Barnyard Confidential

Highly Cultivated Chef Bags the Fancy Stuff and Opts for Buttermilk Biscuits

Looking ahead to Thanksgiving, I want to do something just a bit different, and I don’t mean tinkering with the staples: The Norman Rockwell-ish herb roasted turkey that’s the centerpiece of the table, the sausage dressing, mashed potatoes, green beans, mushrooms and fried onions (even if they are those crispy ones that come out of a can), scalloped corn, sweet potatoes, and fresh seasonal pies like apple and pumpkin. No, this year my one change will be the bread. Biscuits straight from Iowa’s infamous Machine Shed restaurant.

First  warning. These have a shelf life of one day. So, why baking powder biscuits when we could have crusty whole wheat studded with cranberries?

Road tripping through Iowa on a book tour has opened the barn door and given me a view into a state that is all about the food. Iowa feeds the world, if not the country.

This is a state that is high on the hog, a place where your first bite of hot, juicy, delectably fried pork could be a religious experience. And a state where the fields and fields of grains and prize-winning dairy cows fill the view out the car window, right up to that line of pink filament that will turn to a fiery orange horizon at sunset.  

 I am making biscuits because they are, in many ways, the embodiment of Midwestern values – nothing fancy, but considerably more tasty and complicated than they initially appear.

Put all your eggs in one basket and make these. Each bite will be a little taste of heaven and undoubtedly will bring you just a bit closer to actually visiting there.

Biscuits, courtesy of the Machine Shed Restaurant, Des Moines, Iowa.
Yield:  4 dozen biscuits


5 lbs all-purpose flour
1 oz. salt
5 oz. baking powder
1 lb. butter, cut to ½” cubes
2 quarts buttermilk


1. Using a large mixing bowl fitted with a paddle attachment on a low setting, mix all ingredients except milk for 1 minute

2. Slowly add milk and mix until no liquid is standing, about 30 seconds.

3. Roll out dough on floured table to ½” thickness

4. Cut out with biscuit cutter making cuts as close as possible. Keep flour on cutter to prevent sticking

5. Bake at 350-degrees F. for 22 minutes. Remove from oven and brush with melted butter.