If you’ve taken a close look at what’s in most biscuits these days you might just assume they’re completely off-limits. Yes, occasionally I’ll indulge in a real, homemade biscuit, but even most of those have ingredients in them that I don’t feel great about. So I’ve been on the hunt for how to make a better, healthier biscuit. Based on my food values that means a biscuit that uses real ingredients and no white flour. Easy, right? Well, not really.
Over the years one of my best friends from Atlanta (and a true homemade biscuit aficionado herself) has sent me countless clippings and cookbooks (yes entire cookbooks) dedicated to the art of biscuit-making. Yet when I’ve tried substituting whole wheat flour in recipes, something happened—I ended up with a tougher, drier biscuit. 🙁
Not one to give up, though, I kept on experimenting. The challenge was simple. When you use whole wheat flour you need the biscuit dough to be wetter to produce a moist biscuit. But when the dough is wet enough, the dough is too wet to handle and roll out. Even drop biscuits didn’t work well because the wet dough would spread out versus bake up, nice, tall, and fluffy.
From time to time I’d share my biscuit story with a friend or acquaintance who cared about cooking. So about a year ago, I started talking to the person seated next to me on a plane about my book and food journey. She was an elderly lady, had three grown children, and lots of stories about how food has changed over the years (call me crazy, but I find these kinds of conversations fascinating). Anyway, she was from the South so I decided to share with her my biscuit dilemma.
While she had always rolled out her biscuits, she remembered her grandmother tossing large spoonfuls of biscuit dough in a floured pan to get these incredibly moist biscuits. They were baked up in either a round or square pan, with each biscuit wedged up next to one another so they wouldn’t spread out. The result was a tall, fluffy, and moist biscuit. I had never heard of this method of biscuit baking, so I took note, and you know what? It worked!
Now I wish I knew the name of my fellow traveler and biscuit lover (please, if you’re reading my blog, say hello). But nonetheless, it just goes to show—together we can help each other accomplish some great things … including cooking up a better batch of whole wheat biscuits!
My Creamy, Dreamy Whole Wheat Biscuits Recipe
So if you’re a biscuit lover who’s given up on these treats because they’re not good for you, I totally understand … and I certainly don’t mean to tempt you back into the occasional biscuit-eating fold. But if you’re looking for a better biscuit—one that’s made with whole wheat flour, 100% real ingredients, AND is still moist and delicious, I’ve got just the recipe for you—my Creamy, Dreamy Whole Wheat Biscuits! Whether you serve them up as the perfect accompaniment to soup, a meal, or breakfast, these versatile gems are a special, delicious treat!
- 1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
- ⅛ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder (see notes)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar or honey
- 4 tablespoons butter, chilled
- 1 ¼ cups buttermilk (or milk, half & half, etc.)
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (for shaping biscuits)
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted (for brushing prior to baking)
- Preheat your oven to 475F.
- Get two 8-inch cake pans. Grease one with butter. Fill the other one with 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour for shaping the biscuits.
- In a mixing bowl, add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar (if you’re using honey, see the notes). Mix together lightly with a fork.
- Cut the butter into 8-10 pieces. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the cold butter into the flour. Don’t over mix. When it’s ready it should look a little pebbly with no butter pieces bigger than a big pea.
- Add the buttermilk, folding it in gently until the flour mixture is wet. Again, you don’t want to over mix.
- Don’t panic! This is a very wet dough—that’s how you can make a really soft biscuit using 100% whole wheat flour. The trick is, you don’t roll out this biscuit dough. Instead, take two tablespoons of dough and place it in the cake pan that has flour in it for shaping the biscuits. Drizzle some of the flour on top of the dough, and then gently shape it and place it in the greased pan. Repeat this process until you’ve shaped all the dough and filled the greased pan with 8-10 biscuits. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the uncooked biscuits with melted butter.
- Place the pan in the oven (just above the center) and bake at 475F for 15-20 minutes. Biscuits are done when golden brown on top.
- Cool the biscuits in the pan for about 2 minutes, then dump out or serve with a small serving spatula.
I make my own baking powder since so many making baking powders have aluminum in them (in the form of sodium aluminum phosphate and/or aluminum sulfate). It’s very easy to make: two parts cream of tartar and one part baking soda.
If you’re a stickler about using no processed sugar, you can opt for honey instead. I suggest adding it to room temperature buttermilk, then chilling the buttermilk before making the biscuits.
If you’re interested in a nuttier, more flavorful biscuit, I find using ¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour and ¾ cup whole wheat flour works well for the base. Make sure you use whole wheat pastry flour for shaping the biscuits.
If you want an even creamier biscuit, use ¾ cups buttermilk and ½ cup cream or half and half.
Finally, these biscuits freeze well, so feel free to make a double batch. Wrap the extra biscuits individually in foil, and seal in a freezer bag. Then remove a biscuit whenever you need one!
Kitchen Tips & Resources:
- I have several different sizes of these OXO cookies scoop, and they work perfectly for portioning out dough of all sorts!
- When I’m making a batch of biscuits, I use two 8-inch round cake pans—one for rolling the biscuit around in flour and the other for baking the biscuits.
- Pastry brushes of all sizes are great tools to have on hand, especially when buttering the top of these biscuits before baking. I prefer to use ones like these that have natural bristles.
- Bob’s Red Mill Organic Whole Wheat Pastry Flour is what I use to bake up my creamy, dreamy whole wheat biscuits!