I love these whole wheat, tender, and flaky biscuits. Really. But you’d never know that looking at our menus because when I serve them my family, especially Brian, always manages to make a comment like, “they’re fine…they’re just not a real, yeast bread, you know?” Arrggg- silly family. These truly are amazing, I love them, and since they’re SUPER easy (like fresh from the oven in 20 minutes!), they’ll keep making appearances at our meals. And with sausage gravy over them? My favorite “guilty pleasure” breakfast. Ever.
If you’ve never made biscuits before, they are quick and easy, but there are a few tricks to getting those flaky layers. Which of course you know I’m going to share, right? Because I want everyone to know you can have warm 100% whole wheat, flaky biscuits in just a few minutes whenever you want. So let’s have a short tutorial so you can see the easy steps and my tips & tricks:
How to Make Amazing Whole Wheat Flaky Biscuits
1. Start in a food processor -it’s a lot easier to cut the butter into the dry ingredients than by hand (but of course, you can- use a pastry cutter in a medium bowl). The machine takes less than a minute.
2. Cut the butter into pieces and add to the dry ingredients. Pulse until the the butter is incorporated, resembling coarse cornmeal but with a few larger pieces of butter (that’s what we want for the flakiness we’re after).
See the larger butter pieces in the top photo? That’s good.
3. Transfer the flour mixture into a medium bowl. I know, I know…one more thing to wash, but that’s the trade-off we have to make so that we don’t end up with tough biscuits. (Learn from my mistakes: I use to do it all in the processor, so I didn’t dirty another bowl, but the biscuits weren’t very tender and flaky. And I learned that’s what pastry chefs mean when they say not to “overwork the dough.”)
4. Mix together a cup of buttermilk and an egg in a glass measuring cup and add it all at once to the dry ingredients. Mix just until most of the flour is incorporated. There should still be dry bits. This is important- I always used to mix until it looked like regular dough, but that was “overworking” the dough I came to find out (they always just throw these terms around like you automatically know what they mean…) and my biscuits were not tender or flaky.
Here’s a picture to help you avoid the same mistake – see the loose flour still on the board when I turned it out of the bowl? Yeah, that’s good. There will be dry looking places still, but we’re going to knead it a bit to shape and finish the dough at the same time.
5. Flour your hands well and start gently bringing all the pieces together into a sort of ball shape, then continue kneading a couple more times, adding more flour as the pieces of butter stick to the board, until it holds together. If you have a bench scraper, this is a good time to put it to use. After kneading about 10 times (times, not minutes) it should look like this in the photo above. Remember, just a light hand, it’s not like kneading a yeast dough.
6. Now fold it on itself 3 to 4 times to help create some of those great layers.
7. Roll out the dough using a rolling pin (or your hands) into a rectangular shape that’s about 1-inch to 1-1/4 inches thick and cut with a biscuit cutter or use a knife and cut into squares (I’m cutting both circles and squares here). There’s no law that says biscuits have to be circles and I actually like squares better if I’m going to be using them for sandwiches or breakfast sandwiches.
Note: I should mention that when all the sides are cut (like when using a biscuit cutter) the dough is able to rise better, so you’ll get higher biscuits than those cut with a knife that leave the outside edges uncut. However, a bonus of cutting it into squares is no re-rolling and no waste, so there you have it – the pros and cons of both.
8. Brush the tops with buttermilk (or milk) to create a nice brown, shiny top, though this is purely optional. Bake in a 425 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the pan if needed, until evenly browned. Cool a little on a wire rack and serve warm.
Oh my. Look at those flaky layers. That’s what we’re talking about!
- 3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (you can use a combination of whole wheat and all-purpose, but then it won't be 100% WW...)
- 1 tsp. honey or sugar
- 4 tsp. baking powder
- ¾ tsp. cream of tartar
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ c. cold butter
- 1 egg
- 1 c. buttermilk (add 1 Tb. vinegar to a 1 c. measure and then add milk to equal 1 c. unless you have access to true buttermilk- what they sell in the stores as buttermilk is full of additives!)
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- In the bowl of a food processor or regular bowl, combine the first six ingredients (if using honey, combine it with the liquid ingredients). Pulse (or mix) to combine.
- Cut up the butter into eight pieces and add to the dry ingredients. Pulse (or use a pastry blender) until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal with a few pea-sized pieces of butter remaining. If using a processor, transfer to a medium bowl.
- Combine the egg and buttermilk (and honey, if using) in a glass measure; add to the dry ingredients all at once. Stir with a wooden spoon just until mixture starts to come together (it will not be completely mixed). Don't over mix.
- Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 10 - 15 times until dough holds together, folding a couple of times at the end like a letter. Pat or roll into a 1 to 1-1/4 inch rectangle. Cut with a biscuit cutter or knife into about a dozen biscuits depending on the size.
- Place on a lined or greased cookie sheet, and brush the tops with milk, if desired, for a shiny, browned top.
- Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
Adapted from a post I originally published in July 2010.