Light, flaky biscuits are an excellent accompaniment to any meal. While many bakers swear by ultra-soft white flours to make good biscuits, it actually is possible to make great biscuits using only whole wheat flour.
These biscuits are made in much the same way as non-whole grain biscuits are. First, you combine flour with baking soda and salt, cut butter into the mixture until it's in small, visible pieces, which help create a flaky dough. Then, pour buttermilk in and bring the dough together so you can shape it into individual biscuits.
Making biscuits with whole wheat flour
There are a couple of differences when working with whole wheat flour instead of, for instance, all-purpose flour.
Whole wheat flour has a nutty, almost savory flavor to it. While this adds some complexity to the biscuits, I find that the biscuits need a little bit of sugar to soften that flavor. There isn't enough sugar to make these biscuits sweet, but it balances out the whole wheat flavor and makes for a better-tasting biscuit.
Whole wheat flour can absorb a lot more moisture than white flours typically do. This means that you may have to add in additional liquid to your biscuit dough to bring it together. Keep a little extra buttermilk on hand so that you can stir in an additional tablespoon or two, if needed.
Making the biscuits flaky
Two things help make these biscuits tall and flaky: baking powder in the dough and kneading the dough before shaping. A generous amount of baking powder encourages a nice rise and limited spread, so your biscuits will get a nice height in the oven.
After you've cut the butter in and added the buttermilk, you should have a slightly shaggy dough. Be sure to leave the butter in pieces that are bigger than a pea when you cut them in
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured (whole wheat flour!) surface and knead it a few times by folding the dough over on itself, flattening it and folding it again. Folding the dough a couple of times — 4 to 6 times should be plenty — helps to create some layers in the dough and give the biscuits a nice lift when they bake. This folding technique also works well for white flour biscuits, of course.
Shaping your biscuits
You can roll out the dough and use a round cutter or biscuit cutter to cut them into traditional rounds. This method gives you attractive biscuits, but you won't be able to get them all from one roll of the dough, so you'll need to gather the scraps and re-roll them once or twice.
An alternative is to roll or pat the dough into a rectangle and cut it into squares with a sharp knife. Square biscuits are a bit less traditional, but you'll use up just about all the dough in one shot. Be sure to use a sharp knife and to trim the outer edges, as a clean edge helps give biscuits their best rise.
Whole wheat buttermilk biscuits recipe
Makes 6 biscuits
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ¼ cup butter, cold
- Approximately ¾ cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.
Cut butter into 4-5 chunks and add to flour mixture. Using a pastry blender or your fingertips, cut in the butter until it's in pieces about the size of large peas. Pour in buttermilk and stir with a spatula until the dough comes together in a shaggy mass. Add an additional 1-2 tablespoons of buttermilk if dough seems dry.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and fold it over on itself. Flatten, the fold the dough again. Repeat the folding process about 4 more times, then flatten the dough (using your fingers or a rolling pin) into an approximately 8" square. Use a 3" round biscuit cutter to cut four biscuits and transfer them to prepared baking sheet. Gather scraps and re-roll to cut two more biscuits.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until biscuits are set and lightly browned on top (bottoms of biscuits will be golden). Allow biscuits to cool slightly before serving.