“Waste Not Want Not” Buttermilk Biscuits

UPDATE: The original version as posted on the site resulted in biscuits that were super rich, but didn’t rise as high as traditional recipes. A reader – who has asked for no credit here, so my lips are sealed – suggested cutting back the butter from the original full stick to three-quarters of a stick. The difference in results is startling, so I have updated the recipe to include that change. Also, the Nameless Biscuit Guru also suggested letting the cut biscuits rest on the baking sheets at room temperature for about 30 minutes before baking if you possibly can – you will see the biscuits fluff as they sit and you end up with an amazingly light and airy result … exactly what you would expect from legendary biscuits. Thank you, Nameless Guru, thank you.

There are two fundamental truths about buttermilk: You cant make great biscuits without it, and you almost always end up wasting some of the buttermilk. You make biscuits once, maybe twice, whip up a batch of pancakes on the weekend … and when the expiry date comes around there is some left in the carton that ends up down the drain.

Batman may not have these problems, but for lesser mortals like you and I? Definite dilemma.

If you hunt around online you will find people suggesting that you freeze your leftover buttermilk. Sadly, however, the milk separates and never seems to want to completely re-emulsify, leaving you with biscuits that may or may not taste the same but come out semi-flat and with a nasty dry crumble in their texture.

But … what if you get the biscuit structure in place first and then head to the freezer? Better yet, what if while doing that we make sure the amount of buttermilk used is always an even fraction of a whole carton? And what if we do all of that in a recipe that lets you either completely bake the biscuits for eating now or par-bake and freeze them for a quick finish later?

That would be, to put it mildly, awesome. And if we tweak that recipe so that you can make it in a food processor for super easy prep and clean-up? Then, my friends, we move from the realm of “awesome” straight through to “legendary”.

Fresh-baked Biscuits

That’s right … legendary biscuits. Want some? Keep reading.

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You need:

2 + 2/3 cups flour
2 + 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon sugar
3/4 stick (that’s 3/8 cup or 6 tablespoons, if you don’t have sticks) cold unsalted butter
1 cup cold cultured buttermilk

Preheat your oven/barbeque pit/Big Green Egg/whatever floats your boat to 205 degrees C (that’s 400 degrees F) and place either a piece of parchment paper or a Silpat onto your baking sheet.

Cut butter into small cubes – about the size of typical diced carrots that you find in a bag of frozen vegeatables – and chill in freezer for about five minutes. While you wait, whiz together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in your food processor (see “Note About Food Processors” below). Then cut the butter into the dry mixture with pulses – you want the butter to mostly be crumbled in, but a few pea-sized chunks are okay. The cliché here is that the mix should look like coarse sand, and that’s as good of a description as any. Just don’t buzz this until the butter starts to melt and you will be okay.

Now pour your cold buttermilk into the food processor in a steady stream while the processor is running steadily. Let it run after you are done pouring until the dough comes together in a rough ball. Don’t panic here if it seems like it’s not going to come together! It will eventually ball up, it just might take 20 or 30 seconds longer than you think. When the rough ball comes together turn the processor off immediately.

Lightly dust your counter and hands with flour. Gather the dough from the food processor and form it into a rough rectangle, like so:

Biscuits - rough dough

Gently roll out the dough to the thickness of your hand, maintaining the rectangle shape.

Biscuits - rolled dough

Fold one third of the long dimension of the rectangle over:

BENOBEL Biscuits - first fold

Then fold the other third over that to make a three-thickness stack.

Biscuits - second fold

Roll the dough out into the thickness of your hand again, leaving you with a new rectangle. Do the folding in thirds procedure again and roll it out to the hand thickness once more.

Cut out your biscuits with a round cutter, as many as you can get from the rectangle. Gather the scraps of dough into a ball and gently roll that out into another hand-thick piece and cut out as many more biscuits as you can from that. You should end up with about a dozen biscuits. Place the cut biscuits onto your lined baking sheet and if at all possible, let them rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes.

To bake for serving immediately: Cook for 17 minutes until the tops are golden brown and the biscuits are puffed up to at least double their original height. Devour.

To par-bake for freezing: Cake for 12 minutes and then immediately remove them from the oven and let cool completely. The biscuits should be almost fully risen and just starting to pull their sides apart like you see here.

Biscuits - par-baked and ready to freeze

Place the fully cooled biscuits into airtight containers or bags and stash them in the freezer until needed. When you want fresh biscuits, take out as many as you need and let sit for 20 minutes at room temperature while you preheat your oven to 175 degrees C (that’s 350 F). Pop the semi-thawed biscuits on a baking sheet and finish them for 12 minutes.

A Note About Food Processors: I used a food processor because I find it a lot easier for making any sort of pastry or dough. If you want to do it the old-fashioned way with your hands or a pastry cutter, feel free … but I can’t vouch for the results, as I have never tried this particular recipe that way. Also, my food processor came with a dough blade, but if yours did not the regular “chopping” blade should work just fine. Consult your manual. If, you know, you still have it.

A Note About Quantities: You may have noticed that this uses exactly 1/4 or a standard carton of buttermilk. If you want to use up an entire carton of milk in one go, either double the recipe (you will need a largish food processor to do this) and make two batches, or make four batches with the amounts as stated. You can while away part of a Sunday morning doing this and put away 3 or 4 months worth of biscuits that you can have fresh-baked (in any quantity!) whenever you want. It’s a glorious little luxury to have on 20 minutes notice … hot buttermilk biscuits make even the most mundane everyday meals into something special.


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