The Flakiest, Most Buttery Biscuits

Kelly, Kerry, Bailey, Shauna, and I traveled up to Tahoe last month, a car full of high spirits heading into gloomy clouds. What had first been conceptualized as a beach trip soon turned into a few days caught in winter’s last hurrah. The cabin we stayed in was a bit of a let-down, but we soon made it feel like our own with a day full of laughter, lots of talking, and plenty of hot chocolate.

After a first night of little sleep, Bailey and I woke quite early. I padded down the 70s-carpeted stairs before anyone else, and my heart lifted at the sight just outside the window—the world had been painted white overnight. Silent flakes careened down to join fluffy piles on the ground and in the trees—everything looked as if it had been doused with a hefty sprinkling of powdered sugar. Bailey joined me on the porch, our feet crunching where we stepped, flakes catching in our hair. We enjoyed a silence only snow can bring, as if every plant and animal was holding its breath in wonder. We whispered, not wanting to break the chilly spell.

The snow melted quickly the next day, apart from the mountains. We lived mostly off of chicken-avocado sandwiches and eggs, and it was just what we wanted. The one food-related request that I did not fulfill was making biscuits—it would have been a bit more trouble than it was worth without my staple pantry ingredients. If I had been at home (or better prepared), I would have made them in a heartbeat.

Biscuits are one of those things that everyone loves, but not a lot of people think to make them. I bake them (maybe too) often, serving them slathered with butter and honey alongside soup, or sliced in half to sandwich eggs and bacon with garlicky collard greens on the side. My mom rarely overeats, knowing her limits with baked goods well, but recently she ate three in one sitting—they’re that amazing. Incredibly flaky, comforting, and buttery, they’re almost too good to stop eating (just as Mom found out).

I started making eggs and bacon biscuit sandwiches this past Valentine’s Day, when Jonji and I only saw each other for dinner. I didn’t have time to make anything fancy, but biscuit sandwiches sounded indulgent enough. Needless to say, they were absolutely delicious, and we fell in love with them. I now make them every now and then, when I want something exciting but relatively quick to whip up on a work night. Freeze uncooked biscuits for an even quicker turnaround.

Note: these biscuits use a food processor to speed things up, but if you don’t have one or don’t want to use the machine feel free to rub the butter into the flour the old-fashioned way.

The Flakiest, Most Buttery Biscuits
makes 1 dozen

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar

2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 cup plus 1/4 cup cold buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line one or two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Using a food processor, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Add the cubes of butter and pulse until the butter chunks are roughly the size of peas (err on the side of bigger chunks, rather than fully incorporated).

Transfer the flour and butter mixture to a large bowl. Add the buttermilk in small amounts, stirring with a fork. If the mixture is still a little dry after 1 cup of buttermilk, continue to add more (up to 1/4 cup) until the dough comes together but isn’t wet. When in doubt, do not over mix—it’s ok for it to be pretty scraggly at this point, since you will be working it more in the next step. (In biscuits and pie dough, larger pieces of butter create flakiness when they melt in the oven, so always work the dough as little as possible to retain those butter pockets and subsequent flakes.)

Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and press it into a rough, 1-inch thick square. Using a bench scraper or a knife, cut the square into four quarters. Stack these smaller squares on top of one another and then press down hard. Pat into a 1-inch thick rectangle. Slice into 12-15 rectangular pieces (or use a biscuit cutter to stamp out rounds).

Arrange the uncooked biscuits on your lined baking tray(s). Freeze for 10 minutes*. If you’d like to go the extra mile, brush the tops with melted butter, but I sometimes skip that step without consequence.

Bake in the oven for 20–25 minutes, until golden brown. If you have two trays, rotate them from top to bottom halfway through baking. Enjoy!

*At this point you can seal them in a plastic bag for later. When you go to bake them, no need to defrost—simply add 5 minutes to the baking time.

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