Like many people, quarantine got me baking a lot. I did a couple loaves of sourdough, but at the end of the day, it is hard to beat the simple satisfaction of quickbreads. When you have twin three-year olds and are trying to adapt a small business to the roller coaster that is COVID, a good batch of biscuits gives a lot of comfort in a short time. Plus, the twins love biscuits!
This recipe is adapted from The Food Charlatan recipe which is great, but has no cheese. Of course, I think it is best paired with some Monger's Style Biscuit Gravy which uses smoked duck breast to add a layer of flavor you can't find with restaurant biscuits and gravy.
Flaky Buttermilk Cheddar & Herb Biscuits
- 3 cups flour, spooned and leveled
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 cup butter (1 and 1/2 sticks), frozen
- 1 large egg
- 3/4 cup cold buttermilk
- 4-8 oz of chopped or grated cheddar like Prairie Breeze, Hook's or for a twist, you could use Grafton Maple Smoked Cheddar, Dunbarton Blue or make it spicy with 4-Alarm from Milton. You could also use an alpine cheese like gruyere or comte to make it more brothy or onion flavored rather than sharp.
- 2 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- Chopped herbs to taste (I like to use chives and parsley, but sage or rosemary can work great too. Generally a couple tablespoons of chives and parsley, much less if using stronger herbs like sage and rosemary.)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons ice water
- 1 tablespoon butter, softened (for greasing pan)
- more buttermilk, for brushing
- honey and butter, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- In a large bowl (or food processor) combine flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and finely grated Parm.
- Cut the butter into chunks. Or, use a cheese grater to grate the butter. It's kind of fun!
- Use a pastry cutter or food processor to cut the butter into the flour. You can also use a fork, a butter knife, or your hands to work the butter into the dough (do not recommend the last three unless you are feeling strong vibes of little house on the prairie). It should be crumbly with pea-size chunks. Stick the bowl in the fridge if you have any delays. (I use the food processor here because it saves so much time and is less likely to overheat the dough while working the butter in.)
- Just as the dough gets to pea sized chunks, add the cheddar and herbs and incorporate without making the dough much finer.
- In a small bowl combine the egg and buttermilk. Beat with a fork. Add ice and water to a small bowl, and set a tablespoon nearby so it's ready to go.
Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Use a fork to hydrate the flour. Do NOT over work the dough. (You can also do this in the food processor with a few quick pulses.)
- Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time. You don't need much, this is just to help the flour absorb into the wet ingredients.
- Make as few strokes as possible to get your result: a very thick, slightly sticky dough. Switch to using flour-dusted hands for the last few kneads.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface (a pastry cloth works great, if you have one.) Use your hands to pat the dough into a rectangle, then use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a roughly 12x8 inch rectangle. It doesn't have to be perfect.
- Fold the short sides of the dough into the middle, like a business letter. See photos.
- Turn the dough over (flouring your surface again if necessary) so that the seam of your business letter is down.
- Use your hands or the rolling pin to flatten the dough. This is the last step before cutting. Don't roll it too thin! You want THICK biscuits. Think like at least an inch if not more. Flatten the dough enough to where you will be able to cut at least 6-8 biscuits on the first go.
To minimize waste and screwing around, I make square biscuits by cutting the dough with a sharp knife. Cut the dough into 9-10 biscuits. If you want round biscuits, use a biscuit cutter to cut the dough. Do NOT twist the cutter. Firmly push it straight down, then pull up. Use your fingers to gently loosen the dough from the cutter. If you don't have a biscuit cutter, and still want round biscuits, mark the dough surface with a glass and cut the biscuits out with a sharp knife.
- Grease a baking sheet or cast iron skillet with butter and place the biscuits in the pan. The original recipe says they should be touching each other, as "this helps them rise in the oven." I have tried it both ways and like to keep the separate. I find if they are touching the sides that are in contact end up rising less than those that are not touching.
- At this point, if you have time and space, I highly recommend freezing or at least refrigerating the pan of biscuit dough for 15-20 minutes. The butter in the dough has warmed up from your hands, and you want it hitting the oven as cold as possible to achieve Ultimate Flakiness Levels.
- Just before you put it in the oven, brush the top of each biscuit with buttermilk. This helps it to get that pretty brown topping. (Lately, I have been mixing some brown sugar, butter and buttermilk together and brushing this onto the tops after about 5 minutes of baking.)
- Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden. If the tops are brown but you suspect they are not done, lift the edge of one biscuit to check the bottom. They are done when the bottoms are brown.
- If desired, brush the biscuits with melted butter. Or you could just eat them immediately, serving with soft butter, honey, jam,
Enjoy - Will