the solace of biscuits

biscuits III

Some days, it seems, nothing makes me feel more grounded than baking.

It seems funny to me now: when I was first diagnosed with celiac, almost a decade ago (a decade? I’ve been writing here for nearly a decade), my first reaction was to give away all my baking books. Covered in white flour and pages dog-eared and stained with vanilla extract, those baking books had been my balm for years.

Now I have several shelves of baking books at our studio. Most of them have gluten-free flour on them. That collection keeps growing.

Until I met Danny, my life was always more of the head than the hands. Raised by two teachers, an inveterate bookworm, in love with ideas and the creative life, I used my body when I remembered. My hands worked in the evenings. I wrote comments on student papers. And then I stood up to bake. I mixed butter and sugar together until they were a creamy yellow, plopped in eggs, and added a cloud of fine white flour. Those moments gave me a solace, a space away from a day in my head. It took me until I was nearly 40 to realize that white flour was making me sick. So when I realized I had to give up gluten, I thought I was giving up baking.

Now I have a gluten-free flour blend company. So, you know, life surprises me sometimes.

Life never stops surprising me.

There are nearly 8000 boxes of the Gluten-Free Girl All-Purpose Flour in a storage facility on Vashon. They’re here. They’re real. It’s surreal and lovely and unbelievable.

Within a couple of weeks, we’ll have them for sale on this site.

We’re working hard to get all the logistics in place to sell these flours. It has been quite a time of learning for us here.

When Danny and I imagined the flour blends in the world, we always had it in our minds that we would carry these flours through a prominent online retailer. Why not trust the shopping, fulfillment, and shipping to an organization that does this every day? After the Kickstarter was successful, thanks to so many of you reading, we returned to the logistics of shipping. When we started crunching numbers, we realized that the online retailer would take so much of our money that we would barely have enough money to do a second run of the flours.

So we decided to ship these flours to you ourselves.

While we never imagined putting boxes of flour into the hands of our delivery driver on a regular basis, we’re so happy that we are doing this now. This is a small business, run by a family. We want to do this ourselves. We want to sell to you directly. And we want to hear from our customers about what is working and is not working. We have many friends who run small businesses and have been guides in this process for us. They all say there will be lots of mistakes, times we want to tear our hair out, and enormous learning. But in the end, we trust small businesses. We buy from family businesses. We believe in the handmade and personal. This is the only way for us to go.

Later, we’ll probably be talking to grocery stores and larger retail places. But for now, the only place the flours will be available is through this site. This website is the heart of what we do and how we met you. How could we not sell it here?

So we’ve been scrambling. On top of our regular work, and the proofreading and final recipe testing for American Classics Reinvented (and all four of us battling a bad flu), we have been learning how to build an online shop, talking with our accountant about sales tax and state codes, and having many many brainstorming sessions about our brand and our approach to hospitality and customer service.

We got thrown a big curve ball. We’ve been doing a lot of batting practice before the big game.

I’m not complaining. There’s no complaining here. We feel extraordinarily lucky. Part of the reason Danny and I wanted to take on this new business is because we knew we would learn so much. Our hopes have already been fulfilled on that one.

Still, in the midst of these logistics, and imagining the flours in your home, I’ve been baking.

This afternoon, I walked into our kitchen studio by myself. Desmond has been sniffling and coughing with his first real cold. We haven’t been sleeping well. Danny stayed home while Desmond took his nap to finish the dishes in that kitchen. I needed to bake.

There’s something comforting about biscuits. When they’re made with love and sure hands, biscuits are layers of butter and flakiness. They don’t require any fancy ingredients, just a lot of practice. So I made biscuits again.

We created a biscuit recipe we love for our cookbook, Gluten-Free Girl Every Day, for the breakfast chapter. (And some sausage gravy.) Some of you might have that book. If you’ve made these biscuits before, you know that they’re soft and pillowy, brushed with butter after coming out of the oven, and usually gone within the hour. Danny and I have been thinking about how many recipes from that book have become second-nature in our home. We’d like to share some of them with you here, so you can bake them with our flour soon.

When I put my hands in this flour, I don’t worry about the logistics of getting it to you. I don’t think again about the latest formulation for the grain-free blend rumbling around in my head. I don’t think. I hum under my breath and feel my feet on the floor. And I move butter and flour together to create something new.

Baking is peace for me, a place to just be.

