One of my husband’s all-time favorite breakfasts is biscuits and gravy. It’s something we generally reserve for special occasions because - let’s face it - we’re not farmers who work a field all day and require or deserve a 2,000-calorie breakfast on a regular basis.
If we’re being honest, my husband is really the better gravy-maker of the two of us — lumps see him coming and make themselves scarce. When it comes to the biscuits, however, he’d be happy with the recipe on the back of the Bisquick box, while I steadfastly insist on an all-from-scratch approach.
Buttermilk biscuits are the gold standard, but I very rarely have buttermilk on hand. We kept powdered buttermilk around for a while, but, once opened, it simply took up too much of my all-too-scant refrigerator real estate. I’d usually improvise by adding lemon juice or vinegar to plain milk, or using plain milk to thin out a little yogurt. These techniques can all produce results almost identical to using buttermilk, though my tendency to wing it with the measurements has gotten me in trouble more than a couple of times.
So for my husband’s special breakfast this Father’s Day, I wanted to develop a simpler, more streamlined recipe that would let me skip the buttermilk and buttermilk approximations altogether.
Buttermilk biscuits typically require a combination of baking powder and baking soda to achieve the proper acid/base balance for optimal leavening. Since my biscuits would lack buttermilk’s acidic kick, I left out the soda (a base) and relied solely on double-acting baking powder (an acid-and-base mix activated by water-based liquids and heat).
The results were buttery, fluffy, and delicious.
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp double-acting baking powder
1 ½ tsp kosher salt
2 tsp sugar
8 tbsp butter (preferably cultured), cut into ½-inch pieces and placed in freezer for 10-30 minutes, plus 1-2 tbsp melted (for brushing the tops of the biscuits)
1 to 1 ¼ cups whole milk
Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place another large piece of parchment paper on the counter for shaping and wrapping the dough and sprinkle very lightly with flour. In a medium-to-large mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Use a pastry cutter (or two knives, forks, or a food processor) to “cut in” the butter, repeatedly pressing or slicing the butter into the flour until the largest slivers or chunks of butter are no larger than very small peas. Slowly pour one cup of milk into the flour mixture and use a wooden spoon or silicone “spoonula” to gently incorporate, just until the dough comes together, adding the remaining ¼ cup of milk only as needed. The dough should not be wet or overly sticky. It should be a little scrappy looking. Turn the dough out onto the prepared parchment paper. Lightly flour your hands and use them to gently pat the dough into a one-inch-tall rectangle, approximately 8”x6”. Gently wrap the rectangle up in the parchment and freeze for 5-10 minutes.
Use a sharp pizza cutter to cut the chilled dough into 8 (approximately 2”x3”) rectangles. Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet, brush the tops gently with half of the melted butter, and bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes or until puffed up and lightly golden. Gently brush the tops with the remaining butter, and serve with your favorite accompaniments. Makes 8 beautiful biscuits. Leftover biscuits may be cooled completely and stored in a zip-top bag or well-sealed container at room temperature for up to two days. Reheat leftover biscuits in a 350-degree oven for 5 minutes for best results.
Morgan Crumm is a mother, blogger, recipe-developer, and real-food advocate based in Dallas, TX. More of her work can be found at BeingTheSecretIngredient.com, a blog about food, life, and love.
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