Breakfast is my favorite meal, which is strange as I don’t care very much for eggs. I think the carbs are what I like, but those are not good in abundance, so I don’t make a hot breakfast but once or twice a week. Biscuits are a breakfast food I like, but most recipes call for shortening, which I really, really don’t like! I finally found a recipe online a while ago for a non-shortening biscuit, but have tweaked over the last few months to make what I think are pretty darn good biscuits.
These biscuits are great in the morning (or, ahem, Saturday lunch) with butter and jam or sausage gravy. They are also good along some supper options in place of potatoes as a starch. Either way, if you’ve been hoping for a biscuit recipe without shortening, but with real, true butter, then I hope you’ll give this one a go!
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. white granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter
3/4 cup milk
First, pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees (F). I know, that’s pretty hot. And yes, it’ll heat up your kitchen, which is why I suggest getting up and having breakfast early if you want to make biscuits. Or suffer through the heat for more sleep, like I did today.
Combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and cream of tartar) in a medium-sized bowl.
Chop the cold butter into small cubes with a sharp knife. I cut in thirds length-wise down the stick, then rotate it and cut in thirds again length-wise down the stick to get 9 long strips of butter. Then, I turn it and chop off the short end forming about 1/4-inch cubes.
Add the butter to the dry ingredients, separating the cubes as much as possible without melting them. Then, cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender until the butter is in small, pea-sized chunks throughout the dry ingredients.
Add the milk and stir together until the dough pulls mostly from the sides of the bowl. It will be sticky and a bit wet–don’t add more flour! If you’ve ever made pizza dough, this loose dough will look familiar to you.
Flour your hands and use them to knead the dough inside the bowl. It will stick to your hands a little, but trust me, it will come together eventually. You can add very small amounts of flour (maybe teaspoonfuls) to keep it off the sides of the bowl, but don’t add more than a tablespoon to the dough.
Shape the dough into a log for easy eyeballing of biscuits. This lump should make 8 good-sized biscuits. I use my fingers to pinch the dough in half, then each half in half, and each quarter in half again. Taking one of these eighths in your hand, roll it in your palm to form a loose ball, then flatten slightly to about 1/2 inch thick. Lay this against the side of a non-greased glass pie pan (about 9″ diameter will suffice). I’ve gotten the best results by using a glass pie pan for this instead of my cast-iron skillet or a cookie sheet. And there’s no need to grease the pan due to the amount of butter in the dough. They won’t stick, I promise.
Continue in this way forming biscuits and placing them in the pan. You should get 7 around the outside and one in the middle. If you need to, squish up the biscuits around the edge to make room for the last one. It’s OK for them to be pressed together this way–they will cook nicely. You don’t need to butter the tops or anything like that. They will brown in the oven on their own. Remember, they have a LOT of butter in them already!
Place them in the oven on the center rack and set the timer for 13 minutes. After 13 minutes, check the biscuits. They will probably need 15-17 minutes, but once they begin to darken, it happens quickly, so I advise you to check them often in the last couple of minutes. They are ready to take out when the tops are golden brown and crispy and they are firm to the touch. If you press the center biscuit and it “gives” and makes an indentation, then leave them in for a few more minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool about 5 minutes before serving.
They should have crispy outsides that are golden brown and centers that are dense, but fluffy. They should hold together well when you remove them from the pan, not fall apart. If they fall apart, then you probably added too much flour to them during the kneading process. They will also become crumbly if they rise too much, which is caused by using self-rising or bread flour in place of all-purpose flour.
I didn’t get a photo of the biscuit opened up, so you’ll have to excuse me. I had to make sausage and eggs to go with this and by the time it was all done, I was ready to eat!!
If you want to make life more difficult for yourself (or if you want evenly shaped biscuits for company), you can knead the dough on a floured surface/counter-top, then roll it out with a rolling pin to about 3/4-inch thick, and then cut nice, round biscuits with a biscuit cutter. Then, place them in the center of a cookie sheet with the edges touching each other (they need support to rise well) and bake. You probably will need to shorten the baking time a little, so keep an eye on them. I’ve found that this is way too much work for just me and my husband.
To be honest, I kind of like the look of oddly shaped biscuits in a circular pan that are unevenly browned because the cook didn’t perfectly center them in the oven. But, to each her own.