And in the end, there are biscuits.

biscuits IV

biscuits V

biscuits VI

biscuits I

biscuits II

Buttermilk Biscuits

For years, I thought it was the gluten that made biscuits light and flaky. But with the help of my friend Nancie McDermott, who understands baking better than anyone I know, I realized it wasn’t the gluten at all. When I asked Nancie why all the Southern biscuits I saw in cookbooks looked so lofty and perfect, she said, “You want to know why those biscuits always turned out perfect? Because those girls had to make them every morning for years.” It’s practice that makes great biscuits, not gluten. 

After we began making biscuits with our All-Purpose Flour Blend, our biscuits turned out better. But here are a few more hints for you, baking tips that might make your biscuits even more delightful. Work cold. Cold butter, cold flour, and even a cold bowl for the food processor all help. Cold = flaky. Don’t twirl your biscuit cutter when you cut into the dough. That blunts the edges of the biscuits. Crowd your biscuits together in a cast-iron pan, rather than spacing them evenly on a sheet tray. When the biscuits touch, they go up. Finally, have fun with this. Even when biscuits are a little too heavy or not quite flaky enough, they’re still biscuits. Your family will be happy. 

280 grams (2 cups) gluten-free girl all-purpose gluten-free flour blend
1 teaspoon psyllium husk
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
115 grams (8 tablespoons) unsalted cold butter
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup whole milk yogurt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Combine the dry ingredients. Whisk together the flour, psyllium husks, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Put the bowl in the freezer, along with the bowl of a food processor, blade attached.

Cut the butter. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes. Put the butter into the freezer too.

Prepare to bake. Heat the oven to 425°. Grease a 9-inch cast-iron skillet with butter or the fat of your choice. (Good quality lard is good too.)

Mix the butter and flour. When the oven has been at heat for 10 minutes, take the mixing bowl, bowl of the food processor, and butter out of the freezer. Attach the bowl to the food processor. Add the cold flour. Dump the butter cubes on top. Pulse the ingredients together, quickly, until the butter chunks are about the size of lima beans. Move the flour mixture to a large bowl.

You can, of course, also do this by hand or with a pastry cutter. If you’re new at this, the food processor makes the best biscuits. The speed helps with the flakiness of the biscuits.

Add the liquids. Make a well in the center of the flour and butter mixture. Mix together 1/3 cup of the buttermilk and all of the yogurt, then pour them into the dry ingredients. Gently, stir the liquids with a rubber spatula, in small circular motions, incorporating the flour in as you go. The final dough should just barely hold together, with all the ingredients moist. If there is a bit of flour left on the sides of the bowl, add a dribble more of the buttermilk, then combine, then a dribble more if necessary. If the dough grows too wet, don’t fret. Just add a bit more flour. You’re going for a shaggy dough, not a smooth round ball of dough.

Bring together the biscuit dough. Sprinkle a little flour on a clean board. Turn out the dough on the board and sprinkle it with just a touch more flour. Fold the dough in half, bringing the back part of the dough toward you. Pat the dough into an even round. Turn the dough 90 degrees, then fold the dough in half again and pat. This should make the dough fairly even. If not, you can fold the dough a third time. Pat out the dough to a 1 1/2-inch thickness.

Cut the biscuits. Dip a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter into a bit of flour and push it straight down into the dough, starting from the outside edges. Do not twist the biscuit cutter. Cut out the remaining biscuits. Working quickly, pat any remaining scraps into another 1 1/2-inch-thick dough and cut the last biscuit.

Move the biscuits to the prepared cast-iron pan, nudging them up against each other. Letting their edges touch means your biscuits will rise higher.

Bake the biscuits. Slide the skillet into the oven and bake the biscuits for 6 minutes. Rotate the skillet 180° and continue baking until the biscuits are firm on top and light golden brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven and brush the tops of the biscuits with the melted butter. Let them rest for 10 minutes before eating.

Feeds 4 to 6

 

Feel like playing? If you can’t eat dairy, you could make these with non-dairy “buttery” sticks. They won’t have quite the same texture, but they’re still biscuits. And you can also use non-dairy yogurt and milk. For best results, I make the biscuits, put them in the greased pan, and then put that pan in the freezer for 15 minutes (or up to 30 minutes), and then put them straight into the oven. It’s cold that builds flakiness, so this makes for a great flaky biscuit.

