Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.
Today: Food52's Provisions Editor, Posie Harwood, teaches us how to make light, fluffy biscuits without butter or oil -- and without a recipe -- in under 20 minutes.
Adult breakfasts are fraught with anxiety: Should I eat a responsible bowl of Greek yogurt, or can I just have a plate of warm, flaky biscuits? I am here to tell you that you can have both, all at once.
Classic biscuits require some technique (cutting in cold butter) and foresight (actually having cold butter). My rendition is simpler. You likely have the ingredients at hand: Do you have flour? Salt? Yogurt? Give yourself a mental high five -- you’ve got biscuits! The only skill this yogurt version requires is stirring. Can you stir? Great. You’re ready to bake.
Yogurt won’t give you the same flakiness as butter, but if you use a delicate touch, your biscuits will steam up into airy, light mounds. Aim for a “wet mess” of a dough, like in Shirley Corriher’s Genius recipe. Yogurt also gives these biscuits a slight tang -- the perfect foil for add-ins like cheese and spices. Or, as I see it, a reason to eat cheese for breakfast.
Once I discovered how easy and fast it was to make these, I started having biscuits a lot. You can wake up, mix the dough in your pajamas, and bake them while you shower. Take all that butter you didn’t put in the biscuits, slather it on top, and eat them immediately.
Ready? Let’s begin.
How to Make Yogurt Biscuits Without a Recipe
1. First, preheat your oven to 400° F. Fill a large mixing bowl with as much flour as you want biscuits. All-purpose works well, but if you want more delicate biscuits, add in some pastry flour. Feel free to use whole wheat, or spelt, or any alternative -- just make sure that at least half of your flour is AP, or your biscuits will be too dense.
Add a generous pinch of both salt and baking powder; if you're making a very large batch, add a second pinch of each. If you fancy dry add-ins, like black pepper, paprika, or other spices, add those now. Stir everything together.
2. Next up: liquids. Add a large dollop of yogurt to your flour mixture and stir it in. Any kind of plain yogurt is fine -- Greek, whole milk, sheep’s milk, and non-fat all work beautifully. Keep adding yogurt and stirring until your mixture starts to look crumbly, but is still dry. Then slowly add some milk, stirring as you go. Stop when the mixture starts to come together and is wet, but not loose like pancake batter. Use whatever milk you have on hand -- skim, whole, buttermilk -- it’s your biscuit party!
3. If you’re getting wild and flavoring your biscuits, stir in your add-ins now. Shredded cheddar cheese and sliced scallions are nice, or grated Parmesan and chives. Love bacon? There’s no one stopping you (in fact, I’m encouraging you). Crumble that up and toss it on in.
If you want sweet biscuits, just dial down the salt and add a heaping spoonful of sugar to your flour. Cinnamon sugar biscuits, coconut-cardamom biscuits, dried cherry and pistachio biscuits -- the kitchen is your oyster.
4. Lightly flour a surface, and turn your dough out on it. Gently fold the dough onto itself a few times, then press it together into a flattened ball. If your dough is too dry, add a little more milk. Too wet and sticky? Add some flour. (Way too wet? No worries -- call them drop biscuits and skip the next step. Just spoon heaps of dough onto your parchment-lined baking sheet and proceed.)
5. Once you’ve kneaded it together, use a rolling pin to make a flat disk. The thicker the dough, the higher and bigger it’ll be. Cut it into rounds using a biscuit cutter (a glass or empty can works well, too).
6. Place your beautiful biscuits onto a parchment-lined sheet, sprinkle them with coarse sea salt -- or infused salt, or dried herbs -- and bake them for about 12 to 15 minutes. Bigger biscuits take longer, but start checking around 10 minutes and take them out once they’re golden brown on the top.
Congratulations, you are now a top-notch baker. Your prize is warm biscuits for dinner.
What do you like in your biscuits? Share your tips for the very best combinations in the comments below!
Photos by James Ransom