The Baker’s Biscuits
I’ve been eyeing this recipe for “The Baker’s Biscuits” ever since the cookbook in which it was printed came out in September 2020.
It’s taken me this long to finally make them.
That’s because these 12 beautiful and bountiful biscuits require freezing before baking. And if your freezer was anything like mine during the pandemic, there was simply no precious inch to spare.
Thankfully, now that life is getting back to normal, so is my freezer. As we all exhale in relief, so, too, is my freezer at shouldering such a vital load for so long.
What drew me to these biscuits in particular? Unlike any other biscuit recipe I’d tried, these are made with 00 flour. Yes, the same finely-ground, Italian specialty flour that’s coveted for making the primo pizzas and pastas.
The recipe is from “The Good Book of Southern Baking: A Revival of Biscuits, Cakes, and Cornbread” (Lorena Jones Books), of which I received a copy. It’s by Pastry Chef Kelly Fields, owner of Willa Jean bakery in New Orleans and winner of the James Beard Foundation “Outstanding Pastry Chef” in 2019. It was written in conjunction with food writer Kate Heddings, a former food editor at Food & Wine magazine.
Included are 100 recipes for every Southern baked good imaginable, from “Praline Monkey Bread,” “King Cake,” and “Moon Pies” to “Bourbon-Butterscotch Pudding,” “Coconut Cream Pie,” and “Blackout Cake.”
Why the use of doppio zero flour? Fields writes in the recipe headnote that it gives biscuits strength without chew, and absorbs the butter and buttermilk perfectly to create flaky layers.
And why freeze the biscuits before baking? Because the colder they are, she writes, the higher they rise.
In fact, the copious amount of butter used in the dough is grated, then also frozen before incorporated.
The shaggy dough, enriched with 15 tablespoons of butter, is mixed in a bowl, then turned out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. After patting out into a rectangle, it’s folded like a letter, rolled flat again, then folded one more time, and rolled again. Because the dough is a little loose at this point, the parchment is a great aid in helping you lift the edges of the dough over, almost like you would use a bamboo mat when making nigiri rolls.
Cut the dough into 12 biscuits, then freeze them for at least 12 hours or overnight before baking right from the freezer. The recipe omitted when to brush on the extra buttermilk called for on the biscuits, but obviously, it’s just before you slide them into the oven. As they bake, your entire house will fill with the aroma of butter.
The biscuits bake up ridiculously crisp and crunchy on the top and bottom almost like a perfect fruit turnover. They are light, fluffy and flaky within. These biscuits are also huge. One is practically a meal unto itself.
They taste at their very best fresh baked. If you reheat leftover ones in the oven the next day, they’ll still be righteously good but just a tad denser in nature.
These are biscuits that you’ll not only welcome with open arms, but your freezer surely will, as well.
The Baker’s Biscuits
(Makes 12 large biscuits)
6 cups 00 flour, preferably Italian Antimo Caputo flour (cake flour works well, too)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons baking powder
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, grated on the large holes of a box grater and placed in the freezer.
3 cups cold buttermilk, plus 1/4 cup for brushing on top
All-purpose flour for dusting
In a large bowl, mix the 00 flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and use your hands to cut into the flour, smearing the mixture between your fingertips to create flakes; there should be a combination of large and small flecks of butter, and the flour will start to take on the color of the butter. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients from the edges into the buttermilk until incorporated. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups buttermilk and stir just until a shaggy dough forms.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Dust your work surface liberally with all-purpose flour. Turn the dough out of the bowl and pat it into a rectangle; it’s okay if the dough barely holds together. Fold one-third of the dough to the center, then fold the other third on top, like folding a letter. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 6-by-13-inch rectangle, and repeat the process. Roll again to a 6-by-13-inch rectangle, until about 1 inch thick. Cut the dough into 12 biscuits; each one should be a little less than 3 inches square (there might be some leftover dough). Transfer the biscuits to the prepared baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for at least 12 hours and up to overnight, covering the biscuits with plastic wrap once they’re frozen.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the tops of the frozen biscuits with the remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk. Bake for 40 minutes, rotating the baking sheet after 20 minutes, until the biscuits have risen, are golden, and sound hollow when you flick the bottoms. Serve hot. Store wrapped loosely in foil or plastic wrap at room temperature up to overnight.
From “The Good Book of Southern Baking” by Kelly Fields with Kate Heddings
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