In the past, I've had a troubled relationship with biscuits. My favorite baked good seemed just beyond my reach. Until now. Folks, you were tempted by the photos of Piper Davis making these jam–filled biscuits, "jammers," during her kitchen tour two weeks ago and now we are bringing you this pitch–perfect recipe. Your world will be forever changed for the better!
I've made biscuits frequently for this site and for my own personal enjoyment, I've sampled biscuits at most breakfast joints I come across (I find biscuits a great benchmark on which to judge a restaurant) and my Mississippi–raised mother and I discuss biscuit-ology at length about once per month. She has distilled the tenets of proper biscuit wisdom:
Biscuits have to be both fluffy and crusty. If they're all fluffy, they're rolls in disguise. Biscuits can't be square. That's a sign they're mass produced. Biscuits have to have a little flour on the top and bottom. That's means they were really kneaded and didn't come out of a can. Biscuits can't have sugar in them . . . at least where I come from. That's for scones. Biscuits have so few ingredients, you should be able to make them from scratch every time.
With all this talk, you'd think I'd be a pro, but the truth is, I've experimented passionately with only so so results. I was about to throw in the towel at this holy grail type of quest, leaving the fluffy/crusty/mysterious all star biscuits to the professional grandmas and aunties, but then a miracle occurred. I got hooked up with Piper Davis, a celebrated Portland baker, to cover her dreamy kitchen biking distance from my apartment.
Well I knew good things were in store for me when she served me a mug of rich coffee with a splash of whipping cream swirled in and asked if it would be alright if she made me some jammers, crusty biscuits with a dollop of jam cooked at the center.
Now I'm not sure how often a professional baked good whisperer offers to make you your favorite thing in the whole wide world and show you how it's done in her stunner of a kitchen, but it's pretty rare in my book. In fact, this has never happened to me before or since. Thank you Piper! It was the Haley's comet of biscuit experiences. So I looked and listened up good and I learned the biscuit swan song.
My mornings have been altered forever. I now separate space in time with "before the jammers" and "after jammers." When we dived into the crustiest, jammiest biscuit my mouth ever encountered, I totally lost it. My hopes of eating smoothies and oats for breakfast banished from my mind. It was the biscuit apocalypse. Gravity stood still and I entered the buttery, nutty, salty, sweet biscuit dimension I've been looking for all these years. I was literally swimming in biscuit flavor. There are no more words.
Make the jammers. Follow Piper and Ellen's explicit instructions (the first time, I tried to cheat and use almond milk in place of buttermilk —what's wrong with me? I had a massive jammer fail on my hands) and you will know the way of the perfect biscuit.
Makes 10 to 12 jammers
4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups (10 to 12 fluid ounces) buttermilk
About 3/4 cup good quality preserves or jam
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper. Measure the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda into a bowl with high sides or the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk to combine.
Dice the butter into 1/2-inch cubes. Use your hands or the paddle attachment of the stand mixer on low speed to blend the butter into the dry ingredients until the texture of the flour changes from silky to mealy. There should still be dime–to quarter–size pieces of butter remaining. If you’re preparing the dough the night before, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill overnight; otherwise proceed with the recipe.
Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in 1 cup of the buttermilk in one addition. Gently mix the dough just until it comes together; it will look rough. Scrape the dough from the sides and bottom of the bowl, then add another 1/4 cup buttermilk and mix again to incorporate any floury scraps. The majority of the dough will come together, on the paddle if you are using a stand mixer. Stop mixing while there are still visible chunks of butter and floury patches.
The dough should come out of the bowl in 2 to 3 large, messy clumps, leaving only some small scraps and flour around the sides of the bowl. If the dough is visibly dry and crumbly, add up to 1/4 cup more buttermilk, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing no more than one rotation after each addition.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Use the heels and sides of your palms to gather the dough and gently pat it into an oblong shape 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick. It won’t look smooth or particularly cohesive; that’s okay. Use a biscuit cutter to cut the jammers into circles at least 21/2 inches in diameter. Layer the leftover scraps on top of one another and gently pat them out to a thickness of 1 1/2 to 2 inches and again cut into circles.
Use your thumb to make an indentation the size of a fifty–cent piece in the middle of each biscuit. While gently supporting the outside edge of the biscuit with your fingers, use your thumb to create a bulb–shaped hole that’s a bit wider at the bottom and that goes almost to the bottom of the biscuit (think pinch pot). Try to apply as little pressure as possible to the outside of the biscuit, to avoid smashing the layers, which are the key to flaky jammers. Fill each indentation with 1 tablespoon of jam and put the jammers on the prepared baking sheet with 1 1/2 inches between them.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. The jammers should be a deep golden brown.
• Check out the book: The Grand Grand Central Baking Book
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross, recipe by Ellen Jackson and Piper Davis, from their book Grand Central Bakery Cookbook, reprinted with permission from Ten Speed Press)