As we get near the end of a quarter, it seems that someone in our group will host a Sunday brunch. It is a nice time to bolster our strength for the finish of the term and to allow a little enthusiasm for some much-deserved vacations bubble to the surface. Where is this bunch headed to, in a couple of weeks? Naples, Istanbul, South Africa…
I brought fresh strawberry jam and biscuits to complement the incredible spread of dishes at my friend’s beach-side home. Successful biscuits are all about technique and intuition, not so much ingredients, except that they be fresh. Here, first, is the base recipe followed by some tips that I think are non-negotiable for getting the biscuits you want. This recipe is perfect for savory or sweet biscuits.
- 5 cups flour
- 5 tbsp. sugar (omit if you want them savory)
- 2 tbsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 10 tbsp. unsalted butter, frozen, plus 4 tbsp., melted
- 1 3/4 cups buttermilk
- 2 tbsp. honey
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Using the course side of a box grater, grate frozen butter into flour mixture; mix to combine. Add buttermilk and, using your hands, gently mix ingredients until a soft dough forms. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface; pat into a 7″ x 9″ rectangle, about 2″ thick. Using a 4″ round cutter, cut out as many biscuits as you can, reforming scraps to use all of the dough. Place biscuits on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake until golden, 18-20 minutes. Stir melted butter and honey in a bowl; brush over hot biscuits. Return biscuits to oven and cook until golden, 5 minutes more. Makes 10 to 12 biscuits
Grate frozen butter into cold, dry ingredients. I always keep my flour in the freezer, but then it comes in small packets, here. Working quickly, toss it through the dry ingredients. This creates a perfect integration of good-sized butter chunks throughout the dough, which will melt in the hot heat and create fluffy air pockets.
After adding the liquid, gently bring the dough together with your goal being to simply hydrate all of the flour and create a mass of dough. Stop working it once that has been achieved.
Keep your dough shaggy. You don’t want it smooth; you want to preserve all of the texture you can.
Keep a rolling pin away from the dough. Lift the dough out of the mixing bowl, lay it onto a floured surface, and gently poke it to stretch it to a consistent thickness.
Leave the dough thick. I used to think that the baking powder would create some sort of magic lift for my biscuits, but it won’t. The volume I get in the end is what I leave in during the formation of the dough. Keep the dough, at a minimum, 1″ thick, and 2″ is not insane.
Cut the biscuits with a real biscuit cutter. This tool will allow you to cut the dough without twisting, which will pull on the sides and decrease the loft of your biscuits. I don’t have one here, at the moment, and I tried using a sharp, stainless steel ravioli cutter. I got a pretty good result, but my biscuits still had slightly rounded tops and some diminished layering.
We have decided that our dessert alternative to strawberry shortcake, for this season, will be biscuits with strawberry preserves and pistachio-studded pecorino cheese.
Recipe adapted from the following:
Uyehara, Mari. “Better Eat Your Breakfast.” Saveur. N.p., Mar. 2015. Web. 19 Mar. 2015.