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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.

Reader Comments (26)

I've been involved in an online discussion about biscuits that has been going on for months now. People have been trying things and then reporting back.

The best tip there is to freeze the butter and then grate it, like cheese, into the flour. It's the perfect size, so you don't need to "smush" it into the flour, and it makes perfectly lovely biscuits.

I haven't tried this method, but everyone who has done it swears by it and never goes back.

January 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterpds

Excellent piece of technical writing and illustration. :)

I learned how to make biscuits when staying with family friends at a farmhouse in Whittier, NC when I was 17. They had a freezer full of pork sausage. Every morning I made biscuits and sawmill gravy. Used shortening back then but since you clued me on butter a couple years ago, I have done that with success.

Thanks for inspiring me to make some more biscuits. Happy new year to the family!

January 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEric

I've only made biscuits a handful of times and I've never been impressed with them, but I think that's because I wasn't handling the dough right. Your folded paper photo is immensely helpful, and I can't wait to try these!

January 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCate

Happy New Year! I'm so happy to see this recipe here. These are the BEST BISCUITS
ever. The paper folding directions are so clarifying. Thank you. xoxo

January 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphyllis

i've been waiting my WHOLE life for this recipe. best new years present EVER...although not sure how they will cohabitate alongside my resolutions. where there's a will, there's a way...

January 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjordan

Ooh, I'll definitely be trying these for breakfast this week! Yum!

January 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKarly

This is a great way to explain the process of laminating the dough. I tried to do so with words alone last month and I think I may have failed miserably. Those biscuits look amazing, by the way!

January 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersweetbird

I made these today -- best biscuits ever! I so enjoy reading this blog!

January 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKay Lynn

I'm going to try making these with your tutorial. Which I visually love by the way. I made these for the prayer breakfast and while good, they were flatter than the ones in your picture.

January 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEm

Hi Sarah! Thanks for your comment on my blog... I'm so glad you're inspired by the photos. That's what it's all about! Your point and shoot photos are great! You got the eye, keep it up! :) And those biscuits! WOW! They look amazing. I'll have to try them.

Take care! :) Amanda

January 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda Mae

I'm here to say the biscuits were even BETTER than they looked....and they look PERFECT. there is nothing more comforting than you in my kitchen making biscuits...and i'm not kidding. it took me a while to figure out how to make them like this, but the biscuit cutters you gave me after last new year's make all the difference. really people...use sharp deep biscuit cutters. don't get the kind that has a lip that forces you to roll them a half inch thick. and, while i may have talked myself and my biscuits up (I blush at the idea of "biscuit queen of bellingham"), these are the real deal.

January 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbethany

Oh, Biscuit Queen of Bellingham. . . .where are you hiding??? Would love to have you and Sarah both in my Bellingham kitchen!

January 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPam

These look fantastic - I can't wait to start making a name for myself (but will give you all the credit)! :-)

Yes Sarah I do still have the laminated recipes, and of course I grab it when I make them. You are right people always want the recipe, but the flakiness is not in the ingredients, its the technique. I made them at the Cottage By the Sea, and was so surprised they weren't as flaky as usual. I had forgotten my cookie cutter and had to use a glass which I never do, and never realized that my biscuit cutter had made such a big difference. I have to say the biscuits you made on Christmas Eve to accompany the Smithfield Ham was the best biscuit of yours I have ever eaten, and I have eaten more than I could count.
Now that I have given you many compliments, you can quit teasing me, deal?

January 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermfm

Just made these with the grated butter idea, and was that ever easy! these were so good : ) made them to go with sausage & gravy and hubby is smiling!

January 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRenee

Awesome! Grated butter. It's the new black.

January 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterpds


These are not helping the detox resolutions..but I made them for breakfast with the grated frozen butter (the new black, I love that) Oh my..thanks for another good one!

January 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterelenarain

OH. MY. GOODNESS. I'm making these tomorrow morning instead of my healthy bowl of cereal. Thanks a lot haha. I have been craving biscuits for some time now. Time to fix that.

January 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMemoria

The perfect biscuit has been eluding me for years. I come from a family of great biscuit makers and mine never have lived up. My son informed me just recently, as my daughter and I were talking bad about canned biscuits, that he loved flaky biscuits. SO, when I saw your recipe, I had to try it. My son helped me make them and they were the best biscuits I've ever made. One question....if I wanted to make them with buttermilk, would I need to change anything (I can never remember baking soda vs. powder with buttermilk). THANKS for the recipe and the technique...VERY helpful!

January 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAngie

I'm going to try this.

January 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEm

i love your little tutorial! pictures always help, and when the end result is a flaky biscuit, you'd better believe i'll be a diligent student! :)

January 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commentergrace

Hi Angie! I'm so happy your biscuits turned out. Music to my ear. I've never made these with buttermilk. I think I've hesitated to mess around with something I've so completely perfected! But try it and let me know what happens! Buttermilk needs baking soda--so I'd recommend just adding about 1/2 ts. of soda to the existing recipe...

January 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersarahmk

Oh my god, thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I have attempted making biscuits many, many times and this is the ONLY time they have ever come out as something other than rocks or flat pancakes. I consider myself to be a very keen baker, but this is one of those things that has alluded my prowess for some time. So thank you for the recipe and the excellent technique. I shall be making these henceforth!

January 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElisabeth

Sarah, these are the best biscuits I've ever made! We were very happy to devour these .. flaky and buttery and soft with a crispy top. Miraculous how one biscuit can have all that! Loved them! Thanks SO MUCH for sharing the fantastic recipe.. and now I'll send it to my friends, sister, and mom. Cheers!

December 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine @ NightOwlChef
I made these biscuits this morning but didn't have a biscuit cutter. I used a knife instead, and it worked great. We had square biscuits, but they were delicious.
December 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpds

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