cooking, but look no further than the latest season of “Top Chef” to see that many great cooks don’t know the first thing about baking.
As an encouragement to those who are intimidated by baking (or as a gift to those who already enjoy it), here is one of my all-time favorite recipes, which also happens to be one of the easiest – buttermilk biscuits. This particular recipe takes 20 minutes from start to finish, and yields the most rich, flaky and downright delicious biscuits I’ve ever eaten.
I love to whip these up to eat with dinner, I’ll serve them with homemade flavored butters. Some of my favorite are fresh herb butter, salted maple butter and smoked Serrano and honey butter, but it all depends on what works best with the food on the table. The great thing about flavored butter is that you can pull almost anything from the spice drawer, mix it with room temperature butter and fleur de sel, place it in a pretty serving dish, and feel like you are eating something special.
In food, many of the most rewarding dishes are also some of the simplest. Although I love high-end restaurants or tackling challenging recipes, the dishes that I come back to over and over again are always those that are simply prepared with quality ingredients and lots of love. So despite my years of mastering the art of baking, there is nothing quite like that first bite of a warm buttermilk biscuit.
Makes about 8 biscuits
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 8 tbsp cold, unsalted butter cut into chunks (plus a little extra butter for brushing on top)
- 1 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 450F, and line a baking pan with parchment paper.
Combine the dry ingredients in a stand mixer, and with a paddle attachment mix butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Add buttermilk and mix just until ingredients come together.
Turn the dough onto a floured surface and pat the dough into a 1 inch-thick round.
Cut dough with a cookie cutter into two-inch rounds (you can make them as big or as little as you like—two inches is just a suggestion). Transfer the biscuits to the parchment paper, and brush with melted butter.
Bake for about ten minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.
Smoked Serrano and Honey Butter
- 2 tbsp room-temperature unsalted butter
- ¼ tsp smoked Serrano powder½ tsp honey
- fleur de sel to taste
Blend all ingredients with a fork, and season to taste.