“They’re either going to be amazing or a horrible, horrible failure”.
That was The Kid’s response to my newest kitchen brainstorm. I was going to make biscuits, but instead of using lard, Crisco or plain butter, my plan was to use brown butter.
The Kid was afraid that they wouldn’t puff like they should. Part of the leavening (the rise) of a biscuit comes from steam when the water in the butter evaporates as the biscuit cooks. When you brown butter, you lose water. But I had a secret weapon to counteract that.
All butter contains some water. A general rule is the fancier the butter, the less water is in it. So, premium brands have much lower water content than store brands. The difference could be up to 5 percent.
I used Costco brand regular salted butter. To make brown butter, just melt in a pan, and leave it on the heat until it foams up, and the milk solids have turned warm amber brown (not black, it’ll be ruined), and it smells nutty. Allow to harden overnight in the fridge.
Luckily, this worked, and my biscuits rose just like they were supposed to, resulting in a biscuit that had a slightly nutty hint, and amber flecks running throughout. I also tried a variation to duplicate a favorite treat from Bojangles’ (below).
Brown Butter Biscuits
4 cups flour
3 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
½ cup cold brown butter, cut into small pieces
2 cups chilled buttermilk
Preheat oven to 450. Put dry ingredients into large bowl. Add butter, and cut into flour until it resembles wet sand (work quickly, so the heat of your hands doesn’t begin to melt the butter).
Add buttermilk, and lightly mix just until it comes together.
Turn out onto a floured surface, and gently knead until you have cohesive dough. Don’t overwork, or you will develop the gluten in the flour, and the biscuits will be tough and chewy instead of light and fluffy.
Pat dough to approximately 1/2 inch thick. Cut into 2inch circles. Brush tops with heavy cream.
Bake on parchment lined pan for 15-20 minutes or browned. Makes 12-16.
Mo’ Berry Biscuits with lemon glaze
Stir 3/4 cup frozen blueberries into dough after butter’s cut in, but before buttermilk’s added, and then make as directed, except for brushing with cream. After they come out of the oven, cover them with a glaze made by whisking ¼ cup lemon juice into 2 cups powdered sugar.
Another reason I decided to try this experiment with the brown butter was part of a larger experiment. Inspired by Bobby Flay, I was going to make pecan sticky buns.
Most of the time, breakfast buns are made with yeast dough. But to me that’s a huge pain, and a ton of work. Chef Flay made some with biscuit dough, and they looked pretty good. Since Petey loves sticky buns, I gave them a whirl with my brown butter biscuits.
Brown Butter Biscuit Sticky Buns
1 batch biscuit dough
¼ cup white sugar
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup chopped toasted pecans plus more for topping
Roll dough out to a ¼ inch thick rectangle, spread with softened butter, and sprinkle with sugar and spices. Top with pecans, and lightly press into dough. Roll from short side, wrap with plastic and refrigerate for one hour.
6 tablespoons butter
¼ cup water
1 ¼ cup light brown sugar
½ cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon butter pecan flavoring
Preheat oven to 375. Melt butter with water. Take off heat and whisk in brown sugar. Stir in cream, salt and flavoring. Pour into bottom of 9x13 inch pan, along with pecans. Cut biscuit roll into 8 equal pieces and place evenly into pan. Bake 25-35 minutes.
Remove from oven, rest on cooling rack 5 minutes, then turn out onto platter.
You don’t have to eat them with a knife and fork like Petey does (which we always tease him about), but I hope you enjoy them as much as he did.
Thanks for your time.
Debbie Matthews lives, writes and cooks in Durham. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.