This recipe from the Shenandoah Valley recommends resting the unbaked biscuits on a baking sheet (or cake pan, etc.) in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight (or freeze overnight). Resting allows the fat to chill and the baking powder to act, and produces a higher-rising biscuit. That is true of many biscuits.
The type of baking pan you choose will affect the biscuits' exterior. Soft: Use an 8- or 9-inch cake pan, pizza pan or ovenproof skillet in which the biscuits will nestle together snugly. Crisp: Use a baking sheet (or two stacked, to insulate the biscuit bottoms) or other baking pan where the biscuits can be placed farther apart, allowing air to circulate.
You'll need a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter.
Servings: 10 biscuits
- 2 1/4 cups flour, plus more as needed
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- 1/4 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2/3 cup whole milk
- 2 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, for brushing
Fork-sift or whisk 2 cups of the flour, the baking powder and salt in a large bowl, preferably wider than it is deep. Scatter the 1/4-inch-size pieces of chilled butter over the flour and work them in by rubbing the fat and flour with your fingers, as if snapping the thumb and fingers together (or use two forks or knives, or a pastry cutter), until the mixture looks like well-crumbled feta cheese. Scatter the 1/2-inch-size pieces of chilled butter over the flour mixture and continue snapping thumb and fingers together until no pieces remain larger than a pea. Shake the bowl occasionally to allow the larger pieces of fat to bounce to the top of the flour, revealing the largest lumps that still need rubbing. If this method takes longer than 5 minutes, place the bowl in the refrigerator for 5 minutes to re-chill the butter.
Use your hand to make a deep hollow in the center of the flour. Pour half of the milk into the hollow and stir with a rubber spatula or large metal spoon, using broad, circular strokes to quickly pull the flour into the milk. Mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened and the sticky dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. If some flour remains on the bottom and sides of the bowl, stir in 1 to 4 tablespoons of the remaining milk, just enough to form a shaggy, wet dough. If the dough is too wet, use more flour when shaping.
Generously dust the work surface with all-purpose flour. Use more of the flour to coat your hands.
Turn the dough out onto the board and sprinkle the top lightly with flour. Fold the dough in half and pat it out into a 1/3- to 1/2-inch-thick round, using a little additional flour only if needed. Flour again if necessary, and fold the dough in half a second time. If the dough is still clumpy, pat and fold a third time. Pat the dough out into a round 1/2-inch thick for regular biscuits, 3/4-inch thick for tall biscuits and 1 inch thick for large biscuits. Brush off any visible flour from the top. For each biscuit, dip a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter into flour and cut out the biscuit, pressing firmly, starting at the outside edge and cutting very close together, being careful not to twist the cutter.
Dough scraps may be combined to make additional biscuits, although the scraps will make tougher biscuits.
Transfer the biscuits to the pan or baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2 hours or up to overnight, or freeze overnight.
When ready to bake, position the top oven rack in the upper third of the oven; preheat to 450 degrees. Remove the biscuits so you can brush the baking pan or baking sheet with a little melted butter. Arrange them in the pan or on the baking sheet.
Bake the still-cold or frozen biscuits on the top oven rack for 6 minutes, then rotate the baking sheet from front to back. If the biscuits are browning too quickly on the bottom, slide a second baking sheet under the first one to help insulate them. Bake for 4 to 8 minutes, until the biscuits are golden brown.
When the biscuits are done, remove them from the oven and brush the tops with the melted butter. Turn the biscuits out upside down on a plate to cool slightly. Serve hot, right side up.
Adapted from "Southern Biscuits," by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart (Gibbs-Smith, 2011).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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