May 24, 2010

Three Kinds of Biscuits

Biscuits are a great accompaniment to soups and stews.  They're very quick to make and don't take long to bake.  I've used the same biscuit recipe for years (I think it's from Betty Crocker).  I was satisfied with it, so I never tried anything different.    I thought it would be fun to try some different recipes to see what I was missing.  This post covers my basic biscuits, cream biscuits, and buttermilk biscuits.

The basic biscuits are denser than the other two recipes.  The original recipe calls for shortening, for which I successfully have substituted butter.  One of the reasons I love them is because they rise a mile high.

The cream biscuits were lighter in texture than my standard.  The buttermilk biscuits were super fluffy.  I'm starting to think buttermilk is a secret ingredient.  I usually don't buy it, and instead use sour milk or milk with added vinegar as a substitute.  This and some other recent recipes have got me convinced I have been missing out.  For now, the buttermilk biscuits are my favorite.

I am in desperate need of some biscuit cutters.  I use overturned drinking cups instead, but they are a little too large in diameter.

basic biscuits

Basic Biscuits
2 cups flour
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 c. milk
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 c. butter

Preheat oven to 450. Stir together flour, baking powder, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt. Cut in butter till mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center, add milk all at once. Stir just till dough clings together. Knead gently on a lightly floured surface for 10-12 strokes. Roll or pat to 1/2" thickness. Cut with a 2 1/2" biscuit cutter, dipping center in flour between cuts. Transfer to ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or till golden. Makes 10-12 biscuits.

cream biscuits

Cream Biscuits
Adapted from James Beard’s American Cookery as posted on

The original recipe has you brush your baking sheet with melted butter (and increases the amount by two tablespoons) but for whatever reason, the butter not covered by biscuits just got smoky in my oven so I’m voting for you to just line your sheets with parchment. If you find dipping the biscuits in butter difficult (hard to grasp if the dough is soft), just brush them generously instead.
Made about 10 biscuits, perhaps a dozen if I had been stricter about the height and scrap-usage

3 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the surface
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt butter in a small pot or microwave dish, and set aside. Sift two cups flour, the baking powder, salt and (if using) sugar into a large bowl. Fold in 1 1/4 cups cream. If the dough is not soft or easily handled, fold in the remaining 1/4 cup cream, little by little. (I ended up using two additional tablespoons, or half the unused cream.)

Turn dough onto a floured surface, mound it into a ball and, using your hands, press it to a thickness of about 3/4 inch. Cut into rounds, 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Gather dough scraps and continue to make rounds. Dip the top of each round in melted butter and arrange on the baking sheet. Bake until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately, or flash freeze for future use. [Biscuits can be baked straight from the freezer, and additional few minutes baking time will be needed, usually around 3 to 5.]

buttermilk biscuits

Buttermilk Biscuits
from Karen Nield

2 cups flour
1 T baking powder
¼ t baking soda
½ t salt
1 T sugar
1/3 c shortening or butter
1 cup buttermilk

Heat oven to 450. Mix dry ingredients. Cut in shortening/butter. Make a well in the flour mixture. Add buttermilk. Stir quickly with a spoon, just until the dough sticks to the spoon. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead 10-12 times. Roll out dough to ½ inch thick. Cut with biscuit cutter. Place on baking sheet 1 inch apart. Bake 8-12 minutes.

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