54 comments on “the solace of biscuits

    1. shauna

      You can make these without the psyllium. They’ll just be a little more crumbly. I would definitely put the pan in the freezer before baking if you want to make these without the psyllium.

        1. shauna

          Instead of the psyllium? You could! Flax would give a nutty flavor to the biscuits, which isn’t bad. Chia would make them look quite different. But if you’re just trying to avoid the psyllium, then try freezing the biscuits in the pan first. Someone here said it worked quite well! (and hi!)

  1. Jan

    It’s really nice that these flours can be ordered directly from you.
    I’ve always had a ‘weakness’ for biscuits. I’ll be making these really soon.
    Thank you.

  2. Sheryll Ziemer

    Thanks for this recipe and the most welcome tips on how to make them. I am going out today to buy a cast-iron pan (don’t know why I’ve waited this long).

    Can’t wait for the Gluten-Free Girl All-Purpose Flour Blend!!!!

  3. Rebecca

    While I realize it is unthinkable to not have a cast iron pan, I don’t. What would you recommend? A cake pan?

    1. shauna

      Oh, you could use a cake pan. You won’t get the same heat and they won’t bake the same way, but you’ll still have biscuits. (It’s not unthinkable. Who can own every kitchen appliance?)

  4. Nan

    I was diagnosed 5 years ago at 55. Almost immediately, I found you. You have guided me and taught me. You and Danny have given me hope. You are like family here – we refer to you four by your first names and smile. Shauna says…Danny would…Lucy is…Desmond…

    I learned to make Southern biscuits just before I was diagnosed. It took me a year to get it right. To find the right flour. To learn how to handle the dough. I didn’t bake for a year after diagnosis. Then, I started with cookies. Moved on to pie crust. Your French bread. I have, in the past month become ready again to come back to biscuits. They don’t need to be perfect, and we need biscuits in this house. Thank you for bringing your flour to us, and thank you for what we know will be a home run, curve balls and all. Eagerly awaiting.

    And Shauna, as a writer, I thank you for your words. They take me places, they make me soar.

  5. Lee

    These biscuits are a staple in my home. The first time I made them my husband exclaimed “tattoo this recipe to your butt! Never lose it!” I’m not sure how I would be able to follow a recipe on my posterior. Maybe if I have it done backwards and use a mirror? Either way, the recipe is awesome.

  6. Dana

    Just discovered I can’t eat eggs (I know, right?) and am thrilled this is an egg-free recipe! Thank you for sharing.

  7. Joanne

    I’m getting a sinking feeling that your flour won’t be available in Canada, or that the postage and handling will make it too expensive–am I right? You probably don’t want to think about international orders until you get the national ones sorted out–sigh!

    1. Sharri

      Joanne I’m with you, hoping that I’ll be able to order the flour and have it shipped to Canada! Looking forward to hearing if it will be available to us Canucks!

    2. shauna

      As you imagined, there’s a lot to sort out before we can bring the flours to Canada. It’s not just that we have to figure out logistics here, but we need entirely different boxes for Canada. There are different requirements and we need French on the box too! This is very much on the list, for the future.

      1. Shelly

        Thanks Shauna, I too live in Canada. Just some encouragement to “keep us on the list” for when you are ready to cope with all the different shipping requirements into Canada. Have made up the flour blend you have us in the book, and it’s working well. Haven’t tried the biscuits yet, but the dumplings worked great.

        While I haven’t been diagnosed with celiac, I have a gluten intolerance (why do we always feel the need to apologize/explain that?) your website and writing have made it an exciting journey of getting better rather than an arduous and scary process. It’s fun to see what you are eating and baking, rather than thinking “oh I can’t have that”. Still on my list to attempt: the delicious cranberry and orange rolls from the smitten kitchen website using gluten free flour, and also any form of puff pasty. And everything else that takes my fancy. 🙂

  8. Lise

    My last foray into gluten-free-biscuit-making was a disappointment. I had a box of gluten free Bisquick and while not terrible…they were not the biscuits of my dreams. I’ll give your recipe a try! I really really miss a good biscuit. I’lol be honest and admit while fresh baked is great, I always liked them a bit stale. Great for soup!!!

  9. Stacy

    Although I’m not gluten-free, I’m a frequent visitor to your blog for your gorgeous writing and thoughtful insights. And as a fellow biscuit lover, I appreciate the tips in this post! I do already nestle them together so they’re touching (funny how that makes such a difference), and I will have to try your trick with chilling the unbaked biscuits in the freezer.

