I know a lot of you may not have a pastry blender, but at $10 or less, I definitely recommend it. I used to be all about making scones and tart dough in the food processor, but having one little bitty gadget to wash is so much better. Plus, you'll never over mix your delicate, buttery crusts and quick breads. A lot of recipes call for "two forks" if you don't have a pastry blender, but I don't see how this quite works. Possibly one fork. But, really, the second best tool for blending the butter and flour into a coarse, shaggy meal is your fingers.
The one thing I couldn't resist doing to dress up these biscuits was crowning them with a tiny sprinkle of sea salt. The dough already has plenty of salt (don't skimp--they'll taste flat!), but those few extra crystals are great little bursts of flavor when you bite into the buttery biscuits. It should go without saying that you may not want to eat these everyday. But when you do, slather 'em with butter and enjoy.
Best Buttermilk Biscuits
If you don't have a kitchen scale, use the spoon and sweep method to measure the flour. Although you should use good, unsalted butter, it's not the ingredients that make a great biscuit, but the technique. Use a light hand when mixing and rolling. The more practice you get, the more effortless it becomes to make perfect biscuits.
Makes 11 to 12 2-inch biscuits
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (250 g)
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup butter, cut into cubes and chilled
3/4 cup lowfat buttermilk, plus additional as needed
Sea salt for topping (optional)
Preheat oven to 425 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the cold butter and use a pastry blender or your fingers to work it into the flour until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add 3/4 cup buttermilk and stir just until flour is moistened. If flour mixture is still too dry, drizzle in additional buttermilk one tablespoon at a time.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough 3 or 4 times, just until it comes together. With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough 3/4 inch thick. Lightly flour a 2-inch biscuit cutter and stamp out as many biscuits as you can. Transfer to prepared baking sheet and quickly re-roll the remaining dough, handling it as little as possible. Continue making biscuits until you've used all the dough. Lightly sprinkle tops of biscuits with a few grains of sea salt if using. Bake for 11 to 14 minutes or until the bottoms of the biscuits are golden brown. Serve immediately.