I don't know how they do it, those professional recipe writers. How does one decide a recipe is finally done, and ready to find its place in a cookbook? How can you ever be sure you've hit on the best version? Me, I'm always playing with my recipes, switching up the flours, sweeteners, flavors. For this site, I make sure the recipes I post are versions that (at that moment, at least) I truly love. But I'd rarely say they're done.
Case in point: early in the life of this blog, I wrote a post about biscuits. I wrote about how part of my love for them was the way they connected me to my husband's side of the family, and through them the rich history of Southern cooking I'm able to tap into. I'm not taking any of that back.
But the recipe? Yes, I'm replacing it. Now, don't get me wrong, it's still a good recipe, and because of all the generational ties it creates, I'm keeping it in our family stash. But I have to admit I've found a new favorite. And the thing I find really funny? The recipe isn't that much different! It's less sweet (no sugar or coconut flour) and has less butter in it, so it's healthier for you. And I've mixed up the flours a bit, resulting in a biscuit that I'd swear has a bit of wheat in it (thanks to the teff). But really, it's still a pretty typical Southern buttermilk biscuit recipe. It's so interesting to me, to realize what a big difference minimal changes to a recipe can make!
Well, truthfully? While I'm extremely pleased, I'm not actually that surprised by the changes in flavor - lots of past experimentation means I'm well-versed in the ways gentle tweaks of the gluten-free flours used can result in significant alterations to the flavor profile. I guess what really shocked me was noting that I'd used less butter this time around, yet the biscuits lost none of the tenderness or richness of their predecessors! I don't have the two versions side-by-side to compare, but I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that these new ones might actually be more tender and satisfying than the old ones.
I attribute this largely to the teff. Or, more accurately, to replacing the coconut flour with teff. Coconut flour is lovely to bake with, and I really appreciate the flavor it adds. But it's texture is definitely on the grittier end of the gluten-free flours scale. And teff? Well, it's one of the finest grains you can get (by which I mean it's small, although it's a pretty darn good grain, as well), and it's great in gluten-free baked goods, where so often we're trying to replicate the soft, finely-milled texture of wheat flour.
Also, the method is, um . . . updated, shall we say? I don't think it's very traditional to use the food processor for biscuits (I absolutely can not imagine Josh's grandmother doing it this way!), but, like with pastry dough, it really benefits the end product. In addition to making for a quick and easy method, it aerates the flours, which is always good. It also keeps the butter as cold as possible, meaning that you'll maximize the steam created as the butter melts during baking.
So, softer flour, colder (albeit less) butter, and no sugar. Writing it out like that makes these biscuits sound pretty unremarkable, when in fact they are quite remarkable! They have the best scent, for one thing. Yes, during baking, but also afterwards, when they've been sitting out on the cooling rack for an hour, and you're about to wrap up the leftovers. That scent, that lingering, rich, nutty, wheaty scent, makes you decide that maybe you need just one more before you're done for the day. Honestly, as much as I love bread products, it's usually the sweet, not savory, baked goods that make me unable to resist yet another bite. These biscuits could be a turning point for me.
And the flavor is just as good as the scent promises. I really don't know what to say about it. I mean, on the one hand, they're just biscuits; do they really deserve any more gushing and fawning over than I've already afforded them? But on the other hand, gluten-free biscuits that are a breeze to make and taste like some of the best gluten-full biscuits you've ever had? That is reason to celebrate! So I'll just tell you this: I made a batch and brought them to our family's 4th of July picnic, to use for strawberry shortcakes. As I was eating my shortcake, I kept scraping aside the strawberries and whipped cream, because I just wanted bites of plain biscuit. And after everyone had their fill of shortcake? At least two (non-gluten-free eaters!) went back for seconds, of only the biscuit, because it was so good. If that's not enough to convince you to make these biscuits, I don't know what would.
You know, I think I may just be ready to call this recipe done. For at least the next six months.
Buttermilk Biscuits, v2.0
yields about 8 biscuits
1 cup minus 1 Tbsp Tara's all-purpose gluten-free flour mix
1 cup minus 1 Tbsp Tara's gluten-free pastry flour mix
2 Tbsp teff flour
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
6 Tbsp butter, cold, cubed
3/4 cup buttermilk (approximate)
Preheat oven to 450º. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet.
Combine the flours, xanthan gum, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse to thoroughly combine.
Add the cold butter pieces, and pulse just until most pieces are pea-sized. Pour in the buttermilk, pulsing just until the dough comes together. (Keep an eye on the dough as you do this - depending on your flours and buttermilk, you may need slightly less than 3/4 cup buttermilk for it to form a cohesive dough. You want to stop adding liquid before it turns wet and sticky.)
Turn the dough out onto a gf-floured board, and gently pat (don't roll!) in into a 1-inch thick round. Cut with a biscuit cutter, round cookie cutter, even a glass will work. You can pat the scraps back into a round and cut them also, but they won't be quite as fluffy and tender. Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a rack, for as long as you can stand the wait. Serve warm, with good butter and honey, or fruit preserves, or eggs and bacon, or sausage gravy (goodness, I'm getting hungry just typing this!), or let them fully cool and make your favorite shortcakes. They are also phenomenal completely unadorned.
Posted by Tara Barker at 12:38 AM