I found this recipe when I was a senior in college and lived in a studio apartment where my kitchen was my bedroom was my living room was my office. In that apartment, I made these biscuits with a wooden spoon and a bowl. This is the first time I’ve made them with a stand mixer, so I can attest that you’ll be fine without one. I own biscuit cutters, but they are in a storage box in the basement so I used a beer glass instead. You could also use a coffee mug, or cut them with a knife. Almost anything goes! (Yeah, college!)
I have absolutely no childhood memories of hot biscuits or a kitchen dusted with White Lily flour. (I remember tubes of crescent rolls, which are culturally-relevant memories in their own right.) Biscuits do not comfort me with thoughts of home, but rather fall alongside other foods I’ve adopted as my own in the mishmash palate of things I have made and shared. These things, in particular, I made in college with my boyfriend who lived two hours away. We baked biscuits or orange sweet rolls on Saturday nights and watched the entire James Bond series over the course of a year in that tiny studio, pausing the scenes while we took baking pans out of the oven or dried dishes. This is how you assign meaning to food you did not grow up with: something is good and you share it. There’s the context you were missing.
Before this cheddar version, I had only tried making one biscuit recipe: a cracked-pepper green onion interpretation that tasted like baked potatoes. The combination of butter, salt, and cheddar tugs at my heart a lot more. These biscuits are very forgiving and taste excellent alongside soup. They freeze so well that you can almost replicate the fresh-baked experience by grabbing two or four out of the freezer and microwaving them for a few seconds (a desperate snack). Eat them fast if you do this, though. There’s no time to lose, there’s no one home to see you do it!
Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits
Almost entirely from Ina Garten
2 c all-purpose flour, plus a handful to coat the cheese, and another handful to flour your workspace
1 tbsp baking powder
¾ tsp kosher salt (the original recipe calls for 1 ½ tsp, but I found this to be overkill–remember that the tops are also sprinkled with salt)
1 ½ sticks very cold (stick in the freezer while you prep and measure your ingredients) unsalted butter
½ c cold buttermilk
1 c grated extra-sharp Cheddar (buy it in a block so you can avoid the anti-caking agents coating the cheese in the pre-shredded kind)
Another egg, beaten with 1 tbsp water (this is your egg wash)
Salt for topping (a crunchy sea salt works great!)
Heat oven to 425. Combine flour, salt, and baking powder in a mixing bowl. Add the butter (and quickly, because it’s going to melt), which I do by grating the sticks with a cheese grater into the mixing bowl while the mixer is running on low.
Combine the buttermilk and egg in a small bowl and beat together. Add this mixture to the flour/butter combo and mix until moistened.
Toss the shredded cheddar in a pinch of flour and add the cheese to the dough (mixer or arms on low). Mix until barely combined–you do not want to overwork your dough or the biscuits will be hard.
Flour a counter or a big wooden cutting board, dump the dough out of the bowl, and knead the dough a few times (I think 3 turns is enough). Roll out the dough so it is about ½ to ¾ inch thick. Dip your round cutter into flour and cut out biscuits. Move the cut biscuits to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You can also turn the leftover scraps of dough into biscuits, though they won’t be as uniform as the first batch.
Brush egg wash lightly over biscuits and top with a small sprinkle of salt. A silicone brush is a perfect tool for this, but a folded-up paper towel also works. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until starting to brown. Eat while warm.