Biscuits aren’t the normal fare here at Three Clever Sisters. You know we don’t shy away from baked goods, but we lean towards those that take well to sugar. (Remember, that’s how the daughters of a dentist get c-r-a-z-y). But that doesn’t mean there’s not savory baking to get excited about, and we are trying to be fairer about giving it a fair shake.
As for biscuits, you might be thinking we have some long handed-down family recipe, given that we are from the “sort-of” South (Oklahoma–what is it anyway?) But since our parents aren’t natives, our eating of biscuits was mostly done at Chick-fil-A. Including when Karen and Marie visited me there while I was working a shift in my bright red and blue uniform or awkwardly offering mall shoppers a toothpick-speared sample. (And I’ll answer the question my husband once asked me: no, I never had to dress up like a chicken).
Turns out I do enjoy making biscuits–no surprise when they are all about using my favorite ingredient (butter). What’s more, it’s just fun, wielding a glass from the cupboard to twist out perfect little rounds. It feels comfortably old-fashioned, and more than that seems somehow essential and basic–almost as though being able to turn out good biscuits makes your house a home.
But even so, sometimes I need a little push. Here it came in the form of a half used quart of buttermilk, sticks of butter that had taken up residence in the freezer, and Cabot chipotle cheddar cheese. (A surprise gift from the company itself, an unexpected dividend of a blog post where I had mentioned it’s one of my favorite cheddars).
Now, I don’t typically buy “flavored” cheese even where I like said flavors (chipotle, just to pick a random example). But I am not about to waste perfectly good cheddar, so I hit upon the idea of baking it, figuring that cheddar biscuits with a feisty personality could be fun.
A kick, a punch, whatever you call it, it’s there. Chipotle is sneaky like that–you don’t realize how much heat it packs until it’s too late, and you’re feeling the burn starting to build at the root of your tongue and the top of your throat.
I’m exaggerating a bit, as of course these little rounds are agreeably hot. All the creamy components of these biscuits–buttermilk, yogurt, and of course the cheese itself–temper the heat of the chipotle and keep it in balance, without dulling its smoky character.
(And as an aside, did you see that? Yes, there I went, plunging headway into cliché upon trope: have you noticed how the selling point for spicy-hot flavors seems to be that it’s somehow going to be excruciating? Why do we think that an eating experience that previews the inner circle of hell for you is the non plus ultra of a good meal?)
Nevertheless, I think these would be a slightly daring, but complementary, side to a hot bowl of chile. Or maybe the complementary starch to a morning breakfast of scrambled or over-easy eggs. Or perhaps as another side for your array of Thanksgiving offerings tomorrow. Whatever use you make of them, this just goes to show it’s good to push yourself sometimes.
Cheddar Chipotle Biscuits
Note: This recipe was inspired by a recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain. These are lower fat as they use yogurt and buttermilk (rather than cream or sour cream as you see in other recipes).
- 2 cups (about 9 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups (about 6.8 ounces) whole wheat flour
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 4 ounces (1 stick) frozen unsalted butter
- 2 cups (about 7 ounces) chipotle cheddar cheese
- 1 cup buttermilk + extra for buttermilk wash
- 1 cup yogurt
Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter or line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Stir the flours, baking soda, salt and pepper together. Either grate the frozen butter over the flour mixer, using the largest side of a box grater or cut in using a pastry cutter. Stir in, then stir in the grated cheese.
Whisk the buttermilk and yogurt together in a small bowl, then add it to the flour-butter-cheese mixture and stir to combine.
Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead only enough to incorporate into a single mass. Using the palms of your hands, pat the dough into a rough circle about 1″ tall. Spoon some flour into a little mound on the table, and dip your cutter/cup’s edge into this before making each round to avoid sticking.
Using a 2 1/2″ cutter (or the closest sized cup you have–2 1/2″ is actually not all that big, and it’s not the end of the world to end up with larger biscuits), cut out biscuits. (Until I got those pretty hummingbird cups pictured above, I even used the rim of a baby bottle on biscuits. In case you have some laying around).
Place each biscuit onto your prepared cookie sheet, about one inch apart. Re-form scraps into another circle and cut more biscuits. Work quickly so the butter stays cold, rather than kneading or trying to make the dough perfect and smooth. (I find that the biscuits from the second and third pass aren’t as pretty, but they still somehow manage to get eaten).
Pour a little buttermilk into a small dish and use your fingers or a pastry brush to paint the top of each round with a buttermilk wash.
Bake for 35-40 minutes until brown, rotating the baking sheets about halfway through.
Makes about 24, but will depend on the size of your biscuit cutter. (Also, I don’t think I was quite so good about making sure I patted my dough to 1″ thick. I think I was a bit too vigorous and my biscuits are shorter–and more plentiful–as a result. Whatever you do, as long as they are of similar thickness things will work out and they’ll bake evenly).