Hmm, pancakes? Salad dressing? Mashed potatoes?
How about “Cathead Biscuits”? Ones that are fluffy inside and have distinctive craggly crisp, buttery tops?
Yeah, now we’re talking.
After a run of holiday baking, I found myself with leftover buttermilk. I pulled a couple cookbooks from my shelf until I hit upon “Muffins & Biscuits” (Chronicle Books) by Heidi Gibson, co-owner of San Francisco’s The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen.
These biscuits use 1 1/4 cups buttermilk. And unlike other biscuits that require rolling out, stamping out with biscuit cutters or being folded precisely to create airy layers, this recipe couldn’t be easier because it requires none of that.
Instead, you just gently stir together the flours, butter, baking powder, baking soda, and buttermilk by hand or throw everything into a food processor to create a sticky, wet dough. Then, you pinch off chunks of dough to dredge in flour before placing in the baking pan. The more irregular looking the chunks, the better, too. That’s because this unusual method results in biscuits that have rough, moonscape tops that bake up with all sorts of crisp edges here and there, especially because they are brushed with melted butter before going into the oven.
Mine took about 7 minutes longer to brown than the 15 to 17 minutes stated in the recipe, so just monitor them carefully.
These are almost like pie crust on top. They are wonderfully buttery, too. So much so that you probably don’t even need to split them to slather on any additional butter.
They make a perfect holiday breakfast or a comforting side to welcome 2018 in fine fashion.
Gibson writes in the book that these biscuits get their name from the fact that they’re supposed to be as big as a cat’s head, though she opts to make hers a more reasonable size.
They may be smaller, but they remain big on gratification.
(Makes Twelve 2 1/2-inch biscuits)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1/4 cup
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes, plus 4 tablespoons , melted
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan or an 8-by-8-inch metal or glass square baking pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together the 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Scatter the butter cubes over the flour mixture and toss gently with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until evenly coated. Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter or two knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal but chunks of butter are still visible. (Alternatively, in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, cut the butter into the flour mixture with about three 1-second pulses.) Make a well in the center of the mixture, pour in the cold buttermilk, and use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to stir just until the dough comes together, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. The dough should be shaggy and a little sticky.
Place the remaining 1/4 cup all-purpose flour in a shallow bowl. Coat your hands well with flour, then pull off 12 approximately egg-size chunks of dough, dredge them thoroughly in the flour, and gently place the chunks next to each other, just touching, in the prepared pan. Resist the urge to smooth and shape the dough. Leave it rough and shaggy so you end up with a nice craggy crust.
Use a pastry brush to lightly coat the tops of the biscuits with the remaining 4 tablespoons melted butter. Pour any remaining butter over the tops of the biscuits.
Bake until puffed and golden brown, rotating the baking pan halfway through, 15 to 17 minutes.
Transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. If you are not serving the biscuits right away, wrap them tightly in plastic or place in a resealable bag and store in the freezer for up to 1 month. To serve, place the biscuits on a baking sheet and warm in a preheated 400-degree oven for 5 minutes.
From “Muffins and Biscuits” by Heidi Gibson
More from “Muffins & Biscuits”: Balsamic Strawberry Muffins
Plus Another Fun Recipe To Use Up Buttermilk: English Muffin Bread in the Microwave