In south Georgia, biscuits are a staple, appropriate for any meal. My first buttermilk biscuits were a disaster: I forgot the baking powder, resulting in hardtack. Yet my daddy ate one, anyway! Now that’s true love. (Jump straight to the recipe)
The go-to flour in my momma’s kitchen was all purpose White Lily, milled from southern-grown soft red winter wheat, a low-protein, low-gluten variety. However, the 19th century Knoxville company was a victim of American consolidation, sold to a food conglomerate in the early 21st century. Then the mill closed; production shifted to Ohio. Author Fred W. Sauceman:
It means something to have been made in the exact same spot for 125 years, and it’s unconscionable not to respect that… People felt so strongly about this flour that in the South it was reserved for Sunday dinner. It was called the Sunday flour.
Although the move to from Tennessee to Ohio arguably resulted in a different flour, the company insists it remains a soft wheat-based product.
In contrast to White Lily, most all purpose flour sold in America is a hodgepodge, a blend of various wheat varieties (the rose-by-any-other-name mindset, aka whatever is cheapest or accounting-driven production). The result is more protein per gram and heavier biscuits and baked goods (pdf).
Like White Lily, pastry flour is bleached with chlorine and made from soft wheat.
In experimenting with gluten free baking, I’ve discovered there is no such thing as a silver bullet “all purpose GF flour.” This isn’t so different from all-purpose wheat flours, which give the false impression of being uniform/universal.
About this recipe
There were no “cut” biscuits in our house. My mother tried to teach me how to hand-roll biscuits so that the wrinkles — the folds in the dough — would go to the bottom. Mine have never been as consistent as hers, but I’ve not rolled nearly as many as she did. These are colloquially known as “cat heads” but no, I don’t know why since her biscuits were not overly large.
This recipe uses Cup4Cup all-purpose gluten-free flour, Rumford Aluminum Free Baking Powder, and Clabber Girl Corn Starch (non-GMO). The Cup4Cup flour is a high starch, low protein pastry flour substitute, which makes it “White Lily-ish”. I also use real buttermilk, with the highest butterfat content I can find, and locally-churned unsalted butter.
If flaky is what you’re looking for, you’ll want a recipe that includes a lot of folding of the dough. You’ll also need to cut the biscuits.
Serve with lots of butter and jam, jelly, honey or molasses. Or pimento cheese. Of course, they make great country ham biscuits, too!
Buttermilk Biscuits, GF
Delicious gluten-free buttermilk biscuits will make you forget about wheat!
- Course: Side Dish
- Cuisine: American
- Servings: 3-4
- 1 cCup4Cup all purpose GF flour
- 2 Tcornstarch
- 1/2 Tbaking powder
- 1/8 tbaking soda
- 1/4 tsalt
- 1 tsugar
- 4 Tcold unsalted butter
- 1/2 cbuttermilk
- 1 Tunsalted butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 425F. Lubricate a large cast iron frying pan (butter or bacon grease).
- In a large bowl, sift the flour, corn starch, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar to combine well. Do not pack the flour in the measuring cup — use a scant 1 cup. The sugar will not result in sweet biscuits; it’s needed for chemistry.
- Dice unsalted butter into 1/4-inch bits. Alternatively, grate a frozen 1/2 stick of butter.
- Add the diced butter to the flour; mix well until you have crumbles. (I use my fingers although you’ll see a lot of recipes that warn against warming the dough. This is not pastry dough!)
- Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients; add the buttermilk and mix until just combined. Again, I use my hands but many recipes call for stirring. Before proceeding to the next step, clean off the dough that is sticking to your fingers.
- With well-floured hands, pinch off a piece of dough (larger than a golf ball but smaller than a tennis ball — feel free to experiment with sizes per the photo below) and roll lightly into a ball. Work quickly; don’t overwork the dough. I use my left hand for a base and then shape (roll) the biscuit with my right.
- Place the dough in the frying pan, with a slight gap between biscuits if you want a bit a crust around the edges. If the sides touch, the edges will be softer. Using floured fingertips or knuckles, lightly press each biscuit to slightly flatten. Brush lightly with the melted butter. You can see that some of my biscuits have smoother tops than others; that’s appearance, not taste!
- Bake until lightly golden brown (about 15 minutes). Remove from the oven and allow to cool briefly before serving. Note that they do not “grow” a lot.
Adapted from Easy Gluten Free Drop Biscuits