Buttermilk Biscuits, and Southern From Scratch
Published April 24, 2018 | By ashley english
FRIENDS! Today is the day!!!! At long last, I am over the moon to finally be able to share Southern From Scratch with the great, wide world. Several years ago, when I had an idea for a completely different book (and a bit of an esoteric one, at that), my editor Jenn Urban-Brown at Roost emailed me back with an idea for instead writing a book about the foods that were foundational to how I cook and eat.
I have lived my entire 41 years in either Virginia, North Carolina, north Florida (for 1 1/2 years), or Washington, DC (from ages 20-23). The southeastern United States has always been home, as it was for my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Those women, all born and raised in Henry County, Virginia in the southern Appalachians, shaped and informed my initial approach to cooking, baking, and preserving foods. Later, when I received a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, and then after that, married my husband Glenn, my southern foods background merged with my interest in health and whole foods, and our shared passions for experimentation, playfulness, and global flavors. A book combining these three facets of my myself is what Southern From Scratch offers.
I’ve never written a more personal book. Not only are the recipes a reflection of my past and present, but while writing the book itself, my grandmother and father-in-law passed away, I became pregnant, and then birthed my son, Alistair, three months early, owing to severe preeclampsia. I chatted with my grandmother about the book on numerous occasions before she passed, I read aloud the introduction to my mother while she was hospitalized for a heart procedure, and I cradled my tiny, tiny son on my chest, editing pages spread out across my lap, making notes in the margins with a pencil, during his lengthy stay in the NICU. There is so very much of myself in this book.
It was an exquisite pleasure to work alongside Glenn, as always, tossing around ideas for the book, trying out various iterations and permutations, and developing the book’s overarching concept together. This book marks the first time we’ve worked with a food stylist, and Charlotte Autry is a true genius at what she does. The book’s photographer (and Charlotte’s husband-how fun to work with another husband-and-wife team!) Johnny Autry has the rare ability to be both professional and completely goofy all at once, a combination I am quite fond of. This book is as lovely as it is (and it really, truly is lovely) because of their gifts and talents. A river of gratitude is flowing in their direction.
Okay, but let’s talk about biscuits now, shall we? When I think of the holy trinity, if you will, of southern foods, I immediately think of “The 3 B’s: Biscuits, Bacon, and Buttermilk” (and if you wanted to add “Bourbon” to that mix, I’d not disagree). I am deeply particular about how I like my biscuits. I want a cut edge (no dropped biscuits for me). I want flaky layers. I want a buttered top. And, I prefer mine with buttermilk, thank you kindly. When we’re talking biscuits, I’m as Goldilocks as they come.
So, let’s celebrate! Southern From Scratch is certified and bonafide and out there for you to bring into your own kitchen. Break out the rolling pin and the biscuit cutter, and scatter some flour on the countertop. It’s biscuit time!
Buttermilk Biscuits (reprinted with permission from Southern From Scratch, Ashley English, Roost Books 2018)
Makes: About 1 dozen.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
8 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons butter, melted (for the biscuit tops)
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.
2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl until fully incorporated.
3. Using a pastry cutter or two forks, cut in the cold butter until the mixture begins to look crumbly but some pea-size chunks of butter still remain.
4. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Slowly add the buttermilk. Stir with a large spoon just until the liquid has been absorbed into the flour.
5. Dump the shaggy dough onto a lightly floured countertop. Knead the dough with your hands, pressing it over and onto itself about three times (this helps create the flaky layers that form inside biscuits).
6. Use a rolling pin to flatten the dough to about 3/4-inch thickness. With a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter, cut out about twelve biscuits, re-rolling scraps of dough as necessary.
7. Transfer the biscuits to the prepared baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, brush the melted butter evenly over the tops of the biscuits.
8. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the biscuits are golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool the biscuits on the sheet for 5 minutes before serving.