It’s the Real Thing! (with apologies to Coca-Cola)

I picked up my glass bottle of real dairy buttermilk Friday afternoon from Bergey’s with no particular intentions other than finally owning a quart of the real thing. I snugged it contentedly in my fridge between the organic 2% milk and the strawberry keffir.

Later, while putting some other groceries in the deep freeze, I serendipitously spied a pound package of the homemade sage sausage a friend of mine makes every year. I bought five pounds of links and five of ground in the fall but thought I’d used it all. It was obviously the cooking gods’ way of telling me I needed to make buttermilk biscuits and sausage gravy before church on Sunday.

I woke at 7:30 – earlier than usual – perhaps due to the anticipation of making good biscuits for a change (but more likely because I had indigestion from dinner’s homemade baked beans – I got a little heavy handed with the Texas Pete). Grabbing Cook’s Illustrated’s 2004 annual, I opened to the Mile-High Biscuits recipe in July/August p. 6-7.

I carefully weighed the flour and put it and the other dry goods to the food processor for a quick spin and added the butter and pulsed for a few seconds more. Then, there was no avoiding it – it was time to open the buttermilk. “Shake well,” it said on the outside of the bottle, so I shook it…and nothing. Nothing happened – no sloshing, no mixing, no glugging. Opening the lid, I peered inside the bottle and saw a thick creamy substance more resembling sour cream filling the top of the bottle. I closed the lid and shook REALLY hard. Nothing. So, I opened the bottle again and shook out the requisite cup and a half into my 2-cup Pyrex. Plop, plop, plop. Good grief! I’d forgotten how thick the real thing was. I used to drink this as a kid? I was a little scared but plopped some into a cup as well and took a swig. There was the rich, creamy, zingy buttermilk flavor of my childhood that had been completely missing from the cultured stuff I’d used to make the cinnamon rolls.

After mixing the buttermilk with the flour and forming the biscuits, I put them in the oven and waited. Anticipation got the better of me, so I turned on the oven light and peered through the window. It looked like success. The buttermilk played nicely with the baking powder and baking soda to make tall, fluffy looking biscuits. Would they likewise taste good? I poured my second cup of coffee and waited; in a few minutes the truth would be told.

After they’d cooled a bit, my youngest and I gently broke one open. Steam brought the scrumptious smell to our noses as we each took a bite. Her eyes closed with bliss, “Mmmmmm.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. They were light, moist, flavorful, and delicious!

I’d finally cracked the biscuit barrier. Maybe I would skip the gravy - it almost seemed a crime.

Mile-High Biscuits 
10 ounces flour
1T double-acting baking powder
1T sugar
1t salt
1/2t baking soda
4T cold unsalted butter cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1.5 cups cold buttermilk

~Turn oven to 500. Spray 9" round cakepan and 1/4 cup measring cup with nonstick spray.
~In food processor, pulse dry ingredients to combine - about 6 1-second pulses. Scatter butter on flour and pulse for 8 to 10 additional 1-second pulses until mixture resembles course cornmeal.  Transfer to medium bowl and gently stir in buttermilk avoiding overmixing (dough will be very wet and slightly lumpy)
~Sprinkle 1c flour onto large cookie sheet.  Using 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop dough onto cookie sheet in nine even portions.  Dust each piece of dough with flour from sheet and gently pick up and form into a rough ball shaking off excess flour.  Arrange eight balls around perimeter of pan and one in the middle. Carefully brush tops with 2T melted butter.
~Bake for five minutes and reduce oven temp to 450.  Bake for an additional 15 minutes or until tops are golden brown.  Cool in pan for 2 minutes.  Remove from pan and place on clean kitchen towel and pull apart.  Cool for an additional five minutes and enjoy!

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