See a letter from Ellen about the donation campaign. Your help matters!

Buttermilk Angel Biscuits

A fine bread baker since age 11, I spent many more years trying to make a passable biscuit or pie crust. This is the recipe that did it for me. This biscuit dough can make cheese sticks, cinnamon rolls, or raisin buns , shortcake , dumplings, pizza dough and other hot breads. This same dough, rolled thinly or hand stretched and fried in olive oil or slapped on a open grill, produces terrific flatbread.

Buttermilk Angel Biscuits

Makes 50 2 inch biscuits, 32 2 1/2 inch biscuits or 25 3 inch giant sandwich biscuits or hot pockets. Each 2 1/2 cups flour makes 12 2 inch biscuits.
Perfect for OAMC because dough can be refrigerated up to a week before baking, or biscuits can be baked, stored or frozen, and reheated.

3 packages (2 1/2-3 tablespoons) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
3 cups warm buttermilk (105 to 115 degrees)
OR 3 cups water plus 3/4 cup buttermilk powder
10 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
OR mix together 7 cups unbleached, 2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour, 1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes, 1/4 cup cornstarch, 1/2 cup oat bran
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2-2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup sugar, this is yeast food
1 1/2 to 2 cups shortening
If you melt the shortening, you MUST decrease the water to 1/2 cup
OR 1 cup shortening plus 1 cup butter
OR 2 1/2 cups butter

Combine yeast and warm water in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup; let stand 5 minutes. Add warm buttermilk; stir well.

Combine flour and next four ingredients in a large bowl; cut in shortening with a pastry blender until mixture resembles course meal. Add yeast mixture, stirring with a fork just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead gently 10 to 15 times or until dough is just smooth and no longer sticky. At this point you may cover it or bag in several jumbo (2 gallon) zippered plastic bags, see "storing dough".

Once dough is finished or dough cycle has completed, make what you want and store the rest. When ready to bake, roll dough to 3/4-inch thickness; cut with a floured 2-inch biscuit cutter. Cut straight down, don't twist, if you want best results. Cut close together, the less you reroll the dough, the more tender they will be.
Place biscuits on an ungreased large baking sheet, and cover with a towel. Space 1" or less for softer sides with a higher rise. They can be baked as soon as the dough is at room temperature, but for best results let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, 30-45 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 400o and bake biscuits approximately 15 minutes. Thin biscuits may be baked at 425-450o for 10-12 minutes.

To refrigerate dough, spray zippered plastic bags with Pam or other baking spray - dump dough into bag, zip up and keep in fridge (it will rise in the bag) up to a week. Reheating instructions: Use these baking directions for biscuits you plan to freeze and bake, also. Bake until just done, as they will bake and brown slightly more when reheated. They will look risen and dry, but just be turning color. Bake 1 to 2 days in advance and store at room temperature, or freeze for up to 6 weeks. To reheat, arrange biscuits on a baking sheet. Brush lightly with melted butter if desired. Reheat in 350o oven for 10 min.

Variations, or why I love this recipe
Biscuit variations

flour-dusted: dust the tops with flour before baking
butter-baked: preheat the biscuit pan or skillet with a few tablespoons of butter or butter mixed with oil until hot. When ready to bake, dip one side of the biscuit to coat it, then turn over and bake.
Outdoor baking, grill or Dutch oven: To bake on an outdoor gas BBQ, preheat grill to medium and use a cast iron skillet. Place some terra cotta tiles on grill and when grill is properly pre-heated, set skillet on top and close grill cover. Bake 11-14 minutes until golden.
crescents: Roll or pat 1/3-1/4 of the recipe into a circle 1/4 inch thick, and cut into 16 wedges (use lots of flour on board). Roll up each piece from large end to small and place on greased sheet with the tip tucked down.
shortcake: sprinkle on 2 tablespoons of sugar
cheese biscuits: for each 12 biscuits, mix together 1 tablespoon flour, 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, Italian herbs or other green herb, sprinkle over 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar. Flour the board, put the lump of dough on, sprinkle on the seasoned cheese and pat it in. Fold a couple of times to distribute the cheese before you roll/ pat it out and cut the biscuits.

