Sourdough Surprises has challenged us this month to make biscuits with our starters. Biscuits traditionally use baking powder for leavening as the rapid rise is what gives them their fluffy texture, so I was interested to see what effect adding starter might have on the recipe.
I decided to use freshly fed sourdough in my grandmother’s recipe for Cloud Biscuits as I keep a fairly small amount of starter on hand. This recipe is one of a collection of recipes she gave me when I was a kid that I actually still use as an adult. It’s a bit unusual for biscuit recipe as it calls for an egg. The biscuits come out tender and tall on their own, but I think they came out even taller with the starter in them. The sourdough flavor is subtle, but is there if you’re looking for it.
I’ve changed my grandmother’s recipe somewhat over the years, but I’ve kept the egg in. I’m not sure what purpose it serves, but the biscuits are tasty so I always use it. I do use butter in place of the shortening as I really like the buttery flavor in the biscuit and I seldom have shortening on hand. I also started using a folding technique a few years ago for biscuits that I really like. Instead of a few quick kneads of the dough before shaping, I pat the dough into a rectangle and then fold one end up and the other end over the top of the first like a paper going into an envelope. I turn the dough and roll it out into a rectangle and repeat the folding and rolling two more times. Then, since I don’t like to re-roll dough scraps, I roll the dough out into a rectangle again and cut the dough with a knife into rectangles or squares. I get really good lift to the biscuits this way. If you don’t mind wasting a little dough, the biscuits will rise even better if you cut off the final folded edges but I don’t usually bother. Another technique I like is to pre-heat my baking sheet so that I’m plopping the biscuits right onto a piping hot pan. I love the little sizzle! This also seems to help the biscuits rise nicely.
- 1½ cups (7.4oz/210g) all purpose unbleached flour
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- 4 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ cup (4oz/113g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes (or shortening)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 fluid cup 100% hydration sourdough starter, at room temperature and recently fed
- milk, as needed
- Preheat the oven to 450F/232C with a baking sheet on the middle rack.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
- With a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in the butter until the mixture looks crumbly
- Mix the egg and sourdough starter together and add it to the dry ingredients.
- Stir with a fork until the dough follows the fork around the bowl. If it seems a little too dry, add a couple of tablespoons of milk.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and pat it into a rectangle.
- Fold one over enough that the opposite end can then be folded over it and meet at the edge, like you're folding a piece of paper to go into an envelope.
- Turn the dough and roll it out into a rectangle and repeat the folding and rolling for a total of 3 times.
- Roll the dough into a final rectangle, about 1 inch tall.
- With a knife, cut the dough into 12 equal pieces.
- Take the hot baking sheet out of the oven and quickly place all the biscuits onto the sheet and put it back in the oven.
- Bake for 10-14 minutes until risen and golden. Remove the biscuits to a rack and serve while warm.