garlic and herb buttermilk biscuits (or: how i learned to stop worrying and love the biscuit)

May 16, 2018 Portland, OR, USA


This post was sponsored by Land O'Lakes, my favorite butter company! As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own, and I'm incredibly excited to be working with Land O'Lakes all year long because of their high-quality butter and dairy products. Thank you for supporting Hummingbird High and my awesome sponsors!


I'm sure many of my Southern readers will roll their eyes in disbelief when they read this, but here we go: Portland, Oregon has a pretty good biscuit game. When I first graduated from college, I used to live right around the corner from a shop that specialized in fried chicken biscuit sandwiches; it was so close that I would wake up to the smell of those famous buttery biscuits in the morning. Between my proximity to that shop and the many others to choose from throughout the city, I never had the desire to make biscuits at home.

Well, that, and biscuits have a particularly tricky reputation. First of all, there's a lot of regional and familial pride that goes into the biscuit: Southerners will claim to have the best recipes and methods, and nobody's biscuit is better than Grandma's. It's a lot to compete with. Second, they *are* actually a bit finnicky to make: overhandling the dough leads to dense and flat biscuits without any of the signature layers, but underhandling the dough leads to huge, misshapen hunks of dough that everybody is weirded out by. I decided it was best to leave the biscuit making to the experts.

But recently, as I was finishing up the recipe development for the scones section of my upcoming cookbook, I was inspired to try making biscuits at home. Although scones are NOT biscuits, they are remarkably similar in execution and are more about technique than the actual recipe itself. If you follow me on Instagram Stories, you'll notice that I spent an afternoon (or two) making the same recipe for biscuits over and over with varying results (parts of my adventure is actually still available on my profile, under the Instagram Story titled "biscuit hell"). Here are the tips and tricks that worked for me:


1. Keep everything as cold as possible.
When making biscuits, you want the ingredients to be as cold as possible, especially the fat. Most recipes use either butter, shortening, lard, or a combination of some two, but I'm a purist and like the flavor of all-butter biscuits. Butter creates steam as it melts in a hot oven, and when used in a cold dough, the steam from the melting butter expands between dough, creating flaky layers. For any biscuit recipe, cut up the butter into chunks the night before you plan on making the recipe and freeze overnight. Frozen butter will keep its shape better, and will make the dough easier to work with.

2. Don't be afraid to use the right tools to help you with the job.
To make biscuits, you'll need to cut fat into the dry ingredients, similar to how you would make pie. Looking through a ton of biscuit recipes, I saw three main ways to do this: flattening the butter into the flour by hand versus using a pastry cutter to mash it in versus using a food processor. Die-hards advocate for doing it by hand, saying that this leaves the biggest chunks of butter (which then puff up into dramatic layers). But it's messy and time consuming, and if your hands run hot, the butter tends to melt and defeat the whole point of the method completely. On the flipside, food processors tend to be a too aggressive; if you're not careful, there's a chance that you'll overprocess the butter too much and create chunks that are too small for definitive layers.

I've actually found that the best way is to use a stand mixer. A paddle attachment does a great job of flatting the fat pieces as your hands would, minus the warmth from your body. On low speed, it's also just not as powerful as a food processor, significantly decreasing the chances of over processing the butter. I'm breaking all the biscuit rules today, baby.

3. A tall dough leads to even taller restaurant-style biscuits.
The first time I tried making biscuits, I patted the dough too thin and ended up with biscuits that were tasty but short and squat. You want your dough to be on the taller side to really give it an opportunity to puff up in the oven and show you its layers. Most recipes advise you to pat the dough down into a block that's about an inch in height, but I like to take it a step further and use a dough that's an inch-and-a-half in height.

My friend Betsy also tipped me off to this Bon Appetit recipe, which first pats down the dough into a square, and then proceeds to divide the square into four smaller squares and layering those squares up again for a mega-layered biscuit situation. However, using this method does make it a little easy to overwork the biscuit dough, especially if you're fairly new to the process. Most recipes will instruct you to shape the dough into specific-sized squares and rectangles, but I would just use those as more of a guideline and focus more on the height and handling the dough as little as possible — you can always make your dough squares/rectangles prettier and more even by lopping off any jagged bits with a bench scraper.


