Sarah's Biscuits

Sarah's Biscuits

Happy New Year, friends!  We have just come home from our annual New Year's eat-fest with Bethany and Chris.  There are lots of little traditions we keep, and one of them is biscuits in the morning.  Bethany says she's become the local Biscuit Queen in Bellingham, with people begging, "Can you make Sarah's biscuits?"  I told her she can definitely call them Bethany's Biscuits at this point.

I have been making these biscuits for at least fifteen years, and they're my most requested item from friends and family.  I have no idea where the actual recipe is since it's been in my head for so long, but I think it came from Cooks Illustrated.  There's nothing novel in the ingredients.  The magic is in the handling of the dough, how it's folded over onto itself to make flaky layers. I'm miserable  at tutorials, but you'll see I've attempted one here.

late breakfast on New Year's Day

4 1/2 years ago, I missed the home birth of Bethany's daughter because I stopped to get bagels on the way--or, more specifically, bialys from The Bagelry with pimento cream cheese.  I made biscuits and eggs to make up for it, and no one has ever been as appreciative as Bethany was, eating in bed while the midwife fluttered around.  I remember standing in the kitchen, my hands covered with flour, and hearing Pippa's newborn cry.  My favorite biscuit memory, for sure.

Just last night, my Mom called me from their vacation rental to ask for this recipe.  We have a running joke about her forgetting it.  One year for Christmas, I made her four laminated, magnetic cards, all with this recipe on it.  I have no idea where they are now.  Now she can find it here.

Sarah's Biscuits
Makes about 8 biscuits.  I've experimented with different kinds of milk, and have even made them with powdered milk once (they turned out great). My favorite, though, is biscuits made with whole milk.  But nonfat, 1%, or 2% work just fine.  Half-and-half or cream aren't recommended.  And a couple more tips--use cold milk and butter; don't overwork the dough; make sure your oven is preheated. Don't use a drinking glass to cut the biscuits--the twisting you need to do to get the dough out will wreck the flakiness. Use a sharp biscuit cutter.  And while these are an obvious choice for breakfast, I make them almost as often to go with soup at night.

2 c. flour
1 Tb. baking powder
1/2 ts. salt
1/2 c. (1 cube) cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
3/4 c. cold milk (whole milk if you have it) + a little more for brushing

Preheat oven to 450.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.  Whisk to combine.

Drop cold butter in flour mixture.  With your fingertips (what I use) or a pastry blender, work in butter it's formed pea-sized lumps in the flour.  Do this as quickly as possible so the butter doesn't get too warm.  Add milk, pouring evenly across the flour mixture, and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.  Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead a couple times until you have a smooth ball.

Now for the rolling-out part.  This is what gives the biscuits their flaky layers (and how you will make a name for yourself.)

  1. With a floured rolling pin on a floured surface, roll your ball of dough into a rectangle, about 6" x 11" and about 3/4" thick.
  2. Turn the rectangle around so you're standing parallel to the long end.  Fold the short ends of the rectangle in toward the middle.
  3. Now take the folded rectangle and fold the whole thing down toward you.
  4. Roll that dough out into a rectangle again, and cut biscuits.  Take scraps, do the same procedure, and cut biscuits out of that.


biscuit tutorial

Arrange in a pie plate, close together, brush tops with a bit of milk, and bake for about 15 minutes, until tops are golden brown and insides aren't doughy. You definitely don't want to overbake them, but underbaked are just as bad.

Serve with butter and jam and don't call them "Sarah's Biscuits."  Call them  yours.