Some people are particular about their biscuits. I have never been one of those people. Growing up, I contented myself with the KFC and Pillsbury iterations, unconcerned with Southern authenticity. (I stand by KFC's ingenious melted butter packets, though I suspect butter has nothing to do with it.)
Since then, my biscuit horizons have expanded somewhat. I've sought out the best biscuits in New York (Clinton St. Baking Company and Hundred Acres come to mind), and M. and I completed a biscuit tour of duty in the Low Country (hellooo, Hominy Grill). So I hope you'll allow me some glimmer of credibility when I tell you that these are among the best biscuits I've ever had.
It's a unique breed of biscuit—lighter and more pillowy than the drop persuasion, less peel-and-eat than Pillsbury. (This, I glean, is a result of the steam produced by the tight baking quarters.) Even better, they're very low maintenance, and require about as much effort as a trip to the market. Alas, you won't have the satisfaction of popping the Pillsbury can, but I think they're worth it all the same.
Tall and Fluffy Buttermilk Biscuits
From Cook’s Illustrated
If you’ve never heard of double-acting baking powder, don’t be concerned; these days, most conventional baking powders are double-acting.
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold), cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1½ cups buttermilk cold, preferably low-fat
To form and finish biscuits:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, distributed in rimmed baking sheet
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 500 degrees. Spray 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Generously spray inside and outside of 1/4 cup dry measure with nonstick cooking spray.
For the dough: In food processor, pulse 2 cups flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda to combine. Scatter butter cubes evenly over dry ingredients; pulse until mixture resembles pebbly, coarse cornmeal, eight to ten pulses. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Add buttermilk to dry ingredients and stir with rubber spatula until just incorporated (dough will be very wet and slightly lumpy).
To form and bake biscuits: Using 1/4 cup dry measure and working quickly, scoop level amount of dough; drop dough from measuring cup into flour on baking sheet (if dough sticks to cup, use spoon to pull it free). Repeat with remaining dough, forming 12 evenly sized mounds. [I only made 10.]
Dust tops of each piece of dough with flour from baking sheet. With floured hands, gently pick up piece of dough and coat with flour; gently shape dough into rough ball, shake off excess flour, and place in prepared cake pan. Repeat with remaining dough, arranging 9 rounds around perimeter of cake pan and 3 in center. Brush rounds with hot melted butter, taking care not to flatten them.
Bake 5 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 450 degrees; continue to bake until biscuits are deep golden brown, about 15 minutes longer. Cool in pan 2 minutes, then invert biscuits from pan onto clean kitchen towel; turn biscuits right-side up and break apart to serve. [Store leftover biscuits in an airtight zipper-lock bag. To reheat, place them on a baking sheet in a 475-degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes.]