Here’s a recipe to keep in your back pocket as we approach the holiday season – really fantastic biscuits. At their best, biscuits are a little bite of heaven. When they aren’t at their best, well, I’d rather skip them. Can you believe the photo above is of gluten-free biscuits? They’re whole grain to boot.
The process to create all of those flaky layers is similar to what you would use to make croissants. That is, roll out the dough, fold it into thirds, refrigerate and repeat several times. The dough, specifically the butter in the dough, needs to remain cold throughout the whole process, so as it’s baked the steam from the cold butter will create lots of yummy little air pockets. I am so encouraged by the success of the gluten-free biscuits that I will no doubt attempt gluten-free croissants this year. You might remember the whole grain croissants I made last year for Christmas. Yeah, I can’t wait for those again. If you aren’t really into gluten-free then use wheat flour. The recipe works both ways since it’s a perfect biscuit ratio.
Regardless of the flour you use, I would encourage you try using cultured butter. What is cultured butter? It’s butter made with cream that has been slightly fermented (aka “soured”) before churning. It’s commonly found in Europe whereas the majority of the butter we use in America is sweet cream. Sweet cream butter has a very fresh flavor just like fresh cream, obviously, since that is what it’s made of. Likewise, cultured butter has somewhat of a tangy taste (in a good way, I promise) like sour cream or yogurt. In fact, it’s exactly like sour cream or yogurt since both of those are…cultured! So, why use cultured butter?
1. It tastes better. I think A LOT better. It’s taken the flavor of my baking over the top even though some say the tangy flavor bakes off. I don’t think so.
2. It’s easier to digest since through the fermentation process the lactose has already been broken down. Butter has very little lactose to begin with, but cultured butter is even better in this regard.
3. I like what it does to the texture of my baked goods, particularly gluten-free. It’s said to make baked goods a little more dense, which is just what gluten-free needs. In fact, I think I’m a genius for figuring this out.
Joking aside, I had a crisis on my hands last month. I’ve always used, by complete accident, cultured butter in my gluten-free cookie dough that I sell through Everyday Organic Cookery. I continued using it, because I ordered such a large quantity of it but planned to discontinue use after I ran out. I just looked at it as it wasn’t hurting the dough. I didn’t realize it was perfecting the dough. When I finally ran out of it I went to Costco to buy much cheaper organic sweet cream butter. I ruined over 40 dozen cookies by switching the butter and, worst of all, it was at the least convenient time. I had a big order to fulfill and all I had was ridiculously flat and tasteless cookies to offer. They were not my amazing, soft and chewy cookies at all.
Since then I have been doing more research and experimenting and I have to say that I am 100% sold on cultured butter now. You can get it at Hy-Vee in the Health Market. I mention that, because Hy-Vee was kind enough to order a case for me and turn it around in one day when I so desperately needed it. I will never make that mistake again! The silver lining is that I found a cheaper source for it through Hy-Vee, though!
So that is my holiday tip for you. If you don’t use cultured butter for baking, at least set it out on the table to slather onto warm bread. Or these biscuits…
I wrote the recipe generically to use “flour”. That can be wheat, whole wheat (whole wheat pastry, preferably), gluten-free all purpose, or any combination of those. If you are using gluten-free flour then you should also use the xantham gum shown as “optional” in the ingredients. If you are using wheat flour then do not use xantham gum. This recipe is adapted from Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking by Michael Ruhlman – highly recommended book, by the way.
9 ounces flour (I used my gluten-free all purpose)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Optional Gluten Free – 1 teaspoon xantham gum
3 ounces frozen butter, diced (I used organic cultured butter)
6 ounces cold buttermilk
Combine the flour, baking powder, xantham gum (if using), salt and butter in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until they form a coarse mixture. With the machine running, slowly pour the buttermilk into the bowl. Stop the machine as soon as a dough forms.
Dump the dough onto a floured surface and press together to form a square. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. After 1 hour, unwrap the dough and place on a floured surface. Roll into a 12 x 18 rectangle. Fold the rectangle into thirds by pulling the shorter towards the center and overlapping one over the other. Re-wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
After 1 hour, repeat that procedure again (roll into a 12×18 rectangle and fold into thirds). Refrigerate 1 more hour for a total of 3 hours (1 hour initially plus 2 hours after folding).
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove from fridge and lightly roll the dough. It needs to be 3/4 inch thick, so it not require any flattening, but the edges may need to be pressed together and sealed. Cut the dough down the middle each way then two more cuts crossways to form 8 equal sized square biscuits. Brush with butter and sprinkle with sea salt, if desired.
Bake for 20 – 30 minutes or until the tops begin to brown. Remove and heat immediately.