If you’ve been around here long, you know of my love for a good biscuit. There is no such thing as too many biscuit recipes (even for a minimalist like myself). There’s a time for flaky layered biscuits and a time for tender buttermilk biscuits. I’ve only just figured out the latter.
This year, we hosted a southern-style Christmas day brunch with our neighbors. I made it my goal to figure out how to make a tender, melt-in-your-mouth biscuit, the kind of biscuit I imagine my mom’s late dad made for her growing up.
The year of the biscuit
This year taught me that it’s good to miss things—your daughter, your husband, your blog, summer produce. I never had the chance to miss Hallie her first two years of life. Mostly because she was glued to my side. Now every time I pick her up from preschool, I get to tell her that I miss her. And I mean it. We’re in a sweet spot in our relationship. I’m doing the same with this space—signing off and going AWOL on weekends and holidays. Because missing something is more productive than burnout. I’ve missed this space.
2016 also taught me that it’s ok, maybe important, to take care of yourself too. So I bought a new hairdryer and started attending to my locks. Though I’m not sure what to do with this new color growing on my head. 2017 may be the year of hair dye. I worked out regularly, swallowed vitamins, and can now button my jeans without a struggle. I even read a whole book in its entirety. A couple weeks ago a friend said, “You seem so relaxed.” I told her it was because I had completed my deadlines for the year, which was true. But I think it’s a result of taking better care of myself.
2016 also taught me that in order to take care of yourself, you have to understand yourself. Would you ever guess that a designer who likes bright white clean spaces has a lot of needs? Me neither. I didn’t like realizing that about myself. I’m particular. It’s part of what makes me a decent designer and recipe developer. It’s also part of what makes me crazy. I’ve also learned that understanding your needs doesn’t mean yielding to all of them. It’s just important to know how the hard drive is wired.
A biscuit worth talking about
Finally, after multiple iterations, this year also taught me how to make (another) great buttermlik biscuit recipe. These biscuits are the perfect buttery, flaky companion to any slather of jam or dollop of honey. Or, you can go savory and pile atop a fried egg, bacon, and slice of cheese for a biscuit egg and cheese sandwich.
I ordered White Lily Flour for the occasion after hearing so many southern biscuit makers swear by it and used Local Milk’s Buttermilk Biscuit recipe as the base. Even when using the highest fat buttermilk I could get my hands on (2%), my biscuits ended up more tough than tender. Though, every pastry made with buttermilk ends up tough in my kitchen. (The common denominator is me.) I decided to try a combination of buttermilk and heavy cream to help my cause. It upped the fat content just enough to take away the toughness of the biscuit without muting the tang of the buttermilk.
In the words of Kev, “They’re jam good.” And maybe one of the best things to come out of 2016 besides comfortably buttoning my jeans. If I learned anything last year, it’s this. If you understand how to take care of yourself, you’ll take even better care of others. Kev, the child psychologist, would sum this up in one word, boundaries. To 2017, we’d like to take better care of you. As for Hal, she’d like to eat more biscuits and get in a couple more swings.
Tender, melt-in-your-mouth buttermilk biscuits adapted from Local Milk. These biscuits come together with minimal ingredients. Because of that, it’s important to use the best ingredients you can find. I’ve listed the brands I prefer for this recipe. A general rule for biscuits: keep everything cold and work the dough as gently as possible. You can manage this by working quickly.
Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into tablespoons and add into the flour mixture. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until pea-sized. In a measuring cup, measure out the buttermilk and heavy cream. If using a lower fat buttermilk, adjust the proportions to use a bit more heavy cream. (The liquids should still measure 1 cup.) Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the liquid mixture. Using a large pastry fork or spoon, gently stir together until a shaggy mass forms. The dough is more wet than it is dry.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Add a bit of flour to your hands and gently press the dough into a rectangle (about 8″ x 5″). Use enough flour to keep things from sticking and no more. The goal is to add as little additional flour as possible. Using a pastry bench, cut the dough in half. Slide the pastry bench beneath and stack the two. Repeat. Gently press the dough out once more until about 1.5″ thick. Using a 3″ (or so) biscuit cutter, press straight down without a twisting motion to cut out the biscuits. Place on a baking sheet. Repeat and place additional biscuits close to one another so that they’ll rub shoulders while baking. Stack the leftover dough making sure the layers are parallel. Gently press out again and cut until most of the dough has been used.
Using the tiny bit of liquid left in the measuring cup (add a little cream if the cup is dry), lightly brush the tops of the biscuits. Bake for 12-15 minutes until the tops are golden and the sides look baked through. Serve warm.
To reheat, preheat oven to 350°. Get a paper towel damp. Place on the top of the biscuits and wrap completely with foil. Bake until warm. The damp paper towel will keep the biscuit from drying out.
*I’ve made these biscuits using regular all-purpose flour as well. It yields a slightly tougher biscuit compared to the White Lily. A tablespoon less of flour might help solve this issue, though barely noticeable.
Could I use cake flour instead of the white lilly flour?
I’m just getting my bearings with all the different flours and trying to understand when to use what when.
I have cake flour on hand right now at home.
I haven’t tried this, so I can’t say for certain. But I saw someone mention in a forum to use half cake flour and half all-purpose to get closer towards White Lily. Let me know how it goes if you try it!
