Biscuits require just enough elbow grease -- which isn’t much -- to facilitate a sense of pride and accomplishment when they come out of the oven, which makes them a perfect weeknight baking project. Make biscuits to grandly accompany a bowl of leftover soup or chili, scrambled eggs, a pile of sautéed greens or salad, or to reheat for breakfast the next morning. There are two things to note with these, which are of the pull-apart, pillowy, and moist variety. First, I love the flavor that whole-wheat flour brings to biscuits -- it adds some toasty depth and plays off the salt really well. Second, and more importantly, I had a revelation here with homemade baking powder. I’d read about Edna Lewis’s insistence on making her own (2 parts cream of tartar to 1 part baking soda), because commercial versions, she claimed, have a metallic aftertaste. I long assumed that I lacked her delicate palate, but in these biscuits, I finally knew what she was talking about! I've incorporated her homemade baking powder formula into the recipe.
This recipe is reprinted with permission from the "Weeknights" issue of the Feast by Lukas digital quarterly. —LukasVolger
1 3/4 teaspoons
cream of tartar
1 1/4 teaspoons
A few grinds black pepper (optional)
(1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
Preheat the oven to 425° F. Cut a 12 x 12-inch square of parchment and press it into a 9- or 10-inch cast iron skillet, pie plate, or cake pan.
Sift together the flours, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, sugar, and black pepper, if using. Add the butter and use your fingers or a pastry cutter to work it into the dry ingredients until you have a lumpy, mealy mixture with pea-shaped pieces of butter left in tact. Make a well in the center, pour in the buttermilk, then use a fork to gently but swiftly work the dry ingredients into the wet, until just combined. The batter will be very moist.
Use a measuring cup or floured hands to quickly portion the dough into 10 ragged balls, about 1/4 cup each, then arrange in the parchment-lined pan. There won’t be much space between the biscuits, which is what you want -- this way they rise rather than spread. Sprinkle with a pinch or two of the flaky salt.
Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes, then using the corners of the parchment, slip onto a cooling rack until ready to serve.
Stored in a loosely wrapped container or bag, they’ll keep for a few days; they’re best reheated.