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Beth Kirby of Local Milk carries her Southern heritage -- and the ingredients, dishes, and recipes that come with it -- with her wherever she goes. Every other Monday, that place is here.
Today: If you're going to stray from a traditional buttermilk biscuit, this is the way to do it.
I’m a buttermilk biscuit purist, and mine usually have exactly five ingredients in them: flour, salt, baking powder, butter, and buttermilk. That’s it -- and I pride myself on their simplicity. But sometimes the leaves are falling all at once around you in huge shivering gusts, and tendrils of autumnal smoke dare you to put pumpkin in all the things. These biscuits are a happy marriage of the warmth and sweetness of pumpkin pie and the savory, flaky layers of buttermilk biscuits.
Lightly sweetened with honey and flecked with sea salt, these aren’t heavy handed, overly sweet, or dense; they’re light and fluffy, the perfect way to have a sweet fix in the morning without feeling like you made a really dubious decision. I like to serve them with lightly salted cultured butter whipped with honey, and then I like to proceed to sit back and allow myself that special satisfaction afforded to the home cook -- the smiles, sighs, and are-you-freaking-kidding-me looks as people dig in. The pleasure of serving people buttermilk biscuits is, in my opinion, a unique pleasure in the arena of feeding people.
Heretofore the province of southern women, these biscuits are now available to anyone who’s mindful with their dough. The secret to making these is to pay attention to the dough -- it should be tacky and shaggy, but not so wet you can’t work with it. I like to add all but a little of the buttermilk and only use it if the dough seems dry.
Once all the dry bits are mixed in, stop mixing! That’s the first step toward keeping the biscuits tender. After that, you gently pat the dough out to about one and a half inches thick, fold it, rotate it, and repeat three times. After you’ve created all those beautiful layers inside your biscuits, you then ever-so-gently roll them out with a wooden rolling pin (I find marble far, far too heavy for biscuits) or pat them out with your fingers (an equally solid method!) until the dough is an inch thick. Cut, bake, and serve, and then soak up honey butter with warm corners of a freshly baked biscuit as well as a little bit of adulation from your loved ones.
Makes ten 2 1/2-inch biscuits
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
A pinch of ground cloves
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup pumpkin purée
6 tablespoons honey
3/4 cups buttermilk
Photos by Beth Kirby
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