When you’re trying to figure out what to do for breakfast this weekend, please consider whipping up some simple, homemade biscuits. I’ve been making biscuits for over 20 years, and they’re a regular staple in our household. Many people are afraid of turning their flour and dairy products into paperweights or hockey pucks, but that really shouldn’t ever be an issue. I’m here to help, and you’ll know who to thank when you’ve pleased your family.
First, the flour. You can use all purpose flour, but I highly recommend you make it easier on yourself and pick up some self-rising flour. This not only provides most of the leavening power you need, but the wheat in this flour is a bit softer (i.e., less gluten) than AP flour. Thus, you’re more likely to turn out a light and flaky biscuit.
The second thing you need is buttermilk. If you can get the stuff in the glass jars from Maple View Farm dairy, even better, as it has a higher fat content, and when it comes to biscuits, fat is your friend. Otherwise, regular buttermilk will suffice.
Third, you need butter — unsalted butter, that is. Salted butter is actually fine, but you can’t control the flavor as much. I also think the unsalted butter creates a fluffier biscuit — perhaps due to the higher moisture content in butter with salt. I might be imagining it, though. You also want the butter to be cold. Some people like to use shortening in their biscuits, but I like keeping it all dairy. If you have some good lard, that will work, too. Over the years, I’ve used butter exclusively as I always have it, it’s always cold, and it’s easy to measure.
Whole milk is good, half-and-half is better, and heavy cream is the best. As I said, fat is your friend. Biscuits are a guilty pleasure, so don’t make a compromise here.
Finally, you’ll need some baking soda and some salt (unless you’re using salted butter). That’s all you need when it comes to foodstuffs.
The important thing to remember is to be gentle with the dough. That’s why I use a pastry cutter rather than a food processor to cut in the butter. I’ve found my biscuits are always tougher when made with the food processor. Once you’ve cut in the butter, you’ll want to add your liquids all at once and gently stir to combine. You’ll toss the dough onto a counter, knead it only 2-3 times, and then roll out for cutting. If you work the dough much more than that, the gluten will take over, resulting in that NHL-ready puck. Remember not to twist your cutter when cutting out the biscuits, as that causes the edges to pinch a bit, which can impede the proper rise.
These biscuits won’t have an ultra-soft cake-like crumb that you’ll find at Big Ed’s, but they’ll be tender and flaky and filled with flavor.
One of the finest ways in the world to eat biscuits is with nothing but butter, but when we want to be a bit more decadent, we make the “cheese.” The “cheese” is sharp cheddar cheese that has been melted in the oven without a top. We just cut up cubes of cheese, put it in a small casserole, and throw it in the oven while it’s heating up. A nice little crust will form on the top. After awhile, some of the fat will start to separate from the cheese solids, but don’t worry about that. We put some cheese on a hot biscuit, add some fig preserves, and enjoy like a fat and happy puppy. As my father-in-law says, that’s a “mammy-smacking meal” — makes you want to smack your mammy.
Click below for the recipe.
- 2 cups self-rising flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 6 Tbsp cold unsalted butter
- 2/3 cup buttermilk (cold)
- 1/4 cup cream, half-and-half or whole milk (c0ld)
Preheat oven to 450°F. Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Cut cold butter into tablespoon-sized pieces, add to flour mixture, and cut in with a pastry cutter until butter is like coarse crumbs. Add liquid all at once, stir gently to bring it together, and turn onto a flat surface dusted with flour. Knead gently 2-4 times, folding the dough over itself. It will still be somewhat coarse. Scrap up dough, dust surface with flour, and roll out gently until about 3/4″ thick (you may also pat it out. Cut out biscuits with a round 2-3″ biscuit cutter. You’ll need to dip the cutter in flour after every other biscuit. You will also need to gather up the dough scraps and re-roll to maximize your yield. These biscuits will be a bit tougher than the ones from the first “roll.” Bake for about 10-14 minutes until golden brown.