You have to understand something about me. I am not an artist. I am not one of those creative, pretty-art-producing types who from age five made the world a more beautiful place to live. The creative gene skipped over me somehow, same with the skinny gene and the athletic gene. Ah, DNA, you tricky bastard.
My older sister, though. Now, she’s an artist. Was an artist.
She painted green lilies and charcoaled houses and somewhere in the last two weeks of life, while halfway around the world, she used a pencil to sketch the smiles of barefooted beggar children whose bellies protruded beyond their hips. Sweet innocent smiles. That’s what artists do, I think. They find unlikely emotions in unlikely places and their hands draw or paint or sketch or splatter them on a page for the rest of us non-artists to contemplate. To feel things.
My burned oven hands don’t do things like that.
But sometimes, and I’ll give them this, they roll out buttery, peel-apart-into-layers buttermilk biscuits and they dance across keyboards. My husband likes to joke that I do the finger keyboard dance extra loudly just so that everyone around me knows I’m being productive. That’s not it, I promise. My keyboard, the buttons, they’re just loose, okay? So they scream instead of whisper, okay? (Though, I should admit that sometimes, like now, their very loud tap tap tap gives me butterflies.)
I got asked in an interview once: “Tell me about your background with the arts.” I think I actually laughed at the interviewer woman across the wires. “Oh, I’m not an artist,” I told her plainly. “Really? I think you are. You take photos, you write…that’s artistic.” My eyebrows furrowed in earnest and, for a second, I wondered about her words.
No, no, I wasn’t born that way. I am not that kind of person. I’m just a person who felt too much and craved too much and accidentally found herself in a tiny inconsequential corner of the internet trying to cultivate joy and make sense of it all. I’m just a person with two burnt thumbs who types too loudly and likes to play with words and flour.
For my wonderful real-artist-sister-protector-best-friend. Ten years and it somehow still feels like yesterday. Thank you for always helping me find my way, find my voice, find my creativity if you want to call it that, in life and after it.
- 1-1/2 cups of all purpose flour, plus more for rolling out
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon of baking soda
- 1 pinch of cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, or ½ teaspoon of regular table or sea salt
- 12 tablespoons of frozen butter
- ¾ cups of buttermilk
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt in a large bowl. Use a cheese grater to grate the butter into flour mixture. I use the largest holes on the grater. Gently toss the grated butter with the flour mixture until it resembles little pebbles. Add the buttermilk and use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture together until a loose dough forms.
- Sprinkle more flour on a work surface and add the bowl to the work surface, kneading until it forms a ball. Use a rolling pin to roll it out until it's roughly ½-inch thick, adding more flour to the surface and rolling pin if it becomes too sticky to work with. Fold it like a sheet into 3 to 4 folds, roll it out, and then repeat the folding process. Do this a few more times. (This is where the flaky layers begin to form.) On the last roll, leave the dough ½-inch thick and use a round biscuit cutter to cut the biscuits.
- Place biscuits onto greased baking sheet and bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Brush tops with melted butter, if desired.