I have been trying for years – yes years – to make a light, fluffy, tender whole-wheat biscuit.
And for years, I’ve been failing.
If you bake with whole-wheat flour, you know that it can be difficult. Most recipes for “whole-wheat” bread or “whole-wheat” biscuits actually call for you to use half whole-wheat and half all-purpose flour.
I simply refuse to believe that you have to use all-pupose flour to achieve the same results.
Unfortunately my years of trying seem to have proved otherwise. My attempts at an all whole-wheat biscuit usually end up dull and hard and flavorless and dry. It has been a frustrating and fruitless endeavor, one that I was tempted to give up on simply to avoid wasting those pounds of flour and butter on inedible breakfast goods.
Until this morning.
This morning, I achieved the light, fluffy, tender, flaky whole-wheat biscuit I’ve been dreaming of all this time. And all it took was a pint and a half of sour cream.
And a stick of butter.
Now, before you go crying foul, let me explain. I wasn’t trying to make a whole-wheat biscuit because I thought it would be “healthier”. The thing about biscuits – the thing that makes them biscuits, especially here in the American south – is that they have quite a bit of fat in them. If you try to take the fat away, you’re left with flavorless hockey pucks.
No the point of my experimentation was to make a more “whole”, unprocessed product. While I’m not at the point of grinding my own grains yet (although I’m moving rather rapidly in that direction, especially since meeting my new friend over at For the Joy of Food), I do think it’s important to consume foods that are minimally processed. So flour that’s been stripped of all of its essential nutrients, bleached and then “enriched” with the same vitamins and minerals it already had in the first place is not really what I’m looking to feed myself and my family.
But, I wanted my biscuits to taste and feel like the ones that were baked using that over-processed crap. Because it really does yield a nice end-product. This required some serious thought and work.
And finally, this morning, I achieved greatness.
The secret is in the leavening and the liquid. In the past I had tried milk, buttermilk, a combination of milk and buttermilk, cream, half and half, and any number of combinations and permutations of all of these. This morning, I decided to try all-natural sour cream (read: full-fat). Just sour cream.
And it worked.
They were crisp and brown on the outside and flaky and tender on the inside. They rose beautifully and tasted buttery and delicious. Slathered with more butter and a drizzle of honey, or smothered with sausage gravy, they were a great way to start a busy Saturday.
If you’re interested, here’s what I did:
Whole-wheat Sour Cream Biscuits
prep time: 15 minutes
bake time: 20 minutes
yields: 14 biscuits
(all measurements are approximate)
3 cups whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick of cold butter (4 oz.), cut into small cubes
2 1/2 cups of sour cream
- Preheat your oven to 450F
- Begin by stirring together your dry ingredients
- Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour until it resembles course meal
- Add the sour cream, stirring gently to combine. It will be a very shaggy dough.
- Once the sour cream has been mostly incorporated (it will be somewhat difficult to work with at this point) turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and gently knead it 8 or 10 times, just until it forms a smooth, workable mass.
- Using a well floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to a 1/2 inch thick disc
- Cut using a 3-inch round cutter
- Heat a cast-iron pan on the stove, and melt a tablespoon of butter or shortening in the pan. Swirl to coat the pan with the fat
- Lay the biscuits in the hot fat, coating one side and then turning them over so that the side that’s been coated in the fat is facing up (this allows the tops to get as brown as the bottoms)
- Fit as many as you can in the pan without overcrowding. If you need to use a second pan (I did), then repeat the process.
- Bake at 450F for 20 or 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Serve with butter, jam, honey, gravy, cheese, eggs, ham, or whatever strikes your fancy.