Yum! Tried your recipe and did two things different: grated a frozen half stick of butter (not sure where I read this one but it worked beautifully) and mixed with my hand and formed the biscuits by scooping out a portion and forming it by hand (floured). This part I got from the episode of A Chef’s Life (PBS) on buttermilk. Awesome episode and it now has me on a quest to either find or learn how to make whole milk buttermilk. Thanks for this recipe – the biscuits where the best I’ve ever made!
I grew up in the Midwest, but both my parents were Southern born and bred, so I grew up eating and enjoying country-style cooking. I’m a biscuit-eater from way back!
My husband does most of the cooking in our home. He’s tried many biscuit recipes through the years and some have been pretty good. I showed him yours and he was anxious to try it. Well, he made a small batch (in case we weren’t so impressed!) this weekend and has pronounced that he’s finally found “the one”. I agree! Perfection! Thank you for sharing!
Here’s to a relaxed 2017! Thank for the flour suggestion for these, love biscuits and just figured you’d need to have some southern roots to make them work, so nice inspiration to give this biscuit recipe a shot for a non-southerner!
Cheers to 2017 and more biscuits!
So I’ve just today discovered your blog! I, too, live in MN but south of you in New Prague. I’m going back and reading your blog. You mention various products – Dave’s Killer Bread – for one. I did see that when I clicked it, I was able, with a little search, to find where it’s sold. However, there are other products that you name and I can’t find a local place. Is it possible for you to start telling us where you buy these things?
Hey Jo! Thanks for saying hi! I don’t always post where I buy things because it can vary so much between region and state. We do a lot of shopping at our co-op and Costco. Our co-op carries certain varieties of Dave’s Killer Bread. Our Costco also carries it. It comes in a pack of two. Their bread freezes really well! I’ve heard it’s at Target too but I haven’t seen it at the ones we frequent. Let me know whenever you have a specific question! For specialty, shelf-stable items I often use amazon prime now rather than running all over town like I used to.
Do you have any high altitude suggestions? The one time I tried to make biscuits they were a huge failure. I live at ~5000 ft,
I don’t have any high altitude baking experience, I’m sorry! We almost moved to Denver a couple years ago and I was scared to death.
Somehow I’m southern and haven’t ever made biscuits with White Lily flour, even though I know better! Okay, clearly I need to do some seriously soul-searching. Watch out 2017!
P.S. Loved your guest spot on a couple of books podcast… I’m from MN too and it was a great reminder to slow down and enjoy these months indoor.
There’s nothing wrong with being particular :] Love, love, love your content – blog, instagram, everything.
Wow! They look delicious. Thanks for sharing this
Best wishes for this new year from BuzzyCircles
Thank you so much for sharing what looks and sounds like a special and delicious recipe. Love your blog, you have amazing talent.
I wish I had the patience for biscuits/pastry, I had tried so many times only to fail. Perhaps I should try this recipe. I completely agree with self care, it makes me a better mom and wife. Thanks.
Let me know if you end up giving these a try!
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and missing someone / something is such a bittersweet feeling… I rarely take time away from my blog, which is probably why it feels overwhelming sometimes. I feel inspired to try out a little space, though.
Thank you so much for sharing your recipe! I bought what I needed yesterday and made a batch this morning. They are so light and tender with just the right amount of tang. I usually make scratch made buttermilk biscuits and they’re pretty good but using your technique for working, or shall I say not working, the busciuts definitely makes a difference. Also my first time using White Lily flour, it’s so light! Thanks again!
Yay yay yay! I’ve watched and made so many biscuit recipes over the years. It’s taken so long to arrive here at tender. But we make it!
My store in Colorado is now selling White Lily! I may even have bought some but was waiting for a good biscuit recipe. Now I’m dieting. ??
White Lily really is bomb. I made them with regular flour while out of town and they just weren’t the same. I think backing off the amount of reg flour might help a little.
Sorry! Melissa, not Martha!
This post literally brought tears to my eyes and pointed out something that I’ve been struggling with for quite some time. I need to take better care of myself. I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to do that, but thanks for the inspiration and spark, Martha.
I feel you! It took me so long to realize such a simple answer. And you’re right, the implementation is so hard. I had to adjust the old way I did things, like workout times. I’d do a 45 minute workout I used to do but then never attempt it again for weeks because of the amount of time. 30 minute workouts are a sweet spot for us right now. I work out and Hal watches Daniel Tiger. I had to experiment with lots of things to find a new but better normal. Like my hair. How can I possibly have semi-put-together hair without spending time everyday on it? I hope you get to carve out more time for yourself this year!
I can’t wait to try making these! One of my 2017 goals is to become a better baker – I know how to experiment in the kitchen with cooking (add some more of this or more of that) but baking has always eluded me unless I follow the recipe exactly. Seems like I need more practice and this is a great one to try! 🙂
Also, I completely agree that self care needs to be a bigger priority for many. You can’t take care of others properly unless you’re all good in the first place. Glad to know the effort has paid off for you this past year!
Yum! Those look so light & fluffy!
I can’t tell you how much I relate to this too, boundaries and self care are so so important! For me, it’s been a change from what I want to do (going with the flow) to what I feel like I should be doing. Disconnecting and maybe just taking a break once in a while does wonders for body and mind 🙂 Plus, there are never enough biscuits! xo