I first became excited about buttermilk biscuits when I began culturing buttermilk at home. It’s about the easiest dairy product you can make: whole milk warmed slightly, sprinkled with starter culture and left to cool slowly to room temperature and develop its quintessential tartness. It’s far tastier than the first way I learned to make “buttermilk”: acidifying milk with a little lemon juice until it soured. It’s also an easy way to get hooked on making all sorts of fresh dairy products at home, from yogurt to cheese.
You do need to pick up starter culture, which I find at Withey’s and other local natural-food stores, to make buttermilk at home. Powdered starter cultures do keep well, lasting at least a few months in the freezer. I found a forgotten frozen packet the other day that seemed more than a year old and used it to make some delicious dry-salted feta.
These biscuits can also be made with the whey leftover from making yogurt, or drained from a store-bought container of plain yogurt. Straining turns thinner homemade or commercial yogurt into the thicker Greek style, so think of yogurt whey biscuits as the bonus to thick, creamy yogurt.
What really puts these biscuits over the top is the honey-chili butter. It’s so tasty that I whip up extra and keep it in the fridge to spread on other breads, toss with sautéed vegetables or brush on fish or shrimp before grilling.
Honey-Chili Butter Biscuits
Makes about 12 biscuits
2 tablespoons salted butter, softened
4 teaspoons honey, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground hot paprika
Pinch of ground cayenne pepper
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons chilled salted butter, sliced
2 tablespoons coconut oil
3/4 cup cultured buttermilk or yogurt whey
In a small bowl, combine the softened butter, 2 teaspoons of honey, the paprika and cayenne, whipping them with a fork until they form a smooth paste. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add the cold butter, coconut oil and remaining 2 teaspoons of honey. Use a fork or your fingers to work the fats into the flour, as you would for pie crust, until the mixture becomes mealy. Pour in the buttermilk and mix with your hands or a fork until the dough just begins to cling together.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, knead a couple of times until it starts to maintain a ball shape and then flatten the ball into a rough circle about 1/2 inch thick. Cut about 12 rounds with a biscuit cutter or squares with a knife. Space them out on a lightly greased baking sheet. Spread the honey-chili butter over the top of each biscuit.
Bake at 425°F for 15 minutes, until the biscuit tops and bottoms are lightly brown. Serve immediately or move to a wire rack to cool.
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