You’ve probably heard that biscuits are all the rage these days. Last week, The L.A. Times gave due credit to the bacon cheddar beauties being served at M.B. Post, the buttermilk biscuits at Cook’s County and Willie Jane, and the lard biscuits at SQIRL, while Jonathan Gold recently dedicated multiple paragraphs to biscuits in his rave review of The Hart & The Hunter. The only issue? Many of the chefs aren’t willing to let you in on their recipes.
Last Thursday, we found the highlight of Neal Fraser’s excellent ham and Kentucky whiskey-pairing dinner at BLD to be biscuits prepared by pastry chef Mariah Swan, served with Southern-cured ham and house-made butter. Since so many biscuit makers are going mum on the details behind their biscuits, we asked Swan if she’d part with her recipe so you can try and make them at home.
Swan tells Grub Street, “We normally do a buttermilk biscuit for breakfast at BLD. In keeping with the Southern theme, I wanted to do a more layered, flaky biscuit [for the special dinner], something you could pull apart like leaves and eat with the thin slices of ham.”
Dishing about the online recipe she gave a proper tweaking to, Swan continues, “Any good Southern biscuit maker will tell you that White Lily Flour is essential for a proper biscuit. To recreate White Lily Flour I used equal parts all purpose and pastry flour.”
Without further ado, here is Mariah Swan’s recipe for the great Southern biscuits featured at last week’s ham and Kentucky Whiskey pairing dinner at BLD in Hollywood.
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 cups pastry flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp baking soda
1 TBSP sugar
1 1/2 TBSP salt
4 oz butter, cold, and cubed into 8 equal pieces
2 cups buttermilk, cold
6 oz butter, softened and cut into 12 equal pieces
Additional butter, melted, for brushing the tops of the biscuits
Heat oven to 425. In a medium sized bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients Add the cold, cubed butter and cut into the flour. You may use a pastry cutter or a fork. If you choose to use your hands, work fast, you don’t want to warm the butter up too much. Continue to mix the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles a coarse meal, with pieces about the size of peas. If the butter is soft, allow dough to chill for 10-20 minutes. Add 2/3 of the buttermilk and gently mix with hands to moisten. Add the remaining buttermilk and mix again until just combined. The dough will be quite sticky.
Sprinkle the table with flour and place the dough onto the table. Dust the top lightly with flour and gently knead until the dough holds together. With floured hands, pat the dough out into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Spread 4 tablespoons of butter onto 2/3 of the dough. Fold the remaining 1/3 of the dough onto the buttered section, and the other edge of the dough over the middle, like a letter. Gently press out once more, flouring the table if needed. Spread another 4 tablespoons of the butter onto the dough, making sure to do it on the same portion of dough you did the first time. Repeat the folding process once more. Sprinkle a little more flour and press out again, repeating the butter layering and process one final time.
Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper. Gently flatten the dough out to 3/4 inch thick. Using your desired cutter, cut out as many biscuits as you can. You can’t reuse the scraps, so cut them close together. Place on the parchment lined pan and and allow to chill in the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes.
Brush the tops with melted butter. You may sprinkle the tops with a little salt, if desired. Place the biscuits in the oven and bake until golden brown and firm, checking after 12 minutes for color. Once the biscuits are done, remove from the oven and brush once more with butter. Allow to cool slightly before serving.