Dumplings: Season or herbify the dough to taste. Cover, do NOT peek, use a glass cover if you must, it really IS important not to let the steam out! Lots of liquid needed, should be just under a boil. You boil, the dumplings die... Time depends on size and especially thickness. "Done" dumplings float, and a toothpick stuck in comes out dry. Shape is regional, basically getting rounder and larger as you go North. You can make sweet dumplings for fruit soups and steam them over apple juice. I make dumplings in a large, shallow pan, because I like lots of dumplings. The cheese biscuit recipe makes good dumplings, too.
Rolled or flat: roll less than 1/4" thick, cut into 1" strips or squares (pizza cutter works for this), lift onto the chicken by the spatula full. Cover, simmer about 15-20 minutes.
drop: by spoonfuls, about 8 minutes
round: Cut small or medium biscuits, or use an oiled or oil-sprayed ice cream scoop. Place close together over the dish, cover and simmer 35 minutes.
Slovenian Cottage Cheese or Tofu filled dumpling roll, Štruklji: Start with a 6" ball of the dough. Filling: 1 pound dry cottage cheese OR 2 12 ounce packages of drained, pressed tofu, crumbled 1 cup sour cream or soy yogurt 3 egg yolks stiff 1 teaspoon salt 2 eggs, separated with whites whipped Mix together the cottage cheese, sour cream, unbeaten egg yolks, and salt. Mix well. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites; set aside. Flour large cloth covering table (about 36 x 40 inches). Pick up dough and flip a few times in the hands. Place on floured cloth and proceed to pull the dough the entire width and length of the table. Cut off thickened edge around dough. Spread filling on pulled dough and roll up into tight roll jelly-roll fashion. Wet a linen towel or 4 layers of cheesecloth (about 30 inches long). Wrap the roll in the towel, tie one end with string, then wind the string around the roll and fasten it at the other end. Place in boiling salted water and simmer for 30 minutes. Once cooked, drain, unwrap roll and cut into about 2-inch slices. Top with crumbs browned in butter.

Cinnamon rolls: press a thin layer of brown sugar into the buttered baking pan. Roll out your biscuit dough into a rectangle, spread with some melted butter, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and then roll up jelly roll style, slice in 1 inch pieces. Put pieces in greased muffin tins or next to each other snug in the pan and bake at 425oF for 12 to 15 minutes.

Flatbreads: Roll thin or hand stretch under 1" thick onto a greased baking sheet. Brush with oil, sprinkle on an herb or seasoning blend, press it in gently and punch all over with a fork. Bake right away.

Zahtar/ Lebanese bread: use Zahtar spice blend in a thick layer as the seasoning.
Italian or thick crust pizza: The whole recipe makes about 4 large pizzas. Prepare as flatbread, oil the crust. It will be crisper if you put a layer of cheese UNDER the tomato sauce.
Parmesan cheese or sesame sticks: use ground Parmesan cheese and Italian herbs to "flour" your board. Pat or roll out 1/4-1/2" thick to a rectangle, brush with egg white or milk, press in a top layer of Parmesan cheese. Cut into narrow strips, transfer to a greased or sprayed baking sheet, bake at 425o until golden. You can give a few twists for decoration as you lay them on the pan.

Angel Biscuits and Eve

To begin with, there is only you.
First, dissolve yeast in warm water.
She will be your mother, your sister,
Your wife, your budding daughter.
Then, stir in sugar, just enough
So that her sweetness will linger on your tongue,
And you will think of home.
Add buttermilk and oil.
She must slip through your fingers
The moment you're aware of her in your hands.
Mix in flour, soda, and salt,
Your white rib ground fine as dust.
For your bones will be her bones,
Your flesh, her flesh.
Stir until you have smoothed over every inconsistency.
Do this before she rises warm inside,
Before she rises, soft and sweet, to your lips.

It will be the last time you truly know her.

      Emily Martin, Williams College