Most home cooks have a few back pocket recipes that they can rely on every time, dishes that require no more than a mere glance at the recipe. Biscuits are my go-to. I know the exact feel of the dough at every stage. I’ve memorized the ratio of flour to baking powder to milk. I can throw a batch together in under 10 minutes, easily, and have them baking while I take a shower.
This isn’t just a soliloquy on my confidence in the biscuit game. (It's all thanks to my mother, anyway, as it’s through watching her that I learned how to make them so ridiculously flaky.) Most recipes of this category—the tried-and-true favorites—are ones I don’t mess around with. The flavor profile of a basic biscuit is a nice blank canvas for different add-ins, like cheese or herbs or spices. But I stick with ingredients in the same family. I’ll sub one hard or semi-hard cheese for another (Parmesan for cheddar, for example), or swap dried herbs (rosemary for basil, perhaps). I don’t reinvent the wheel.
But I’m open to inspiration. I was flipping through the Ovenly cookbook and came upon their recipe for cheddar-mustard scones. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting, Ovenly is a gorgeous Brooklyn bakery run by two incredible women, and the menu is classic with a few twists: cakes, scones, biscuits, pies, and more, in simple flavors with a few creative flavors thrown in here and there. I’ve eaten these scones. They are very, very good.
I made the scones. I loved the scones. I had to try the mustard trick elsewhere! Using one of my favorite biscuit recipes, crossed with the Ovenly scone recipe, I came up with these savory mozzarella mini biscuits.
As the recipe notes, the mustard isn’t a prominent flavor, and it’s actually hard to detect in the finished result. But the sharp savory taste of it makes the cheese and butter pop more, like adding a squeeze of lemon juice to a creamy chicken dish would. It's a smart, under-appreciated trick, just as useful as adding acid or salt. How had I never tried this in my savory baking?
Using fresh mozzarella lets the cheese stay somewhat intact during baking: it oozes just the right amount from every bite. They’re perfectly flaky with just a hint of this intriguing umami-type flavor, which is thanks to the mustard. (Sometimes I add a handful of chopped fresh herbs, or some dried herbs, and sometimes I skip it and go for full-on cheese.)
Be sure to use very good grainy mustard! And while you could use shredded mozzarella, I highly recommend seeking out the best-quality fresh mozzarella you can find. In a recipe with so few ingredients, each one really matters. These are exceptional biscuits, the sort that elicit groans of pleasure from even the most reserved eaters.
- 3 cups (360 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons (115 grams) very cold unsalted butter
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, torn into bite-sized pieces
- 3 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
- 1 1/2 cups (340 grams) whole milk
- 2 tablespoons dried herbs or 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (optional)