These are my gold-standard biscuits. My secret? Frozen butter! It’s an old pastry chef’s trick that has served me well. Butter tastes great and when it’s frozen it becomes very easy to shred into the dough. After you try these a few times you’ll be able to bake them in under twenty minutes and clean up the mess too!
Yield: Makes 8-10 large biscuits
4 cups (1 L) of all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (30 mL) of baking powder
2 teaspoons (10 mL) of salt
1 cup (250 mL) of frozen butter
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) of milk
A sprinkle or two of salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together until they’re evenly mixed. Grate the frozen butter into the dry ingredients. Shred it through the large holes of a box grater or potato grater directly into the flour. Toss gently with your fingers until the butter shards are spread evenly throughout the flour.
Pour the milk into the flour mixture and stir with an upside down wooden spoon to form a dough mass. The handle of the spoon is gentler on the dough. Fold the dough over a few times with your hands until all the ingredients come together. If necessary add a few spoonfuls more milk to help gather up any stray flour. This kneading will strengthen the dough a bit but not enough to toughen the biscuits. It will also help them form a crisp crust when they bake.
Pat the dough out on a lightly floured cutting board forming a loose round shape. Cut into wedges – like a pie – or any other shape you’re in the mood for. Position on a baking sheet; sprinkle on a bit of coarse salt and coarsely ground pepper. Bake for fifteen minutes or so. You’ll know they’re done when they turn golden brown. Enjoy at once with lots of brown butter!
Biscuits are easily scented with herbs and spices. A spoonful or so adds lots of flavour. I tend to use aromatics that reflect the rest of the meal but, really, anything goes. Add caraway seeds to biscuits for beef stew or add a touch of nutmeg to breakfast biscuits. Rosemary, thyme and even curry powder all taste great too.
This is the recipe my mother uses every year at Christmas time to make a cardamom scented sweetbread. To this day, every time I smell cardamom I think of my mom. It's a blast from the past, a household tradition, all because of a friendly neighbour from my childhood who shared this recipe with me. I of course gave it to my mom to make for me.
Nowadays she makes it in a bread machine, which handles the mixing, kneading and first rising steps. The dough can then be braided and baked as per the recipe. The traditional braiding step makes a beautiful loaf, but isn't necessary. You can form a traditional loaf by rolling it into a log and placing it in a lightly greased loaf pan before baking.