“Surp Soppin’ — ever heard of it?” I asked Walt as I handed him a plate full of oven-hot biscuits. “You mean, syr-up, with two syllables, right?” he counters. It drives him crazy the way I pronounce syrup in one quick slur.
Bad grammar aside, syrup soppin’ is my favorite way to eat biscuits. Mind you, I am a product of the Bisquick generation, not the fresh-from-the-oven-daily generation. Nope, biscuits to me have always been signified by a crack-pop-hiss of a can opening. In 15 minutes you can have steaming, flaky biscuits; Now that’s what I call instant gratification. Dunk ‘em in a sticky glaze of melted butter and syrup (hence the term syrup soppin’) and you’ve got the breakfast of champions.
But not anymore, my friends. I recently decided to take the plunge into the world of homemade biscuits — a breakfast, lunch and dinner staple that often takes Southern cooks many years (months? days?) to master. I’ll be honest and say I’m pretty satisfied after three attempts and two different recipes. Not to mention the various flour “bombs” and doughy fingerprints creeping over every surface within reach.
These biscuits are flaky, buttery, tender and crisp — all at the same time. Slightly labor intensive, you use a unique method of folding the dough (think envelope-style) to create little pockets of air between the fat and the dough. In the oven, these pockets steam to create the layers and layers of flavor in the biscuits you find here. The rule of thumb is flaky butter equals flaky biscuits. Got it?
I served these with my “surp” sop concoction, but they are equally tasty with sweet homemade jam, salty country ham and mustard, or even smoky barbecue. Enjoy!
FLAKY BUTTERMILK BISCUITS
Source: Cook’s Illustrated
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional flour for work surface
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), cold, lightly floured and cut into 1/8-inch slices
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cups low-fat buttermilk
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Add shortening to flour mixture; break up chunks with fingertips until only small, pea-sized pieces remain. Working in batches, drop butter slices into flour mixture and toss to coat; pick up each slice of butter and press between floured fingertips into flat, nickel-sized pieces. Repeat until all butter is incorporated; toss to combine. Freeze mixture (in bowl) until chilled, about 15 minutes.
Spray work surface with nonstick cooking spray and spread spray evenly across surface with kitchen towel or paper towel. Sprinkle 1/3 cup of extra flour across sprayed surface and gently spread to form an even coat.
Add all but 2 tablespoons of buttermilk to flour mixture; stir briskly with fork until ball forms and no dry bits of flour are visible, adding remaining buttermilk as needed (dough will be sticky and shaggy but should clear sides of bowl). With rubber spatula, transfer dough onto center of prepared work surface, dust surface lightly with flour, and, with floured hands, bring dough together into cohesive ball (BUT DO NOT KNEAD).
Pat dough into approximate 10-inch square; roll into 18 by 14-inch rectangle about 1/4 inch thick, dusting dough and rolling pin with flour as needed. Using a bench scraper or thin metal spatula, fold dough into thirds, brushing any excess flour from surface; lift short end of dough and fold in thirds again to form approximate 6 by 4-inch rectangle. Rotate dough 90 degrees, dusting work surface underneath with flour; roll and fold dough again, dusting with flour as needed.
Roll dough into 10-inch square about 1/2 inch thick; flip dough and cut nine 3-inch rounds with floured biscuit cutter, dipping cutter back into flour after each cut (DO NOT TWIST CUTTER WHEN MAKING THE ROUNDS). Carefully invert and transfer rounds to ungreased baking sheet, spaced 1 inch apart. Gather dough scraps into ball; roll and fold once or twice until scraps form smooth dough. Roll dough into 1/2-inch-thick round; cut three more 3-inch rounds and transfer to baking sheet. Discard excess dough.
Brush biscuit tops with melted butter. Bake, without opening oven door, until tops are golden brown and crisp, 15 to 17 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet 5 to 10 minutes before serving.