While we were living in Virginia, I met a wonderful cook named Ethel. I was in her kitchen one day whey she was making her famous biscuits. Never one to miss an opportunity to learn, I paid close attention! She used no special equipment - just her hands.
She gently rubbed the butter into the flour and other ingredients, lightly kneaded the dough and then cut out and baked the feather-light biscuits. I have followed her method ever since with no changes except for an additional step which I discovered by accident. I was in the process of baking when I was interrupted - just at the point where I had finished rubbing in the butter. Because it was quite warm in my kitchen, I stuck the bowl in the freezer to keep the butter cold. I returned about 15 minutes later, added the buttermilk and proceeded to make the best biscuits ever!
In addition to being delicious served with jam or honey, biscuits make a great topping for chicken pot pie; a crowd-pleasing hors d'oeuvre when made small, spread with a little honey mustard and filled with a little ham; and simply amazing when split and topped with sausage gravy - another Southern specialty!
2½ cups flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ kosher salt
½ cup (4 oz.) unsalted butter
1⅓ cups buttermilk
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and kosher salt. Cut the butter in small pieces, toss in the flour and gently rub into the flour. You want to end with fairly large flakes of flour-coated butter. Place the bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375º and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Gently stir in the buttermilk. Gather the mixture together in the bowl then turn turn out onto a lightly floured surface and fold the dough onto itself until it forms a dough. Pat out until it is slightly less than 1" thick and cut out biscuits using a 2½" cutter. Do not twist the cutter but rather push straight down - twisting prevents the biscuits from rising properly. Place the biscuits on the prepared cookie sheet. Gather the scraps and fold together gently. Pat it out again and continue cutting out biscuits. Because the butter is so cold, you can repeat this process once more.
If you like soft-sided biscuits, place them fairly close together on the cookie sheet, if you prefer them a little more crisp, set them further apart.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned on top. If you can, allow them to cool for a few minutes before eating!
Makes 12 biscuits.
NOTE: You can freeze the unbaked biscuits. Bake as instructed - they will just take a few extra minutes.
Watch the video demonstration: