Once upon a time, I was looking for recipes to use up an excess of buttermilk, and I came across a recipe for drop biscuits full of cheese and chives. I don’t know what the writer of that recipe left out, but the bowl of mostly dry flour that resulted from following the recipe as written could not possibly have been scooped and dropped.
Fortunately, with a little elbow grease, the dough came together and made addictively tasty cut biscuits that I’ve been known to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on those I WILL EAT ALL THE CARBS days.
I’m a big fan of laminating biscuits, which is a fancy term for giving them the croissant treatment. You flatten out your dough, cut it in half, and stack the halves. Now you have two layers. Flatten and stack four more times, and you have (*does math*) THIRTY-TWO layers. The technical jargon for this is “flaky as fuck.” It’s not quite like croissants, where each layer of elastic dough is separated by a solid layer of butter, but the little nuggets of butter studded throughout the biscuit dough make 32 layers of steam pockets that translate to fluff.
These require a little more effort than the biscuits of my childhood (you can find that secret recipe on every box of Bisquick), but they are so, so worth it.
Cheddar and Chive Buttermilk Biscuits
- 1½ cups of all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- ½ teaspoon of baking soda
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- ½ cup of cold butter
- 2 Tablespoons of chopped chives
- ¾ cup of shredded cheddar cheese
- ½ cup of buttermilk
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 425° Fahrenheit.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a fork or pastry cutter, cut the cold butter into the flour mixture until the butter is the size of small peas. Stir in the chives and cheese until evenly distributed. Stir in the buttermilk. The mixture will be very dry.
Dump the mixture onto a clean counter; using your hands, press the loose mixture together until little dry flour remains (see preparation notes below). Pat the dough into an approximately 1/2-inch thick rectangle. Using a knife or bench scraper, divide the dough down the middle; place one half on top of the other. Again, pat the dough into an approximately 1/2-inch thick rectangle, cut, and stack. Repeat, cutting and stacking a total of 5 times. After the fifth stack, pat the dough to 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch thickness. Using a biscuit cutter, cut as many biscuits as possible from this first batch. Stack and pat the scraps to 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch thickness to cut the remaining biscuits.
Transfer biscuits to parchment-lined baking sheet (see positioning notes below). Bake at 425° Fahrenheit for 15 to 18 minutes, until tops are golden brown. Makes approximately six 3-inch biscuits (see yield notes below).
- Ingredients: I always use salted butter, but if you have only unsalted, there shouldn’t be enough of a difference to make any adjustments to the recipe. (Don’t speak to me of margarine.)
- Ingredients: If you can get full-fat buttermilk, take advantage of this blessing upon your house. Reduced-fat buttermilk is fine, I suppose, when there’s absolutely no other choice. Full-fat isn’t advertised as such—it simply doesn’t say “reduced fat” on the label, and if you compare the nutrition info, it will obviously have more calories.
- Ingredients: Because of their tubular shape, chives are pretty much the same size whether fresh or dried, so unlike flat-leaf herbs that lose a lot of volume when dried, there’s no measurement adjustment for dried chives vs. fresh. Use them interchangeably.
- Preparation: When you’re squishing the crumbly dough into a solid state, don’t knead it aggressively. You want to preserve as many of those butter nuggets as possible, and you don’t want biscuits to develop gluten like pizza dough. Treat it more like a cookie-crumb crust—scoop it into a pile and press it flat, and keep piling the crumbly edges on top and pressing them in just until you have something solid enough to withstand minimal handling. It’s fine if it’s still a little floury on the bottom; that will get incorporated during lamination, and in the meantime, it’s not sticking to your counter like glue!
- Positioning: I don’t have a firm stance in the Separate or Touching Biscuits debate. I’ve heard biscuits that touch pull each other up, and that kind of makes sense in an “angel food cake climbing the sides of the pan” way, but in practice, I get biscuits that crowd at the bottom and shy away from each other at the top (note the uniform height but shrunken tops in the first photo). I get good lift separately (yay layers)—so good, the biscuits tend to slump under their own height (note the poor posture in the fourth photo), so there might be some virtue in bracing them against other biscuits if you’re obsessed with vertical orientation. I think it’s an aesthetic choice more than a practical one. You might have to add a minute in the oven if they’re touching to account for the reduced heat circulation, but otherwise… do what convenience and/or family traditions dictate.
- Yield: I have a 3-inch round biscuit cutter. I leave my dough on the thicker side (3/4 inch), which yields 5 nice biscuits and 1 lumpy guy made of the second set of scraps. The thickness of your dough, the diameter of your cutter, and your scrap utilization will obviously affect the number of biscuits you get.
- Optional: For maximum waste reduction, sometimes I use the bench scraper to cut squares instead of rounds. If you do this, DO cut the patted edges, as well, because their irregularity will impede the expansion of the layers on that side during baking.
- Optional: Experiment with combinations of herbs and cheeses (anything firm enough to shred will work). Oniony chives work with any cheese. Try dill with cheddar, gouda, or monterey jack. Swiss or gruyere would be amazing with sage or thyme. Mozzarella or provolone with oregano or rosemary. If it’s a good combo in another dish, it will taste good in a biscuit, too. Because ALL of these herbs will pack more densely in a spoon than hollow chives, I’d start with 1 Tablespoon of fresh, adjust down to 1½ teaspoons for dry, and avoid powdered versions. You can always make a note to use more next time if necessary, and you can compensate with a smear of herb butter if the first batch needs an extra dose of oomph.
- On a day when it was too hot to handle biscuit dough because even frozen butter turned to mush in a hurry, I added an extra ½ cup of buttermilk (for a total measurement of 1 cup) and got a droppable biscuit. They take 3-5 extra minutes to cook because they’re wetter, and they obviously don’t have flaky layers, but they’re still a good way to get fluffy cheesy herb bread in your mouth. Plus, you get an extra biscuit or two because you have an extra half cup of volume and you’re not compressing the dough, so you can’t lose either way.