Basic Biscuits

Rye Biscuits

My basic biscuits are the Platonic ideal of crisp exterior with a meltingly fluffy, wheat-perfumed interior. Each bite is its own pat of butter. I choose to believe it’s because I don’t use milk, which lets the butter really sing out. I also choose to believe that they’re “light” for the same reason. A big spoonful of blueberry jam or honey on top of one of these, and your day is made, whether or not you buy into my beliefs on the matter.

Biscuits are the gateway to all things crusted, flaky, and delicious. There’s a lot to be said on the science and technique of making them, but honestly, it’s best not to think about it too much. Use a scale to weight your ingredients, keep the butter and water cold, and you’re gonna be fine.

A food processor makes biscuits nearly-instant. But a pastry blender will work just as well. Everything’s the same, except you’re doing all of the work by hand. Fun!

This recipe yields nine generous biscuits. It also illustrates a kitchen ratio in the simplest terms possible.

Basic Biscuits
300g a/p flour
15g baking powder
9g salt
200g water, cold
100g unsalted butter, cold

Preheat oven to 450º and set a rack in the lowest position.

Weigh flour, baking powder, and salt into the work bowl of your food processor. Weigh butter onto a plate, cut into half-inch cubes, and return to fridge. Weigh water into a pre-chilled cup and return to fridge.

Pulse* dry ingredients together three times to combine. Those going the manual route will want to use a whisk or fork.

Add butter and pulse three more times. Use a fork to dredge the flour to check the size of the pieces of butter. If more than a couple are bigger than a peanut, pulse one more time.

If you’re using the pastry blender, the idea is that you press the blades into the butter to cut it up. Dust the blender with flour before you start and between each cut to keep the butter from sticking too much. Clear the blades with a fork inserted from the top when they get clogged. Stop when no more than a couple of pieces of butter are larger than a split pea.

Add the water all at once. In the food processor, pulse six to eight more times, or until the flour just begins to clump together like little bits of buckshot or roe. For the manual crowd, stir with a fork until the dough forms into a ragged clump, then push it into the side of the bowl with a large spoon until it holds together in a ball.

No matter how you mixed it, turn the dough out onto a clean tea towel. Keeping your hands on the underside of the towel, and thus away from direct contact with the dough, knead the dough into a smooth ball. Put otherwise, press the dough together from opposite directions until it stops cracking when you do that. Once smooth, form it into roughly 5-inch square, fold the towel around it, and stash it in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Remove dough from fridge, lightly sprinkle a half teaspoon of flour on one side, turn it over, and repeat with another half teaspoon of flour. The dough is incredibly soft, so rolling lightly with a floured pin directly on the tea towel, get the square to about 1 1/4-inch thick. If you don’t have a rolling pin, don’t despair, just use your hands to press the dough. But work quickly so you don’t melt the butter!

Cut the dough in a tic-tac-toe pattern and immediately transfer to the parchment, maintaining the 3x3x3 arrangement with a half-inch between each biscuit. Pop into the oven and bake for twenty minutes or until golden brown on the top and deep brown on the bottom. For perfectionists, you want an internal temperature of 210º.

Cool for five minutes on a rack and devour. There’s no such thing as a biscuit that stores well, so you’ll just have to eat what you bake within the day. Poor you.

* For our purposes, a pulse is a press on the “pulse” button of your food processor that takes only and exact “one hippopotamus.”

** The biscuits in the recipe’s photo are made with rye flour. Like my 3-2-1 cookies and brownies, this recipe is built for experimentation. You can substitute up to thirty percent of the all-purpose flour for any other flour imaginable. Add up to a half cup of grated cheese or little seeds. Herbs and spices as you see fit. You could bake them every morning from now to eternity and still not exhaust the possibilities.

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