(Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!)

After  months of really complicated, pretty desserts, it was nice to have a simple recipe. I really cooked and baked myself out over the holidays, and I was dreading the thought of making more sweet things.

So, scones.  I’m sure that’s the proper word for them, but I just call them biscuits.  And I have to admit that I already had a biscuit recipe that I love, so this was going to be a hard sell – but you can never have too many biscuits, so I gave it a shot.

I made them to go with a roasted chicken for dinner.  They took about 20 minutes, and half of that was getting my oven preheated.

The fat in them is grated butter, so I put two tablespoons of butter into the freezer early in the day. When it was time to start, I sifted the flour, baking powder, and salt together, then rubbed in the grated butter.  The texture I was going for was "Coarse beach sand", and it was easy to get there without melting the grated butter.   Then I added half a cup of milk to finish the dough.

After they were mixed, I patted them out on a cutting board, folded them over  a few times for layers, then cut them out.  The first few I patted too flat, and they didn’t rise much, but the later ones I did better on.

Then bake for 10 minutes.  I brushed the tops with more melted butter to brown them:

Scones

They were good – they’re certainly more biscuit-looking then my recipe.  I’d probably make them if I wanted to impress a dinner guest or something – but if I just want a quick biscuit to cover in butter and jelly for breakfast, I’ll stick with my old recipe.

( see the recipe )

Biscuits, like BBQ, can be a contentious issue, so let me be clear about where I stand:  I’m in the south, so they should use lots of buttermilk and baking powder – no yeast! 

The recipe in my database says “Touch-Of-Grace Biscuits”.  That’s actually the name of a Shirley Corriher biscuit recipe, from CookWise: The Hows & Whys of Successful Cooking.  It’s an amazing book, but when I looked up this recipe there, my version is different.  I suspect that years of internet modifications have changed it a bit at a time, and now it’s evolved to a higher level. 

A few remarks on ingredients:  You can make this with low-fat buttermilk, but you shouldn’t.  My local stores sell Borden Country-Style Buttermilk (I tried to link to the Borden website, but it’s infested with Flash and you can’t link directly to a product!), which is very good but also very often out of stock.  I’ve done it with low-fat buttermilk, and they come out okay but not great.  The recipe has 1/4 cup sugar in it – I almost always leave it out, unless I specifically want them to come out sweet (for shortcake or jam or such).  I use butter-flavored Crisco as the shortening, but I’ve also done them with Organic Spectrum shortening and there wasn’t any significant impact on the flavor either way.

Now, to the recipe:

Start with 2 cups of self-rising flour and add the salt.  If you want sugar, this is where it goes in.  Mix in the shortening with a fork or a pastry cutter, then dump in the buttermilk and cream.  You can mess with the proportions here if you want more or less buttermilk flavor, as long as you come up with a total of 1 and 2/3 cups.

It will be very, very wet:

Biscuit dough

You can scoop it out with your hands, but it will be messy. You can use a big cookie scoop or disher if you want to be neater.  However you do it, drop each biscuit into the bowl of all-purpose flour, and roll it around a bit until covered, then drop into a greased cake pan.  I’m a little short on cake pans at the moment, so I use this pie pan (which looks pretty, but it’s impossible to actually get a piece of pie out of it intact!).  Don’t worry if some of the flour ends up in the bottom.

Biscuits

Brush the tops with melted butter. I forget this step sometimes, which is why the tops of mine aren’t as brown as they could be. Then bake at 475 for 20 minutes.

Biscuits

Then eat. Covered in sausage gravy or smeared with butter and jelly. They’re best just out of the oven – but what baked good isn’t?

( see the recipe )