The family biscuit recipe, perfected by three generations of fine biscuit makers and one persistent food blogger. The secret ingredient? One egg.
"WOW. You.Nailed.It." ~ My #1 Biscuit Taster
"... best biscuits in the entire history of my LIFE." ~ Jackson, age 6
"... best biscuits in the whole WORLD!" ~ Jerome, age 6, not to be outdone by his twin brother
"... pleased with the outcome." ~ Pat Y.
"It's a regular biscuit factory around here." So noticed My #1 Biscuit Taster a couple of weeks ago when the umpteenth batch of biscuits emerged from the oven.
You see, I come from a family of biscuit makers. My mom's biscuits were heavenly. My sister's biscuits – well, let's just say that if our mom were still around, it'd be a biscuit-toss between the two of them.
But me? Until now, my biscuits have been passable but unexceptional. For longer than I've kept notes, I experimented with one recipe after another, one trick after another, one flour after another.
Enter a biscuit challenge from Quirk Books, whose Making Dough: Recipes and Ratios for Perfect Pastries by Russell Van Kraayenburg will publish this week. There's even a short video!
And I took the challenge! Seize the moment, I told myself, to finally tackle biscuits.
First up? The master biscuit recipe from Making Dough, a fine-fine biscuit if I may say so. My friend Mary, a southerner by birth, agreed. But that recipe calls for a mix of cake flour and bread flour, something I wasn't excited about, I loathe the idea of one more highly processed flour, just to make biscuits.
In desperation, I texted my sister for her recipe. "It's Mom's recipe," she replied, slightly indignant that I'd forgotten. "It's in the family cookbook."
Sure enough, there it was, Mom's biscuit recipe – along with the story that when she and my dad were newlyweds, she made "bride's biscuits," tough, heavy and definitely unappealing even to a handsome young husband eager to be pleased.
If she'd listened to her own mother? She'd have known that an egg, a single simple egg, makes all the difference in biscuits.
So I made Mom's recipe, certain of success. And the egg did make a difference but after four or five slightly different batches, I was still stuck with so-so biscuits.
Back I went to Making Dough, the new cookbook. I decided to employ his flour:butter:liquid ratios to my Mom's recipe. The result? A little more butter, a little less flour. But there was no ignoring three generations of biscuit makers: the egg stayed!
Those first biscuits with the new ratio plus an egg? Wonderful! It took just a couple of more tweaks to finally nail what, to my taste, is the perfect biscuit.
Now by all rights, this is no longer really my mom's recipe. To be precise, it'd be named "My Mom & Russ Van Kraayenburg's Perfect Biscuits". But my mom's in heaven and Russ and I have never even met so I'm playing the Family Card. "Mom's Perfect Biscuits" it is, just a little bit better, thanks to three generations of biscuit makers, Russ and his ratios plus a good measure of personal perseverance.
MOM's PERFECT BISCUITS
Time to table: 35 minutes
Makes 12 biscuits
Step-by-Step Photos & Detailed Instructions
- 6 tablespoons cold salted butter
- 1/2 cup (125g) buttermilk
- 1 large egg
- 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring or 220g
- 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 1 tablespoon salted butter, melted
MISE EN PLACE Place butter in the freezer for the few minutes it takes to gather ingredients and tools. Place oven rack in top third of oven, heat oven to 425F/220C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, whisk buttermilk and egg.
In a large bowl, use a fork to whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and table salt. For good measure, stir it again a time or two.
Work quickly from now until biscuits go into the oven. Set a box grater on wax paper, grate (albeit briefly) frozen butter on the large holes.
Turn grated butter into large bowl of dry ingredients, toss lightly with a large fork until butter pieces are fully coated with a light layer of flour; if needed, use your fingers to separate large clumps of butter.
Turn buttermilk-egg mixture into flour-butter mixture. Use the large fork to gently combine until most of the flour mixture has been dampened.
Lightly dust a work surface with flour, turn biscuit dough onto the counter. Gently knead four or five times, forming a neat dough package.
Use a rolling pin to roll dough out until large enough to cut seven or eight or even nine biscuits. Use a biscuit cutter to cut out the biscuits, arrange on the baking sheet, leaving room between for some spreading.
Stack the scraps two layers deep, roll this out and cut out two or three more biscuits. Repeat as needed.
Bake biscuits for 10 minutes or until crispy and golden.
Remove from oven, brush biscuit tops with butter, then return to the oven for one more minute.
Serve hot from the oven but these biscuits will keep for two or three days, not that they'll last, if you know what I mean ...
What's Your Idea of the Perfect Biscuit?
My #1 Biscuit Tester's idea of the perfect biscuit? Any biscuit, perfect or otherwise, so long as it's hot out of the oven, ready to melt butter and turn honey runny. Ha! He's got a point!
But biscuit batch after biscuit batch, I learned what it takes, to my taste, to call Mom's Biscuits "Perfect". In my book, the perfect biscuit is:
Tender with break-apart layers
Buttery & slightly salty
Golden-crisp on the top and bottom
Sturdy enough for mini biscuit sandwiches
Made from pantry ingredients
A real biscuit, not a soft dinner roll, not a sweet scone
Just like Mom's!
But tastes vary! We may share the same taste for biscuits but maybe we don't. What's your idea of the perfect biscuit?
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