A New Family Recipe
Few things are more satisfying than savory, flaky buttery biscuits fresh from the oven. I took on the challenge of perfecting homemade biscuits. How difficult could it be? There are just five main ingredients. Over the next few months there were dozens of biscuit casualties. With each batch, the recipe was refined. Roll up your sleeves, this is not a just-add-water box recipe.
Experimentation included varying the type and amount of liquids. Biscuits made with almond milk did not brown. Milk and heavy cream fare better. I experimented with butter temperatures ranging from melted to rock-hard cold. Delving into flavor enhancers like spices and cheeses came after perfecting the basic recipe.
There is a corresponding relationship of bake time to biscuits mass. Circumferences from an inch-and-a-half (3.8 cm) up to three inches (7.6 cm) and thickness from a quarter inch (6.4 mm) to more than a half inch (1.3 cm) result in cooking times from 20 to 45 minutes. Oven temperatures range from 385°F (196°C) to 420°F (215°C).
There is a need to add more salt when using unsalted butter. Flakiness is a result of properly mixed cold butter. In fact, it is best to keep all ingredients in the refrigerator until required. After perfecting the recipe for basic biscuits, I was ready to hone in on different flavors. The basic biscuit forms the base, with an additional flavor-infused layer. Here is the recipe for my signature dish—cheddar butter biscuits bites.
Yields 18–20 biscuits
Serving size: 3 biscuits (at least)
2 cups all-purpose unbleached flower
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 Tbs sugar (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 pound cold unsalted butter
7/8 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
1 Tbs grated Parmesan cheese
2 dashes turmeric
Sift dry basic biscuit ingredients by shaking through a mesh strainer into large cold bowl. Then stir together. (Tip: You can get more rise with 1 tablespoon of baking powder. Because of the corn starch content, biscuits will also be stiffer.)
Remove butter from refrigerator and slice stick lengthwise. Then slice along width into small cubes. Separate and scatter butter into bowl. (Tip: Alternatively, freeze stick of butter and grate over flour mixture.
Work butter into dry ingredients with your wooden spoon, then hands by pressing while twisting until all butter cubes are smashed and flour is damp. Alternatively, use bread mixer. (Tip: This much preparation can be done in advance and refrigerated.)
Whip buttermilk with whisk until it forms peaks. (Tips: If you do not have buttermilk, add 2 tsp apple cider vinegar to whole milk and let set for 5 minutes. Manual whip is easier within a narrow container like a measuring cup, as it confines the vortex—or use immersion blender.)
Pour up to 3/4 cup of whipped milk over dry ingredients, preserving the rest for later, and stir with wooden spoon until all it begins to form a dough. Dough should not be so moist that it sticks to your hands.
Working quickly, form dough into a ball. While blending, fold and flatten a few times. Set aside about 30 percent of the dough.
Lightly sprinkle flour on wax paper. Then sprinkle top with flour and flatten the bulk of the dough roughly with fingertips (not rolling pin). Fold wax paper over dough and refrigerate while preparing second layer.
Mix cheddar flavor ingredients with remaining dough, saving a few tablespoons of cheddar for later. While blending, fold and flatten a few times. (Tip: Fresh cheddar is better than pre-shredded. A quality cheese imparts the most flavor.)
Lightly sprinkle flour on wax paper. Then flatten cheddar dough roughly with fingertips.
|Preheat oven to 390°F (200°C) and clean area while dough is chilling.|
Remove cold basic biscuit dough from refrigerator and brush with milk. Lightly sprinkle with shredded cheese.
Place over basic biscuit dough. Press with fingertips until combined layered dough is about a half inch thick. Fold wax paper over remaining dough and refrigerate 20 minutes.
Remove cold layered dough from refrigerator. Using floured 1.5 inch (3.8 cm) cookie cutter, press through and remove as many biscuits as possible. Blend together and flatten remnant dough. Cut more biscuits until last bit is size of a biscuit. (Tip: Cut biscuit dough may be frozen in advance but may not rise as like fresh dough. Add 5 minutes to baking time.)
|Starting from the center, arrange biscuits in lightly greased pan. (Tip: Use spray olive oil or wipe teaspoon of oil on pan with paper towel.)|
Brush biscuits with milk. (Tip: This keeps them from having powdery flour tops.) Lightly sprinkle with shredded cheese.
|Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until biscuits rise and brown.|
Melt a tablespoon of butter to brush over baked biscuit tops and serve immediately.
Wrap and refrigerate leftover baked biscuits. Warm in microwave 22–30 seconds for 1 to 4 biscuits. To maintain crisp exterior, place in covered skillet on low heat or 375°F (190°C) oven for 5 minutes.