Tuesday, August 30, 2011

No Such Thing as an Easy Biscuit

I've been stewing over this article by food critic Sam Sifton since it was published in July. In it, he claims that biscuits are easy to make, that one should let the dough rest for 30 minutes prior to forming rounds, and that there is no clear winner between Northern and Southern biscuits. Foolishness on all three counts. If Northern biscuits were so good, you would see them on a typical breakfast menu in that region. But having been reared in the North, I can tell you definitively that Northerners know fuckall about biscuits.

Biscuits are only easy on paper. Cutting fat into flour properly is hard. Finding the right hydration (e.g. % of buttermilk) is hard. Mixing is hard due to the delicate crumb (e.g. too much mixing, and you get a dense biscuit). These and a hundred other things can go wrong and result in a sub-optimal biscuit. I believe the late Bill Neal (of Crooks Corner) made biscuits at every occasion possible because he knew what a challenge it was to get right, and how just a small change in the method could result in total disappointment. A good biscuit smells like victory. Here's the proportions I use, because those linked from Sifton's article will get you nowhere:

Berenbaum's Cheddar Biscuits

Flour (c) 2.00
Baking Powder (tablespoons) 1.00
Salt (teaspoons) 0.50
Butter (tablespoons) 7.00
Buttermilk (c) 1.20
Cheese (pounds) 0.25

(for non-cheddar biscuits, you may need to decrease the buttermilk slightly)


  1. shortening biscuits are indeed easy but you've got to eat them right out of the oven or they are just...shortening biscuits.

  2. sunrise uses margarine and they're pretty awesome.

  3. my mom is coming to town this weekend if you want a lesson in the humble crisco biscuit :)

    Although my family gives cooking instructions along the lines of "you mix it up and cook it til it's done."

  4. yes..........sarah's dad makes a very good crisco biscuit too. crisco's mad artificial, but most of jewish parve cooking (no dairy) is based off of it........it can give your challah a nice silky texture.......nice seeing you yesterday, next time stop by and let me give you some grub!