So, we are having stew tonight, and I’d like some bread to go with that. But it’s too late to start yeast bread, and I’m not going grocery shopping these days for something like a loaf of bread. So… I’m thinking biscuits would be nice.
(for any non-Americans, I mean American biscuits, a tender, short, savory quick bread made in individual pieces.)
I’ve never made biscuits. The internet is full of recipes, so while recipes are welcome, I’m more interested in overarching advice, warnings, what to expect, etc. For reference, I have made pie crusts and scones, and both reliably come out well.
I will not be adding peppers, cheese, or any other seasoning to the biscuits. You might possibly talk me into a small dose of spice. I have a pretty well-stocked spice rack. I also have butter, shortening made from palm-oil that is quite similar to lard in how it functions, and a modest stash of duck and goose fat. My family doesn’t eat pork, so no bacon, bacon fat, or lard. Oh, and we have lots of bread flour, and a box of cake flour, but no all-purpose flour.
I’m guessing you don’t have buttermilk, or you would’ve mentioned it, right? If you have buttermilk, definitely use that: buttermilk biscuits are extra-special tasty.
The trickiest part of biscuit-making is the soft touch with kneading and rolling and cutting. Overworking the biscuits will make them tough, and while they’ll still be tasty, they won’t be as good as they could’ve been.
Therefore, I recommend removing that step. Make drop biscuits for your first time. You’ll lose that lovely flaky layered texture that biscuits can have; but in exchange, you get lots of brown nubbly bits that are delicious. My family prefers drop biscuits to rolled biscuits most of the time, and they’re so much easier to make that they’re a good weeknight bread.
I would use butter. Biscuits are so bland that you’ll be able to taste the fat, and you want a fat with a delicious taste. Use cake flour: you don’t want to develop gluten.
I know you said no cheese, and that’s cool. But drop biscuits with a little grated cheddar and some spices and herbs (I usually use some garlic powder, some paprika, and some herbs like oregano and thyme) are an amazing accompaniment to soups and stews, and are just about as easy to make. Keep them in mind for next time!
Edit: just saw Tripolar. I’m assuming you have baking powder? Beaten biscuits are a thing, but I think only because people didn’t used to have baking powder.
Passable biscuits are pretty easy to make; this isn’t the rocket science of baking. And they’re quick enough that if you really mess up a batch you have plenty of time to make another. Simple is better. Heck, if you have Bisquick they make for a fairly decent drop biscuit.
You’ve come to the right guy. I use this recipe and they come out perfect every time. And forget that nonsense about using your fingers or a fork or any other bullshit to cut in the fat. I use a food processor - that’s right, a food processor - and will put my biscuits up against anybody’s.
Heat your oven first.
Since you have yogurt, it’s a fine substitute for buttermilk. It means you will still need to add baking soda to counter the acidity. Or mix milk with the yogurt for easier measuring.
I mix the dry ingredients in a bowl with a whisk, then dump them in the food processor.
Make sure the oven is up to temp prior to adding the fat and dairy.
The butter must be cold*, as should the dairy. Cut the butter into about 1/2 inch cubes and add to the dry ingredients. Pulse the processor 3-4 times to reduce the butter to about pea-sized. Add the dairy all at once and pulse just until it’s all combined. It will be a very sticky dough.
Dump it out onto a floured work surface and gently, but quickly, pat it down with your fingers to about an inch thick. Fold it into thirds and pat it down again. Repeat two more times. This distributes the butter throughout. The final pat-down should be about 3/4" thick.
Cut with a floured cutter, taking care not to twist the cutter while doing so. Place the biscuits on parchment paper (if you have it) on a cookie sheet and bake for 12 minutes. Yields about six biscuits.
*When the cold butter bits heat up, the water in them releases bursts of steam, which accounts for much of the flakiness of the biscuits.
Mmmm, looks good. I don’t think I want to bother with the food processor. Using it (taking it out, setting it up, cleaning it, taking the pieces out of the dishwasher and letting them finish drying on a rack, and then putting the whole mess away) is a lot more work than I’m up for. I will cut the fat and flour together with my pastry cutter and mix in the liquid either with my hands or a spatula.
Yeah, a round cutter like a cookie cutter. But some people make square biscuits and I imagine you could use a sharp knife. Just try not to overwork the cut edges.
As for the cutting in of the butter: you’ll need to be quick, because you don’t want the butter to soften too much. It would help if you refrigerate the biscuit dough after you’ve cut the butter and dairy in manually, perhaps for 15 minutes to firm it up again. Then do the folding.
When I do rolled biscuits, I do square ones about half the time. Disadvantage: they’re not as adorable. Advantage: you end up with fewer scraps. Of course you can rework the scraps and cut new biscuits, but every iteration leads to tougher final biscuits.
I definitely second the food processor recommendation. For drop biscuits, cutting the butter in until it’s thoroughly combined (so you’ve got crumb texture) is great. For rolled biscuits, those pea-sized lumps are key to flaky texture.
Chefguy, that recipe looks pretty similar to what I do. I’m interested that you pat instead of roll. That gets you a more tender texture, right? And enormous biscuits, like fast-food sized? I tend to make them smaller, like fancy southern lady serving ham biscuit appetizer sized, but mostly because my kids will eat them all, and having more smaller biscuits makes them happier than one giant one.
The “floured cutter no twist” bit is more important than I used to think, puzzlegal. Basically, you want the cut to be as clean as possible. If you press the edges down, it’ll seal them, and the biscuits won’t rise as beautifully.
I am renowned for making rock-hard, dry-as-dust biscuits. My mother-in-law made her own homemade Bisquik, using 25 pounds of flour at a time. Her biscuits were so fluffy you had to pull them down from the ceiling to butter them.
I just made biscuits for the first time last weekend. I’d been having a craving for biscuits and gravy since all of my local breakfast places are closed. The recipe I used was a lot like Chefguy’s. One thing that my recipe suggested, though, was putting the butter in the freezer for about 20 minutes and then using a box grater to grate the butter into the flour.
For a first timer, they turned out OK. I flattened the dough a little too much so I got nine biscuits instead of six, and all we had for milk was (gasp!) 2%.
I can only tell you what I’ve learned from experience. Basically: the less handling, the better. The end result from what I do has plenty of layers. Not to say that rolling wouldn’t produce that as well, but I have to believe that it would require refrigeration prior to baking.
Hey, Shoeless: my only quarrel with grating the butter is the same as above with the rolling. Smaller bits tend to get warm very quickly, so you would probably get best results by refrigerating the dough once it’s all mixed together, and perhaps again after the biscuits are cut. I can only go by my results. My biscuits tend to at least double in height when baked, usually more.