dill + cracked pepper biscuits
I moved away from home over 5 years ago for the job I still have. My love for the mountain I grew up on is well known and documented, and runs deep. There are times when I go months without visiting, but soon a longing creeps up, building until the only release is that old country road. My father, mother and little sister still live there, not to mention one of my best friends, so the visits are usually full to the brim. This time, however, has been quite different. My poor dad broke his ankle in two places a little over two weeks ago and has subsequently endured a lengthy surgery and slow recovery. All three of us daughters have been here this week, spending time laughing, cooking and keeping the ice packs draped over the bandages to keep the swelling at bay. His spirits have remained high most of the time, not entirely due to the pills the nice doctor gave him. It’s been an unfortunate blessing to spend so much time together, one I’ve really enjoyed despite the circumstances.
Cooking brings me a lot of joy, but cooking for my family is a delight and an honor. The day before dad’s surgery I wanted to make sure he had a few good meals in his belly. I couldn’t think of something more comforting than a soft, fluffy biscuit, especially when you make it into a toothsome sandwich drizzled with gravy. So, with everyone up and about, still in their pajamas, sleepily pouring strong coffee into their mouths, we made up a batch of these dill woven biscuits and built ourselves a hearty breakfast.
These biscuits are lovely all on their own. They are light, fluffy and as soft as whipped cream. No more than a spread of butter is needed, but a runny egg, crisp bacon, fresh kale and a spoonful of gravy doesn’t hurt either.
dill + cracked pepper biscuits
adapted from The Best Light Recipe by Cooks Illustrated
makes 12 biscuits
For the biscuits
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 cup fresh dill
- 1 tablespoon ground pepper
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
- 1 1/2 cups cold buttermilk
For the gravy
- recipe found here (I used bacon grease instead of butter)
- With a rack in the middle of the oven, heat to 500 degrees. Spray a 9 inch cake pan with non-stick spray. Set aside. Also, grab a 1/4 cup measure and spray it inside and out with non-stick spray, you’ll use it to portion out the biscuits and that will help the dough to slip out easily.
- Spread one cup of flour onto a rimmed baking sheet. Set aside.
- Mix the remaining two cups of flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, pepper, and dill in a bowl to combine. Add the butter and rub it in with your finger tips until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the buttermilk and mix lightly with a rubber spatula until the mixture is just combined. Do not over mix. It should be a little lumpy. (Cooks Illustrated instructs to use a food processor here. I didn’t have access to one so I used what God gave me. With a food processor, pulse the dry ingredients together a couple times to mix, then add the butter and and pulse until it resembles coarse meal.Remove the mixture from the work bowl than add in the buttermilk until just combined.)
- Working quickly, measure out a leveled 1/4 cup of the dough in your greased measuring cup. Drop the biscuits onto the floured rim baking sheet. Continue until you have no more dough. Sprinkle some flour from the baking sheet on top of each biscuit. Roll the biscuit in the flour, pick it up and form into a ball by passing it from each had to the other, kind of like your playing hot potato (remember that game?). By doing so, you’ll shape it and get rid of excess flour. Place the dough into the cake pan, arranging 9 biscuits around the perimeter and then filling in the middle with the last three.
- Bake the biscuits for 5 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 450 and bake for another 15 minutes, or until nice and golden brown. Cool the biscuits in the pan for two minutes then flip them out onto a clean kitchen towel, then flip them right side up. Break them apart and let cool for 5 more minutes.