Top Five Unexpected Biscuit Lessons Learned [So Far]

All of the biscuit baking and tasting and studying over the past few months has been quite enlightening. Lately, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned along the way.biscuits

There are many sites, articles, cookbooks, and blogs that will teach you the basics of biscuit baking, so I decided to share my slightly less traditional advice. Without further ado, here are my top five favorite, but unexpected, lessons learned [so far].

  1. Frozen, pre-grated butter. First of all, if you grate frozen butter, you really have to do very little to “cut it in” or incorporate it into the dry ingredients. Second, you can pre-grate it and store it in batches. The next time you make biscuits and get out the grater and frozen butter, grate a lot of extra butter, divide it up into 1/4 or 1/2 cup portions (measure before grating for accuracy) and throw it back into the freezer for the next time you bake biscuits. The last time I made biscuits, I used butter that I had pre-grated and it was a revelation. It made the whole process so easy and fast.grated butter
  2. Rectangles and squares are good. Who said round biscuits are better? Don’t believe them! Think about it. One of the traditional recommendations for biscuit baking is to not overwork the dough. So when you flatten the dough into one big rectangle and use a pastry scraper or knife to cut it into squares or rectangles, there are no leftover scraps. Therefore you are only “rolling” out the dough once. And those weird, last, misshaped biscuits formed from the remaining cutout scraps are all but eliminated.Pesto Parmesan Biscuit Dough
  3. Parchment paper rocks. I have learned to love parchment paper. It is the perfect venue for baking biscuits (or just about anything else) and can usually guarantee that the freshly baked items will release easily. I keep a roll of it on hand at all times now. Remember that wax paper and parchment paper are not the same.
  4. Cut where you cook. I think the best advice is often the thing that makes you say, “Well, duh! Of course!” Put the just kneaded dough onto the parchment paper, press it out into a rectangle, and cut it into squares right there. No need to cut out and pick up and move each biscuit.

    Sweet Corn Jalapeno Cheddar Biscuit Dough

  5. No fancy tools needed. While I have, and love, a pastry cutter, scraper, mat, and a whole assortment of different shapes and sizes of biscuit cutters, you don’t really need all that. You can cut butter or shortening in with your fingers, knead on your countertop, and cut out the biscuits with a knife or old tin can. Biscuits really are low tech.baking tools
  6. Bonus Item: Freeze raw dough. Everyone knows that the best biscuit is a freshly baked one (regardless of my fondness for toasted leftovers). So cut out all the dough but only bake what you need and freeze the remainder. Then thaw the frozen dough overnight, let it rest at room temp for a few minutes, and bake as directed in your recipe. They may not rise quite as much as the originals, but you still get that great fresh-baked flavor and texture.buffalo blue cheese biscuit dough

Do you have any favorite tips or tricks? Please comment and share!

cheddar herb biscuits

Oh, and if you are still a bit mystified by the basics of baking a good biscuits, here are a few references you might find useful.

  • This is a video of Sean Brock, the famed chef/founder of Husk in Charleston and the newly-opened Husk Nashville. I really like how you can see how he works the dough. It looks so soft and light as he is turning it and incorporating the buttermilk.
  • This blogger provides a wonderful list of the traditional suggestions for biscuit making.
  • Finally, White Lilly, the biscuits flour of all biscuit flours, provides their own tips here.

Now go grate some butter, make some biscuits, and share them with someone you love!

lovely biscuits

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Chemo and Biscuits

When I was being treated for breast cancer a couple of years ago, chemotherapy did a number on my taste buds. It was like having bad “cotton mouth” for weeks on end. But I still had an appetite of sorts, because they give you really good medicines to counteract potential nausea. Food still smells good, but then you taste it and . . .ugh. Not so good. For whatever reason, I found that I craved biscuits. Not fresh baked biscuits, but the toasted leftovers.

Toasted Biscuits

I remember when I was a little girl my mother used to buy these par-baked biscuits. They came in a little rectangular pan and were small. Maybe 1 ½ inches square. Mom would heat them up for breakfast. At the next meal, she would toast the leftovers, splitting them in half and putting a little pat of butter on top before they went into the oven. They would come out all crispy and golden and buttery. Wonderful.

