There was a special kind of magic back in the late eighties that made it perfectly acceptable for one of the biggest names in rap music to release a song about his favorite breakfast food in the style of a square dance. And the song was the first track on his debut album. From Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Buttermilk Biscuits (Keep on Square Dancin’)”:
Now, buttermilk biscuits here we go
Sift the flour, roll the dough
Clap your hands and stomp your feet
Move your butt to the funky beat (huh huh)
He manages to work in some rhymes about “a freak named Shelly” and a helpful tip about softening honey. This is the same guy who dropped a rhyme about a Romanian gymnastics coach into a track on his sophomore album. The man is a lyrical genius. But back then, even Rakim (with considerably more street cred than Sir Mix-a-Lot) snuck in a rhyme about “a nice big plate of fish, which is my favorite dish.” It was a simpler time. So, if you’re willing to take a lesson in hip-hop history from a white kid who grew up in Marin County, maybe you’ll entertain a lesson in biscuit making from the same.
Making great buttermilk biscuits is all about technique. What separates a beautiful, light, flaky biscuit from a lump of hard tack is a bit of finesse. This recipe produces great biscuits if you keep a few things in mind. Keep your butter cold. Have a light touch with the dough. And dip your biscuit cutter into some flour between each cut.
We usually have ours for Sunday breakfast, but they’re good anytime of day. Pair them with some honey or jam at the breakfast table, a slice of warm ham for lunch and beside a plate of fried chicken at dinner. If you manage to still have some sitting around by dessert time, slice one in half, cover it in ripe berries with a dollop of whipped cream or crème fraîche on top. Enjoy.
Adapted from Sarabeth’s Bakery by Sarabeth Levine and Rick Rodgers
This recipe will produce 10-12 biscuits depending on the size of your biscuit cutter, how thick you roll the dough and how well you manage the second and third roll.
- 3¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into ½ inch cubes
- 1½ cups buttermilk
- more flour for dusting
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400°F. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper or a Silpat.
- Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together into the bowl of a stand mixer. Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit with the paddle attachment.
- Add the chilled butter pieces. Mix on low speed (1 or 2 on a KitchenAid) until the mixture resembles coarse meal with some pea-sized pieces of butter.
- Add the buttermilk, mixing on lowest speed just until the dough barely comes together.
- Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and lightly knead it a few times until the dough is smooth-ish. Take it easy on the dough and try to work fast.
- Dust your work surface (again) as well as the top of your dough with a bit of flour. Roll out your dough to a thickness of ¾ to 1 inch. Using a 2½ inch (or thereabouts) biscuit cutter, cut our your biscuits, dipping the cutter into flour between each cut. Place the biscuits about 1 inch apart on the lined pan. Gently press the scraps together, roll and cut until the dough is used.
- Bake until the biscuits are well risen and golden brown on top, 17-20 minutes. Serve hot or warm.