I knew she was meant for me the moment I laid eyes on her: the Accolade 400. She was the last of her kind in the store. And I mean the last one ever, because the model had just been discontinued. Only the floor model remained. A little heftier than the surviving mixers, a slightly drearier shade of white, but proud, strong, and sure-footed. I wondered aloud why such a lovely creature would be intentionally terminated. "Some people feel that the motor on this model is too loud," the saleswoman announced, right in front of the poor thing. The nerve. I was offered a discount. And from that day forward, my loudmouth mixer and I have lived a noisy, doughy, happily ever after. Sure, she makes a ruckus. But if only such toothsome treats sprang from my hands every time I made such a racket in the kitchen! Hers is a delicious ruckus indeed.
That said, I can now safely confess: some mornings I prefer to silence her spinning paddle and take matters into my own hands. I bring you the rubbed-dough method. As the Culinary Institute of America textbook The Professional Chef explains, "Biscuits, scones, and soda breads have a distinctly flaky texture -- the result of rubbing together, but not blending, the fat and flour." I hardly need an excuse to rub butter and flour together into a shaggy heap. But if I did, the buttery, golden biscuits that result from this recipe would undoubtedly do the trick. Especially when served warm and accompanied by dribbles of room temperature raspberry jam.
I'm head over heels for my mixer, it's true. But nothing beats a little dough beneath the finger nails every now and then.
Adapted from Bon Appetit, October 2000
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup (1 and 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, diced
1 cup (plus a few extra dribbles of) buttermilk
(It is important that both the butter and the buttermilk are quite cold to keep the fat from blending too thoroughly with the dry ingredients.)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Line one baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Drop the squares of diced butter into the dry ingredients and start rubbing. Continue rubbing with your fingertips until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Make a well in the center of the mixture and fill it with the cup of buttermilk. Stir until evenly moistened. (There will most likely be some loose, dry remnants of the dry mixture at the very bottom of the bowl. That's okay.) Scoop out the moist dough, 1/4 cup at a time, and drop the dough onto the baking sheet. If you find yourself with enough extra dry material at the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a bit more buttermilk and drop yourself an extra biscuit or two. The recipe makes about 12 biscuits.
Bake for about 15 minutes, until the biscuits are just golden on top.
Cool slightly. Serve warm -- preferably with room temperature raspberry jam.