The recipe from these biscuits are actually from Alison Roman's book, Dining In. I used her ingredient quantities, but completely changed up the instructions by using a stand mixer and mashing in other techniques from other recipes. Also, the first time I made them, I found them a little too neutral in flavor and wanted to liven them up (but not too much — biscuits, like bread, should be neutral and work as a side dish for a variety of savory and sweet dishes). Brushing the biscuits with melted flavored butter spread did the trick, as well as giving these biscuits a beautiful golden color. Land O'Lakes offers a wonderful variety of flavored tub butter spreads; for savory biscuits like these ones, I like to use the Land O Lakes® Garlic & Herb Butter Spread as it's packed full of real garlic and parsley that makes the biscuits taste like your favorite garlic bread. The best part is that the melted butter spread also acts as a kind of glue for other toppings! After brushing the biscuits with the butter spread, I sprinkled on fresh thyme leaves and sea salt flakes for even more delicious goodness. Enjoy!


also featured:
tray || plate 

Some baker's notes:
  • This is one of the few recipes on my blog where the tools you use are really important. A freestanding electric mixer is necessary for following the recipe; in a pinch, you can substitute with a food processor or a pastry cutter, but you might run into the issues I described above. A bench scraper is also essential to get straight edges for your biscuits.

  • To make these biscuits even more epic, I used Land O Lakes® Extra Creamy Unsalted Butter, which is their European-style butter. European butter has more milkfat than American butter; in this particular recipe, it leads to flakier layers and a richer, more buttery flavor. In a pinch, you can always use regular unsalted butter, but it's worth going the extra mile and sourcing European-style butter for recipes where butter is one of the main ingredients, like shortbread cookies or these biscuits.

  • You'll notice that my biscuits are square, as opposed to the traditional round shape. I prefer square biscuits since you don't need a special biscuit cutter to achieve their shape (simply pat the dough into a rectangular slab and use a sharp knife or a bench scraper to cut out the squares). Plus, with this method, there's no need to re-roll the scraps and potentially overwork the dough even more. That being said, you can always use a biscuit cutter to stamp out round biscuits, but it's likely that the second batch of biscuits from the rerolled scraps won't be as flaky and tall. 


Garlic and Herb Buttermilk Biscuits

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Ingredients

Special Equipment:

For the Garlic and Herb Buttermilk Biscuits:
(makes 8 biscuits)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks // 8 ounces) Land O Lakes® Extra Creamy Unsalted Butter
  • 3 tablespoons Land O Lakes® Garlic & Herb Butter Spread
  • 3 cups (13.5 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out and dusting
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 cups (10 fluid ounces) very cold buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon stemmed and finely chopped fresh herbs of your choice
  • fresh ground pepper
  • flaky sea salt

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Recipe

On The Night Before:
  1. The night before you plan on making these biscuits, prepare the butter: use a sharp knife to chop up 1 cup Land O Lakes® Extra Creamy Unsalted Butter into 1-inch chunks. Transfer the chunks to an airtight container with a lid and place in the freezer to chill overnight.

For the Biscuits:
  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 400 (F). Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside. Place 3 tablespoons of Land O Lakes® Garlic & Herb Butter Spread in a small bowl and microwave on low until completely melted; set aside.

  2. In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 3 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Beat on low speed for 5 to 10 seconds until well combined. Add 1 cup frozen Land O Lakes® Extra Creamy Unsalted Butter all at once and beat on the mixer's lowest speed for at least 3 minutes, or until the mixture resembles a coarse cornmeal. With the mixer still on its lowest speed, stream 1 1/4 cups buttermilk all at once, continuing to beat the mixture just until a dough forms and clumps around the paddle. There should be no dry ingredients at the bottom of the bowl.

  3. Dust your hands with flour and prepare to flour a work surface. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the dough off the paddle and into the bowl; tip the dough out onto the surface and, working quickly, pat into a 1-inch thick square. Use a bench scraper to cut the square into 4 smaller but even squares. Stack the squares on top of each other and press down to flatten and pat into a 1 1/2-inch thick rectangle about 12 inches long and 6 inches wide. Use the bench scraper to trim a very thin border around the edge of the dough to create clean edges, discarding any scraps. Cut the rectangle in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 4 pieces, giving you a grand total of 8 biscuits. 

  4. Place each biscuit on the prepared baking sheet leaving about 2 inches apart. If the dough seems like it's warmed up, transfer to the freezer to chill for 10 minutes. Use a pastry brush to brush the tops of each biscuit with the melted Land O Lakes® Garlic & Herb Butter Spread; immediately sprinkle with the fresh herbs, salt, and pepper. Transfer to the preheated oven to bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the biscuits are a deep golden brown on the bottom and golden on top. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly, before serving warm with your favorite main dishes and a generous portion of butter. These biscuits are best the day they're made.
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