Marshall's Buttermilk Biscuits

Marshall’s Buttermilk Biscuits

THEN, the leftovers from toasting would go into a baggie and we would eat those at room temperature later. Now, I don’t know why any biscuits would have lasted long enough to go into that bag. You would think with a family of five, a tray of biscuits would disappear in a heartbeat. I don’t know. But I do know that the leftovers in the baggie were my favorite. They had a crispy, buttery, salty crust, with tender biscuit inside. They kind of crumbled in my mouth with a texture that is different from any other kind of bread or cracker.

Marshall's Buttermilk Biscuits

I don’t think the packaging has changed a bit!

When I began to crave biscuits during chemo, it was for those toasted ones. I found them at the East Nashville Piggly Wiggly, which has become my favorite spot for frozen biscuits.

I know biscuits are not the healthiest food for someone fighting cancer. I do. But I figured that since I was going through chemo I could make some allowances. Besides, I still did not have a great appetite. When I found something I wanted to eat, I did not judge.

More Toasty Goodness

More Toasty Goodness

Want to make your own shards of buttery toasted biscuity goodness? Just split any biscuit in half, spread a generous dollop of butter or margarine on top, and bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Loveless

“Meet me at the Loveless,” he said, and I agreed.

The idea was to meet on his side of town, have brunch, and go on a motorcycle ride. I had only been on a motorcycle once before so it was kind of a big deal.

The Loveless, in case you don’t know, is a Nashville icon. It is actually in a tiny town called Pasquo south of Nashville, but we still claim it as our own. It used to be the Loveless Motel – now it is the Loveless Cafe. They are known for fried chicken and ham and other country cooking, including their famous biscuits. I couldn’t wait.

We met at about 11:30. It was a Sunday. A beautiful fall day. Seemed like a great plan until we realized how packed the Loveless was and that we would never get a table. I stifled my disappointment as we made a quick run to the gas station next door to get BBQ as a substitute. Yes, that is what I said. We went to the gas station to get a BBQ lunch. Gotta love Tennessee.

The ride along the Natchez Trace and surrounding small roads was lovely. He knew I was a little nervous so would pat my hand every now and then while we rode. It was very sweet. We had a little picnic along the way and the BBQ was good. As we were headed home, we stopped at an overlook and marveled at the view. It was a romantic moment, sitting next to each other in the sunshine, warmed by our time together. As he leaned in for a kiss, I pulled back and said, “You owe me a biscuit.”

We both cracked up. It is over a year later and I still have not had a biscuit from the Loveless. He now says we won’t go to eat there until I move to his side of town. I have to admit – it IS an incentive. He did bend the rules slightly and buy me a bag of their mix so that I could make my own biscuits. The mix is pretty good, but I’m holding out for the real thing. He still owes me a biscuit.

Nice, but not the same as a biscuit.

Nice, but not the same as a biscuit.

The Obsession

Welcome to the Persnickety Biscuit!

Here you will find an exploration of all things BISCUIT! For those of you from “across the pond,” note that I am talking about the quintissential southern biscuit from the United States. A savory treat, not a sweet one. [Well, that does depend somewhat on the biscuit, but I’m getting ahead of myself.]

What started this fascination of mine? Was it the motorcycle ride where the expectation of a biscuit with brunch was denied? Was it those buttery toasted biscuit halves that I enjoyed when I was going through chemo? Or was it that trip to Asheville and the sublime fresh biscuit goodness at Tupelo Honey Cafe?

Who knows what really drives an obsession. I’m sure it is part flavor, part history, part experience. All those things and more create an emotional connection. Yes, I said that, an emotional connection to biscuits. Bear with me. This is just the beginning of the Persnickety Biscuit. For the full story, or stories, you will need to delve a little further into the site.

I make no promises here of regular posting, flawless photos, or even step-by-step recipes. All I know is, the biscuit deserves some attention and I plan to take care of that.