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.

Mystery Biscuit

I didn’t plan for it to happen. We were actually thinking of going hiking. Then there were biscuits. And the Piggly Wiggly. IMG_0670

Ok, wait, let me start at the beginning. We were away for the weekend in an area called the Cumberland Plateau. On Saturday we’d gone on a lovely hike to Greeter Falls, one of my favorite places. On Sunday, we figured out where the trailhead was for the waterfall that the cabin owners had said was a “must see.” It was in the town of Gruetli-Laager, TN.

Now, I used to spend a lot of time in this area of Tennessee and the only thing I knew about Gruetli-Laager is that they have a Piggly Wiggly. So as we drove and the rain started coming down, I thought to myself, “At least we can go to the Piggly Wiggly.”

I put the Piggly Wiggly into the map on my phone and watched our progress. We slowly got closer but it seemed to take longer than expected. At one point, I thought I saw a few buildings ahead and cried out, “We’re almost there!”

“Where?!” he said, excitedly.

“I don’t know, but we must be getting close to something!” And we laughed.IMG_0671

Anyway, hiking was definitely out of the question, but the Piggly Wiggly was open and warm and dry. We perused the shelves, marveling at the humongous (truly) cans of turnip greens and various cuts of meat we had never seen anywhere before.

Then we saw them. It was a very simple package. Easy to miss if you did not know what you were looking for. Just a stack of frozen biscuits in a plastic bag. The most basic of nutritional info and no other labeling whatsoever. No brand. Not even a distributor location. I had to get them.IMG_0655

The next weekend I baked some of them up. That’s how you say it, you know. “Bake them up.” Just look at how they turned out! IMG_0663

Those simple little disks rose into these fabulous fluffy, tasty biscuits! Amazing.IMG_0664

The next day, I did the toasted biscuit test. I slathered them in butter and baked them for about 15 minutes at 400 degrees. They just browned a little at the edges. I put some Maple Cinnamon Button on one of them. Ahhh. Look how yummy. IMG_0678I have to admit, though, that they were not as good as I had hoped when they had cooled later that day. But I have some other biscuits that are perfect as leftover, leftover toasted biscuits. But that’s a post for another day.