light & airy whole grain biscuits


The last month has brought two big changes to my cooking habits. Meat, while it was always eaten in moderation has been pretty non-existent, save for the occasional bacon I make for the kids. In its place, beans have been given their proper due. Not using bacon has pushed me to look for flavors in unexpected places. My kale, white & ravioli soup proved to be a very fulfilling meal without my usual tendency to boost it with bacon.

Whole grains have also been cast front and center in my baking habits. This doesn’t mean white flour is gone for good. I just found that there really is too much of a good thing, at least when it comes to my affinity for bread. Rather than give it up, I decided to start incorporating healthier grains. I guess it’s my way of having my cake, or bread, and eating it too.

Last week a twitter pal mentioned he was going to attempt making biscuits for the first time. I adore biscuits. I find my impulse to slather them warm from the oven with butter and a drizzle of honey borders on addiction. I’d had intentions to develop a whole grain recipe, but they were for the future. Once Ethan mentioned biscuits, though, the idea shuttled to the forefront of my mind.

So…20 minutes later I’d pulled out some flours and took a look at my regular biscuit recipe to see what changes I thought would work. The resulting recipe isn’t far off from the original, except instead of white flour, I used whole wheat pastry flour and spelt four. I scaled back the amount of flour normally used because whole grains slurp up liquid like it’s going out of style.

The other must-use technique is one I came across in Heidi’s forthcoming book Super Natural Every Day. I’ve always noticed the biscuits from my re-roll tend to rise higher than the ones first cut, so her method of layering and patting out the dough a few times made perfect sense. I also took her lead and cut the biscuits into squares. While I love the shape of round biscuits, the resulting waste from using a biscuit cutter has always bothered me. Of course, feel free to make them whichever shape you prefer. It’s your kitchen, and addiction, to feed as you see fit.

light & airy whole grain biscuits

makes 8 to 10

1 cup (4.75 ounces) whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup (2.45 ounces) spelt flour

1 tablespoon (15 grams) baking powder

1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) baking soda

1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) coarse salt

1 1/2 teaspoons (8 grams) natural cane sugar

6 tablespoons (3 ounces) very cold butter, cut into 12 pieces

1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450ºF.

Add the flours, baking powder, baking soda, granulated sugar and salt to a deep bowl. Whisk to combine. Add butter and using a pastry blender, or your fingers (my preferred method), blend until it forms a sandy-looking mixture, with a few large pieces mixed in.

Pour in the buttermilk and stir, using a wooden spoon, until just mixed and there are no visible traces of flour. Dump out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 2 to 3 times until it forms a somewhat smooth dough. Pat out into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle, and cut into 3 equal-sized strips. Layer the strips one on top of the other, and gently press down into a 1/2-inch rectangle again. Repeat this step twice more for a total of three times.

When the last rectangle has been formed, cut into 8 to 10 equal-sized squares. Place biscuits a few inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until tops are golden, being careful bottoms do not burn. Serve warm with homemade butter or jam.

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14 Comments to “light & airy whole grain biscuits”

  1. Simple and Yummy. Two things I look for in biscuits. I’ll be trying these soon.

  2. It was worth the wait:) I am eager to try these – I actually like the taste of whole wheat breads (memories of an old Great Aunt who made the best WW bread early in the morning).

  3. My husband and I eat red meat less often now too and have found ingredients like beans and quinoa to be great protein sources. Thanks for the biscuit recipe — I love trying new ways to incorporate whole wheat flour into baking.

  4. Jen, I know what you mean..I adore bread & biscuits but always feel guilty after eating them. I’m so glad you are sharing this biscuit recipe made with whole grains…can I still lather them with butter & honey! 🙂 Thanks for the recipe! I love your blogs! 🙂

  5. we too, have meat very, very sparingly in our house and have for about 2 years now; i did find menu planning to be a tad more challenging as we’d been trained to create menus around a meat component so found ourselves drawn to dishes heavy on the carbs, i.e., pastas and breads. while i haven’t really delved into all the different grains available, i have switched out my AP flour for a whole-grain mix which works perfectly for things like scones or these biscuits. i think i’ll be looking for spelt flour and see what happens!

  6. I made these tonight to go with supper, and they are wonderful! I actually had to hunt down the spelt flour but am glad I did. I love whole wheat breads, and have a feeling these will make a regular appearance at my house!

  7. I made these tonight. Used all regular whole wheat flour (white wheat) and only three tablespoons of butter. Still delicious! I will try to find the spelt flour. Thank you!

  8. These look yummy. I love biscuits, and I like to use whole-wheat pastry flour in my baking so it’s always nice to find recipes that call for that. Haven’t tried spelt flour yet, but will have to check that out.

  9. These tasted great, but I’m not sure I made them correctly… the dough was really wet and sticky, so I gave up on the layering and cutting–just did drop biscuits. Anyone else have this issue?

    • Laura, did you use the same flours as called for in the recipe. If you replaced the spelt with extra whole wheat pastry flour, then it would definitely absorb the liquid differently—meaning you wouldn’t need the full amount of buttermilk.

  10. I did use spelt, but maybe the difference was the whole wheat… I have not been able to find ww pastry flour, so I just used regular whole wheat flour, which maybe isn’t ground as finely and doesn’t soak up the liquid?

  11. I’m not an expert cook, so I don’t feel qualified to comment on the quality of the recipes themselves. But the food tastes great to me, the recipes are simple, and they encourage me to cook with exciting ingredients that I would normally avoid (e.g., what is fennel? Well, tomorrow I’m making the recipe on pg. 100, and I’m really excited about it). By far the best part of the book is the fact that every single recipe has a giant one-page photo of the finished product, and one small photo showing prep work or ingredient selection. This is how _all_ cookbooks should be designed and written. It’s so nice.

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