Just because you have a perfect biscuit recipe, does not mean you need to stop there. Last week, I thought to add more eggs—and less milk—to the mix and it worked out really well. This morning, I decided to spice things up a bit by adding another egg, blueberries, brown sugar, and spices.
Karl’s Blueberry Cinnamon Biscuits
2½+ cups flour, AP (see Note, step 12)
4+ Tbs. dark brown sugar, separate uses
2 Tbs. potato flour (starch)
1 ½ Tbs. cinnamon, ground
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. nutmeg, ground
7 Tbs. unsalted butter, semi-frozen
¼ cup dried blueberries
4 large egg
½ cup milk, separate uses (I use 2 % lactose free)
1 tsp. vanilla
Other things needed (order of use)
Large mixing bowl (I use a heavy Pyrex bowl 12 inches wide and four deep)
Pastry board, marble (optional)
Rolling pin (I use an 8” Chinese jiaozi roller)
2 inch round Biscuit cutter
10×14 inch lipped baking sheet
Note: About 15 minutes before you are ready to start baking, pre-heat your oven to 400º F.
1. Put a stick of butter (8 tablespoons) in the freezer for 20-30 minutes, until it is semi-frozen.
Tip: Putting a whole stick of butter in the freezer gives me a handle to keep my fingers away from the grater blades as I shave off six tablespoons.
Note: You do not want the butter to be frozen solid, because it then becomes hard to grate.
2. Sift the flour, brown sugar, potato starch, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg several times into a large bowl.
Tip: Repeated sifting helps distribute the ingredients evenly through the mix.
3. Using a box grater, grate ⅞ of the stick of frozen butter into the flour mixture.
Tip: Half way through, stir the butter shreds into the flour to coat them. This prevents them from clumping together.
4. Use a pastry cutter, to break the butter shreds into tiny bits.
Tip: Many recipes have you cut the butter into large lumps and then you break them up with the pastry cutter. While this eventually works, the heat created by the repeated chopping starts to warm the butter. With the frozen butter shreds you only have to chop the butter a few times to get a thorough mix.
5. Add the dried blueberries and mix them in well.
Tip: Do not add the blueberries before you chop up the butter. You want whole blueberries, not minced fruit.
6. Reduce the oven temperature to 375º F.
Note: I used to quick bake biscuits at 425º F. However, I found that the tops of the biscuits over-browned before the center was cooked through. However, a hotter oven, to start, gives you more “oven spring” and taller, lighter biscuits. Over time, I have been lowering the baking temperature and extending the baking time to find the best results. starting off hot and then baking the biscuits lower and slower, works best to produce a perfect biscuit.
7. Put the eggs in a large measuring cup and lightly scramble them.
Tip: I use a fork.
8. Measure one half cup of milk and add some of it to the egg.
9. Add the vanilla to the egg milk mixture.
Tip: Whenever you add warm spices—like cinnamon and nutmeg—to a baked good you should add vanilla. Vanilla acts like salt in a savory dish—enhancing the spices’ flavor and making them “pop.” Without the vanilla the spice flavors will seem wane and lackluster—even if you add an unreasonable amount trying to make them stand out.
10. Scramble the milk/egg mixture well.
Tip: This allows you to scramble the eggs well, without splashing it all over.
11. Add the rest of the milk and mix it in.
12. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add most of the milk mixture.
Tip: Many bakers obsess over measuring their flour and liquids—treating it like a chemistry project. I prefer to add a bit too much liquid at the start, so that I have a soft dough to work with. I then work in enough flour—during the kneading process—to give the dough my desired “feel.” A soft dough also makes it easier to roll out and fold the dough—see below.
Note: Keep the measuring cup close to hand. You may need to add some more milk to it to brush on the tops of the biscuits.
13. Use a spatula to combine the milk and flour mixtures, until most of the dry flour has been incorporated into the dough.
Tip: Unless you have cold hands—like my wife—you want to handle the dough as little as possible. Warm hands—like mine—will melt the butter.
14. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead 7-8 times, until there is no visible dry flour.
Tip: Flour your hands and the kneading board well.
Note: If necessary, add more flour to make a soft dough.
15. Form the dough into a ball and roll the dough out into a 14 X14 inch square.
Tip: Flour your rolling pin well, so that it does not stick and cause tears in the dough sheet.
Note: The dough sheet will be less than ¼ inch thick when you have it all rolled out.
16. Starting at the edge closest to you, fold one third of the dough sheet over the middle third.
Tip: You may need to use a bread board scraper to free the dough from your kneading surface.
17. Take the edge that is farthest from you and fold that third over the first two layers.
Tip: This is called a letter-fold.
Note: You will now have a rectangular piece of dough, three layers thick.
18. Letter fold the outer edges of this rectangle in to the center.
Note: This will produce a thick four inch square of dough nine layers thick.
19. Let the dough rest for two minutes.
Tip: This gives the gluten bonds time to relax and makes it easier to roll out again.
20. While the dough is resting, line a large lipped baking sheet with parchment paper.
Tip: I used to grease my baking sheets, but the biscuits tended to stick and burn. The parchment paper needs no grease.
21. Re-flour your board and roll the dough square into another 14 X14 inch square.
Note: Within each layer of dough, the cold butter will be squished into thin flakes, trapped in a gluten web.
22. Letter-fold the dough sheet again.
Tip: First the top and bottom edges and then the sides.
Note: You will now have a four inch square of dough with 91 layers.
23. Roll the dough out to one half inch thick.
Note: This will be about an eight inch square of dough.
24. Cut the biscuits out with a 2 inch biscuit cutter.
Tip: I get about seven biscuits from this first cut.
Note: It is important to use a sharp-edged biscuit cutter to cut out your biscuits. I used to use a jar lid as a biscuit cutter. The dull edge of the lid pinched the layers of dough together around the edge of the biscuit—instead of slicing through each layer. Instead of being free to rise nice and evenly, the biscuits puffed up in the center and warped around the edges as the layer’s edges stuck together.
25. Place the biscuits on the baking sheet about an inch apart.
26. Gather up the remaining scraps and form them, into dough ball.
27. Role flat again and cut out 2-3 more biscuits.
Tip: I roll out this dough ball and letter fold it to create more layers.
Note: At the end of this process I am usually left with about a biscuits worth of dough that it is hard to cut into an even biscuit. I like cinnamon rolls but the wife will not let me make them as being too tempting. I turn this last bit of dough into a cinnamon bun. I roll it into a round and place a pat of butter, a tablespoon of sugar, and a good sprinkling of cinnamon in the center. pinching in the edges, I seal the filling into the bun.
28. Brush the tops of the biscuits with milk.
Tip: Use the original measuring cup and the pastry brush.
29. Take a good pinch of brown sugar and sprinkle it on top of each biscuit.
Tip: (Optional) If you wish you may also sprinkle more cinnamon on top of the sugar—I did.
30. Bake the biscuits at 375° F, on the middle rack, for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Tip: Rotate the baking sheet after 10 minutes.
Note: Start checking the biscuits around the 20 minute mark. If one side of the pan is cooking faster rotate the pan a second time.
31. Transfer the biscuits to a wire rack for 5 minutes to cool.
32. Serve warm with butter and jam/marmalade.