Easter is a day about mysteries and rising, and I saw those things in the kitchen yesterday morning. We were at my mothers, and Santa Maria was making buttermilk biscuits. She's done this many times, but the ones yesterday were the lightest, fluffiest, biscuits I’ve ever had. If anyone was looking for evidence of the divine, all they had to do was taste one of her creations. Nina and Pinta and my mother devoured them for breakfast, topped with cherry jam, raw honey, and lots of butter.
Santa Maria has been making buttermilk biscuits for a few years now, and each time she turns out a batch, she pulls a recipe from the Internet. She’s an accomplished baker, and as it turns out she usually combines two or three recipes. I finally got her to write down how she does it, and to share a few details about what made yesterday's so special.
- The flour: in this case my mother's cupboard held King Arthur's, not Heckers, her usual and less expensive flour.
- The sifter: my mother’s was easy for Santa Maria to find and use (sometimes she skips this step).
- The buttermilk: she doesn’t always have local organic buttermilk, but yesterday she did. It was thicker than usual, so she used extra.
- The oven: She baked them at a slightly lower temperature than usual.
- The cuttter: She used a small-diameter jar top; the smaller the biscuit the better chance it will be light and fluffy.
As we smacked our lips and savored the biscuits, we tried to figure out which of these things might have made the difference yesterday morning. Why were the biscuits so fantastic? Could it have been the ingredients and the equipment, or was it just the Holy Day?
- 2 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour (King Arthur Flour)
- 2 ½ t. baking soda
- ½ t. baking powder
- ½ t. salt
- 4 ½ T butter
- 1 – 1 ¼ c. buttermilk
Preheat oven to 405 degrees.
Sift flour with baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl, cut in cold butter (you can use a knife, then finish with your fingers) into size of peas. Quickly mix in buttermilk (depending on thickness of buttermilk – if it’s thin, you can likely get away with the smaller amount).
Turn batter onto a lightly floured counter, knead lightly (you want it to stick together, but lumpy is fine). Roll dough, cut into circles (you can use a jar, about 1 ½” wide – and stack two rounds).
For the kids, I form little shapes, like Easter eggs and bunny ears from the remaining scraps of dough.
Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden on top.