Sometimes life surprises you. When I set out to make dinner tonight, I had high hopes for the new soup recipe I was going to try, which I had culled from Food & Wine. It was, for an intents and purposes, a basic potato soup, jazzed up with spicy shrimp seasoned with a special pepper paste from Turkey that I had to visit the ethnic grocery store to locate. Almost as an afterthought, I decided to whip up a batch of homemade biscuits to go with it, partially because soup alone no longer qualifies as a meal once you have a man in the house, partially because I had leftover buttermilk that was on the cusp of expiring after some ill-fated cornbread-inspired pancakes a while back, and partially because I'd spotted this recipe on Cook's Country while embroiled in one of my Saturday PBS cooking show marathons and thought it looked interesting.
As it turned out, the soup was a total flop. It was incredibly bland, and the shrimp, which weren't particularly spicy after all, didn't improve matters much. On the other hand, the biscuits, which I hadn't expected much from, given my unsuccessful history of biscuit-making attempts, were out of this world. They were, by far, the best biscuits I've ever made, and possibly some of the best biscuits I've ever eaten. Perhaps I shouldn't have doubted the folks at America's Test Kitchen; after all, they've been right about so many other flour-based dishes, like my favorite pizza crust recipe, and my new favorite pie crust.
These biscuits were light, fluffy, and soft, with a flavor that approached my Platonic ideal for biscuits -- a hint of butter, a bit of tang from the buttermilk, and the nuttiness of browned flour. Plus, they were enormous; the recipe is called "cat's head biscuits" because each individual biscuit is roughly the size of a cat's head, and that may even be too modest. They're huge, so you get the joy of eating lots of biscuit without the guilt of mentally totally up how many biscuits you just ate. Bonus!
I liked these biscuits so much that I feel it's my duty to share the recipe with you, even though the people at America's Test Kitchen are infamous for sending cease and desist letters to bloggers who publish their recipes. These biscuits are worth the risk. Go forth and make them before I get asked to take down the recipe, trust me!
Cat's Head Biscuits
adapted from Cook's Country
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/4 c. buttermilk
Preheat oven to 425. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with Pam.
1. Combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Rub butter and shortening into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in buttermilk until combined.
2. Use greased 1/2-cup measure or large spring-loaded ice cream scoop to transfer 6 heaping portions of dough into prepared pan, placing 5 around pan's perimeter and 1 in center.
3. Bake until puffed and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack. Serve. (Biscuits can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for 2 days.)