biscuits and jam; a southern tradition

baking a cake to take to the garden each sunday morning can get a little boring.  every now and then, i make something different.  soda bread, scones, muffins, whatever; anything but a cake will be fine for those days.  when the blackberries in the garden were at their peak, i picked six pounds in one morning.  after taking them home, i cooked up a batch of blackberry jam.  fresh jam meant i would need biscuits, lots of biscuits to take to the garden in the morning.
biscuits have always been a favorite of mine, specifically yankee biscuits.  crispy and flaky on top, they practically beg you to slather them with butter.  yankee biscuits are made by cutting cold butter or shortening into the flour and baking powder.  keep in mind that the flour is not self rising, you would be hard pressed to find it up north.  the dough is patted out so that it is at least as thick as your fingers and then cut.  when they bake, they rise up and the flaky layers almost looked stacked on top of each other.

cut the butter into cubes and keep it chilled until needed.  cold fat is not as likely to smear or melt into the dough during mixing and shaping.  lots of little lumps of butter mean lots of flaky layers after they are baked.

the dough is easy to make and does not require much equipment.  an old fashioned pastry blender is perfect for getting the butter cut to the size of small peas.

pat it out, don’t roll it out.  the less your dough gets worked, the more tender and flaky it is.  judge the thickness by laying your fingers next to the dough; it should be at least as thick as your fingers for tall biscuits.

everything i used to make biscuits-no special equipment needed!
almost ready for the oven
a little brush of butter and in they go

hot out of the oven!
buttermilk biscuits
makes about 16-2 1/2 inch biscuits
3 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes (plus more for brushing)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
preheat the oven to 425.  line a baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.  place the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a shallow bowl with a flat bottom and stir to combine.  sprinkle the butter cubes over the top of the flour and using a pastry blender, two knives(or forks) or your fingers, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it is a little smaller than peas.  pour the buttermilk over the mixture and stir until it comes together.  place the dough on a well floured work space and knead it a few times to make it more manageable-use plenty of flour to prevent sticking.  gently pat the flour out until it is as thick as your fingers or a little thicker and cut with a round cutter.  place the biscuits on the prepared pan, brush with a little melted butter and bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes.  serve immediately.
we enjoyed these immensely with a lot of soft butter and fresh blackberry jam.  

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