One of my favorite ways to use a big, exhaustive cookbook is to flip to the index and figure out how to make use of an ingredient I’ve already got. This week, it was about a cup of buttermilk, and I turned to How to Bake Everything.
I wanted to make something that wouldn’t require a trip to the grocery store, which made whittling down my options easy: no Buttermilk Pie or Bars because I didn’t have cream to make a custard, no cakes because I don’t own an electric mixer (no way I’m going to cream the butter and sugar by hand!), and no cookies because I had less than a stick of butter in the fridge. What did that leave? After about 2 minutes of narrowing down, only one option: Buttermilk Biscuits.
I mixed the ingredients together and had a batch of hot biscuits, fresh from the oven, in less than 30 minutes. I followed the recipe, making a few adjustments: I cut the dough into small square biscuits because I felt like it; I didn’t brush the tops with milk because I didn’t have any; and they weren’t as flakey as they could have been because my refrigerator died and it was a race against time to use already-warming butter. Oh well. They still tasted great and this is real-life cooking.
I use this “what can I do with” method with cookbooks all the time. What can I make with this bunch of chard that’s going to go south in another day? How can I get a meal out of pasta and a handful of pantry items? How else can I use this spice I bought especially for one recipe? Doing this introduces me to new ideas, and helps me develop cooking intuition. Once I’ve made a recipe—buttermilk biscuits, for example—I usually find I want to keep the item around, now that I know all the possibilities.
Plus, I’ve got some new things I want to try, like that Buttermilk Pie, which sounded really great!
Disclaimer: I am not a Southerner, and rarely make biscuits. I know this is a food that inspires strong opinions in people and it is not one I know well. Any biscuit-making tips are welcome in the comments!