Remember a few weeks ago when I proclaimed to have NAILED biscuits but failed to share a recipe? My excuse was that I wanted to try using whole wheat flour before sharing under the auspices of presenting a healthier recipe – really, I just wanted to make sure those biscuits were not a fluke. I can admit I do sometimes have rather lackluster batches of biscuits – they still get eaten because bad biscuits are better than no biscuits apparently – but they are nothing to write the internet about. I tested my theory of using cream and cake flour in a few batches – including sweet potato ones – to much success every time, so now I’m ready to share a recipe. While the all white flour version are still by far the flakiest, the whole wheat and sweet potato versions (also made with whole wheat) are still not too shabby.
My original recipe came from Tasty Kitchen – and unless I’m sitting with the printed recipe in my lap so I can type the entire original title – Easy, Flaky, Buttery Biscuits in the search engine – it can be tricky to find. I’ve experimented with countless biscuit recipes over the years and this is the one I keep coming back to that works, with a few minor changes.
I’ve babbled in previous biscuit (and other baking posts) the importance of different flour types. Basically, you don’t want developed gluten in your biscuits, so using a ‘softer’ flour like cake flour which contain less protein is ideal. (Here’s a great little article I found that explains this nicely.) I also like to use whole grain flours in my baking because I like to think they nicely balance out the fats I typically combine them with. After playing around with various whole wheat flours, I am currently favoring whole wheat pastry flour – it’s a softer and more finely textured whole grain flour than regular whole wheat flour. Like most whole grain flours, it tends to absorb more liquid than white flours. I haven’t played with any gluten free baking mixes or flours in this recipe, but given good biscuits don’t let the gluten develop the way a good bread does, I suspect you could make a most excellent gluten free biscuit.
This brings us to the other very important ingredient in a good biscuit – your fat. I’ve tried using non-animal products in biscuits with a freshly opened can of Crisco working best. But frankly, I’d rather use animal fats for a whole host of reasons, so I go with butter and/or lard. I’ve heard of using bacon fat in lieu of lard, which sounds quite tasty. Both bacon fat and lard have a certain taste that can take over, so I use them sparingly. A little goes a long way.
As I talked about in my last biscuit post, the lightest biscuits stem from having your fat globules a nice small size. Using cream, which has butterfat in it, is an instant way to ensuring you have the right fat at the right size. I’ve seen biscuit recipes calling for just cream which I intend to try, but so far I haven’t. Because I like to make biscuits on a somewhat regular basis and I like both my healthy cholesterol levels as well as my current pant size, I go with half cream, half skim milk. Everything in moderation, yes? Exactly.
A few words on technique – take the time to properly cut your fat in. It should look like this:
Upon adding liquid, the dough will be firm, not sticky. Pat it out, don’t roll it. Your biscuits won’t be as fluffy if you roll it. Don’t skip the chilling time – in fact, you can make biscuits way ahead of time and stick the entire pan in the fridge before baking them. The chilling time helps them set up, which is especially important when you are using whole wheat flour which is slower to absorb liquid. And lastly, whatever you use to cut your biscuits out with – cookie cutter, pastry cutter, glass, knife – don’t twist them. Go straight up and down – trust me, this makes a difference.
Finally, what to serve with your biscuits. While they do go nicely with sausage gravy or ham, I have been known to serve them with a vegan lentil barley soup, therefore (at least in my mind) creating a well balanced meal. Leftover biscuits with jam for breakfast are also quite divine.
Alright, enough babble. Onto the recipe.
(Adapted from Tasty Kitchen’s Easy, Flaky, Buttery Biscuits)
3 cups flour: 1/2 c cake flour, 1 c whole wheat pastry flour, 1 1/2 c all purpose flour
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup fat – could be all butter or 1/2 cup butter, 1/4 lard/bacon fat – Cold
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup milk or buttermilk
Mix dry ingredients together. Cut in the cold fat in two batches so that the first round is miniscule, the second round closer to pea size.
Combine milk and egg, pour into the dry mix. Stir together with a fork, then using your fingers, combine until the mixture forms a soft ball. (You may need to add more milk, but no more than 1/4 of a cup)
Turn out onto a floured counter (or mat or cutting board). Pat down until about 3/4″ thick. Cut biscuits and place on ungreased pan (I like to line a cookie sheet with parchment paper which makes for easier clean up).
Chill biscuits for a minimum of 10 minutes.
Place in preheated 450 degree oven and bake for 10-12 minutes.