Ladies and gentlemen, the tomatoes have arrived.
Long have we waited, through the cold of June, the erratic and broken weather cycle of cold-warm-cold in July, the August sun slowly gaining strength, and now, finally, the unexpectedly wonderful burst of heat in September. As though they had been waiting as eagerly as I had, our tomatoes are very suddenly exploding with ripeness, and there is little I can do to stop myself from coming up with every excuse imaginable to use our garden tomatoes in every manner possible.
These biscuits, with their flaky, yet sturdy, texture and abundance of spicy black pepper, are the perfect vehicle for garden fresh tomatoes. Of course, we’ve been waiting so long for tomatoes, my line of thinking as of late dictates that everything is a perfect presentation piece for the glory of the heirloom tomato. That aside, these biscuits really are spectacular. There is something so utterly satisfying about tucking a thick slice of tomato in between layers of rich, warm biscuit, and, if you throw in a soft fried egg for good measure, you’ve got yourself a fantastic meal that is fit for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
I might even admit to having eaten a biscuit topped with tomato for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on what I can only recall as being a banner day. I earned that trifecta of black pepper against cool tomato, I tell you. I waited all summer for the summer to arrive, and arrive it finally did.
P.S. Next Saturday it is supposed to be cloudy and in the 60s. Summer, we hardly knew thee.
Black Pepper Buttermilk Biscuits
This recipe yields 9 very huge, square-shaped biscuits. If you desire a smaller biscuit (I don’t know why anyone would, but I hold no judgement), try shaping the dough into a 10″ x 8″ rectangle and cutting it into 12 biscuits. Why do I instruct you to make square biscuits instead of round ones? Because when you cut your biscuits into rounds using a biscuit cutter, you will inevitably be left with scraps of dough that then need to be re-rolled and reshaped before being cut again. The more you handle your biscuit dough, the more you activate the gluten in the flour and heat up the little flakes of cold butter in the dough, the end result of both being that your biscuits will turn out less flakey and more tough. By simply cutting a square biscuit, you eliminate the need to keep fussing with your dough. You handle the dough much less, resulting in a tender, flakey biscuit every time.
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
8 tablespoons (½ cup, or 1 stick) very cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1 ½ cups buttermilk or soured milk
Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a food processor, combine dry ingredients. Add the butter, and cut it into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add the buttermilk and stir (or pulse, if using the food processor) until the ingredients just come together.
Turn the mixture out onto a floured counter. Briefly knead the dough 2 or 3 times, then form the dough into an 8” x 8” rectangle about 1” thick. Using a sharp knife or a bench scraper, cut the dough into thirds both horizontally and vertically, yielding 9 square biscuits.
Place the biscuits 1-inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake biscuits in the center of the oven for 12-15 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.
Makes 9 very large biscuits.