This recipe came about as a result of attempting to clean out my fridge. I was rooting through the cheese drawer and noticed a bunch of leftover ends of cheese that I'd bought for a get together at my place. I always find myself flummoxed in the cheese section of the store when it's time to put together a cheeseboard. Does this happen to you? I know what I like (pretty much every cheese, usually the softer or stronger the better), but what about my guests? Anyway my rule of thumb for a decent cheeseboard is usually one soft, one sharp, one safe/classic, and then something interesting to mix it up. In this case the interesting cheese was a smoked white cheddar with black peppercorns.
So as I pulled this hunk of cheese from the fridge, I noticed I also had leftover buttermilk that needed to be used up before the end of the month. The best, and laziest, way I could think to use it was to throw together some simple biscuits. And hey, why not add the cheese in there while I was at it? The fridge would be cleared, the dairy wouldn't go to waste, and there would be baked goods around to snack on. Win win.
Like any good Southerner, I love biscuits. Making them is also such an easy process! They come together quickly and you can even freeze your unbaked biscuits so they can be saved and fresh baked for any impromptu brunches or dinners. I am also a fan of cooking that involves getting your hands messy, the kneading of a pasta dough or the act of slowly merging butter with flour that is involved here. It's so simple and so satisfying.
I know, I know, I cut them into squares. This might seem like sacrilege but it's born of practicality. The recipe as written requires that you make three folds with the dough. Now, if I had used my circular biscuit cutter, I'd have a lot of weird scraps I'd have to re-fold and I would lose out on the delicate layers the folding creates. This is, after all, a dough you want to be as gentle as you are lazy with. Less working equates to more lightness. So I used *gasp* my trusted kitchen knife to slice my slab of dough into neat squares, and no re-working is called for. I am pretty sure this is a trick I learned from Alton Brown, who once had a biscuit bake off with his grandmother, who makes hers without even measuring the flour.
This recipe, like so many you'll see here, came from Smitten Kitchen. I believe I took her favorite biscuit recipe and sort of hacked it together with her recipe for caramelized onion and gruyere biscuits, which I've also made before and are fantastic. The dough is hearty enough to withstand the addition of cheese, so long as it's not a very moist or melty cheese. Definitely don't use anything you can't easily grate or dice up. Other than that, I say go with your hearts desire here! What do you have laying around? Gouda? Cheddar? Cotswold? I did find that the smokey flavor of this particular cheese worked brilliantly with the biscuits, giving them almost a bacon like flavor, though they still paired wonderfully with some honey and butter.
- 2 1/4 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons to 1 1/2 tablespoons (10 to 20 grams) sugar (to taste, see note above)
- 1 tablespoon (15 grams) baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 9 tablespoons (125 grams) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
- 4 oz. of hard cheese, shredded (which will look like a generous cup once shredded)
- 3/4 cup (175 ml) buttermilk
- Heat oven to 400 °F and cover baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in large, wide bowl.
- Using fingertips or a pastry blender, work butter into dry ingredients until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
- Mix in grated cheese thoroughly.
- Add buttermilk and stir until large, craggy clumps form. Reach hands into bowl and knead mixture briefly until it just holds together.
- Transfer dough to floured counter and pat out until 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick. Fold dough in half and pat down to 1/2 inch thickness. Fold the dough in half a second time and pat back down to 1/2 inch thickness. Attempt to shape dough into a square, to ensure even sized biscuit cutting.
- Cut your biscuits to desired size.
- Place on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, until the tops are just starting to brown.