Biscuits are, to me, one of the best gifts that the world has bestowed upon home cooks. Once you get the hang of the technique, it's so easy to riff on a basic recipe to satisfy your mood. Add cinnamon and sugar: Dessert! Toss in some cheese and bacon: Breakfast!
The real beauty of a biscuit recipe lies in the drama of the transformation from ingredients to finished baked good. Most baking recipes undergo a metamorphosis, but biscuits are more surprising given the simplicity of the initial ingredients: butter, flour, liquid.
You start off with this wet mess of a dough, lumpy with butter and shaggy with loose bits of flour, and inevitably you feel like you must have gone wrong somewhere. A few steps (and deep, confidence-inspiring breaths) later, you pull a tray of gorgeous, puffed biscuits from the oven.
Those errant lumps of butter melt into flakes, expanding and rising into lofty, impressive-looking layers. This sort of magic—accomplished by mere minutes in a hot oven—is one of the best things about baking. That and eating warm biscuits, obviously.
This particular recipe doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it relies on an inspired flavor combination of toasted pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and rosemary. You can find the recipe printed on the back of some King Arthur Flour bags; my sister sent it to me years ago and I've since passed it along to friends looking for a reliable, memorable recipe.
I think you'll love these if you try them. Tell me how it goes if you do! Do keep a careful eye on the pine nuts as they toast, as they quickly go from browned to burnt.
1 cup pine nuts 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 3/4 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 cup (1 stick) very cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling 1 1/2 tablespoons dried rosemary 1 cup cold buttermilk, plus more for brushing 1 egg