People are particular about their biscuits. There are long traditions and family recipes. There are blues songs and folk tales heralding this quick bread favorite. I keep it pretty simple and it works well for me – no lard, pastry cutters, or knives involved. I just use my hands and get to biscuit making!
The recipe below is from the La Leche League cookbook I mentioned in an earlier post. I usually double it. They recommend making the biscuits with all whole wheat flour, which I have done before, but they just are not as good. My husband prefers them with no whole wheat flour, though he’ll eat them happily any way I make them. Taste wise, I’ve had the best luck with the combination of buckwheat flour and white flour listed below, but half white and half wheat works well and is still pretty tasty.
I always begin by gathering my ingredients, preheating the oven, and microwaving the butter. I keep the butter in the fridge and then warm it for just ten seconds. This way, it is still cool and firm enough that the water molecules are trapped and give a good rise, but it is soft enough to incorporate into the flour.
Before measuring the flour, I like to give the flour container a few shakes, turning it upside down and back over again until it is light and fluffy with air. This way, I have found that the biscuits get the right amount of flour; if I use compacted flour, it always seems to be too much and makes the dough dry and heavy. I mix the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and then drop in the stick of slightly softened butter. Then, with clean hands, I smush and pinch the butter into the flour – I crumble and rub it all together.
To add the wet, I create the classic little well in the center and dump everything in. I usually just use milk, but if you want to use buttermilk (which I have done and is delicious), then the recipe suggests that you reduce the baking powder and include some soda to make up for the added acidity (I included the measurements below). I challenge myself to mix the flour and milk as quickly as possible as to not toughen the dough. To do this, I make my hand into a stiff claw and stir everything together being sure to scoop up dry ingredients from the bottom into the mix. Sometimes I tilt the bowl so I can see what dry remains on the bottom. This is where you can turn out the dough to flour, roll, and cut into rolled biscuits. I have done this, but I didn’t think the texture of the final biscuits was improved, certainly not enough to justify the extra effort. You may have a different experience. Anyhow, I usually just make a variant of drop biscuits; I scoop up a palm-full, roll it into a ball, and drop it onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
Then, it’s off to the oven, 415 for 15 minutes. I highly recommend splitting them with a fork and eating with some butter and jam. Just a thought.
Adapted from Whole Foods for the Whole Family, La Leche League
2 c. flour (1/2 c. buckwheat, 1 ½ white), 2 t. baking powder, 1 t. salt, ¼ – ½ c. butter, 2/3 c. milk (To use buttermilk, use just 1 t. baking powder and ¾ t. baking soda)
Warm butter in microwave for 10 seconds and preheat the oven to 415. Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl. Use fingers to incorporate the butter and create a well for the milk. Add the milk, and stir just to incorporate. Roll palm-fulls into balls and place onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 415 for 15 minutes.