  10. Jacqie

    The flour will be in my cupboard as well. Can’t wait. We are so grateful for your help throughout our journey to a gluten free life. Thank you for all you do. Your website was one of the first I bookmarked when I began searching for info and recipes. I enjoy it thoroughly. Can’t wait to bake some biscuits!!

    1. shauna

      At first, it will be available for sale only through our website. Of course, if you feel like a field trip to Vashon, we’ll have the flours for sale here too.

  11. Roo

    I work for PCC Natural Markets, keep us in mind when you decide to sell to retailers. Our clientele would love to see your product on our stores!

  12. Stephanie

    I missed funding you through kickstarter by 1 day (my fault, misread the end date and/or your luck for getting funded early?) and am soooo looking forward to ordering them from you directly.

  13. Nanda

    Are we gonna be able to pick the flour blend up directly from you somewhere on the Island ?
    I’m so excited!

  14. Nanna

    On my own over here, across the pond, I have played, given up and thought, ‘Oh, I don’t need bread’, but I knew that I had to find my way to real bread, when five loaves of store bought GF bread found its way into my luggage after a lovely holiday with my family in Canada. That bread tasted quite good and I was hooked!. Not available here. I knew that!

    So, I have played with flour blends and butter and eggs and molasses and…. Every bread I’ve made was too sweet or too much like cake. I want bread! Shauna’s sandwich bread, featured in the Thanksgiving app. is the best yet. I have to play a little more with the flour blend, but I am on my way. Thanks, Shauna!

    1. shauna

      I’m so glad to hear that, Nanna. We’ll have more bread recipes for you soon. Wait until you see the bread chapter of the new cookbook!

  15. Judith Sharpe

    Thank you Shauna for the buttermilk biscuit recipe. When I started this journey I felt hopeless. I didn’t know how I could ever make all these changes to GF and I thought I would never ever have a decent biscuit again, then I got your email with this recipe in it. I just made this recipe. I am in heaven. They are so delicious I don’t know words to describe my joy and thankfulness. I didn’t have the psyllium, so I left it out and placed the pan of biscuits in the freezer before baking. I also didn’t have the yogurt and I substituted sour cream. Using the cast iron pan is genius. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. If I can make biscuits this delicious I can make anything.

    1. shauna

      Oh Judith, you made my day! I’m so happy. Biscuits really are something else, aren’t they? And yes, now you can make anything!

  16. Mary

    My husband and daughter were diagnosed celiac 6 years ago. Your website, recipes and cookbooks helped me to feed them great GF food. I make my flour blend based on your advise, nothing else ever works as well. I am looking forward to buying your flour blend so I don’t have to make mine from scratch. Thank you

  17. Jennifer G

    Shauna, THANK YOU for these recipes. I found out 7 months ago I can’t have gluten. Going gluten free has literally changed my life — in addition to relief of lifelong physical GI tract symptoms, I have also eliminated my anxiety and depression. I’m a lawyer and natural born skeptic. I would never have believed gluten could impact me this much, but the next 47 years are sure looking a lot more fun than the first 47 now that I know to avoid gluten! And we are cookers and bakers in this house. Even though I had reconciled myself to a bread free life, I have recently started to miss it, just a little. And now tonight we tried these biscuits! Oh, to have buttermilk biscuits again! And they are buscuits worth having! Even the rest of the family thought they were good. Next up I’m going to try to modify our standby cream buscuits recipe because now I know it really truly should be possible! Thank you for your work. You are changing my life for the better. (The rest of my family thanks you, too.)

    1. Susie

      Jennifer – it is amazing how a change in diet can effect your psyche as well as your physical body, isn’t it? My son is 10 and was having huge bouts of anxiety to the point of panic attacks over things that seemed trivial to others… until we removed dairy from his diet (he was having stomache issues as well). Removing the dairy has turned him around and now he is a happy, out-going, fun -loving child again – his anxiety is still present under stressful situations, but far more managable. The strange thing was that removing dairy from my own diet (done to support my son!) seemed to help me as well and I didn’t even realize that I was suffering from anxiety, I thought it was normal to stress out over holidays and visitors and… everything! 🙂

  18. Susie

    Hello Shauna! Well I made these biscuits four days ago with your A/P flour recipe (that has been a HUGE boon to my kitchen for the past few years, thank you!!) I have to say these were the best gluten free biscuits I have made yet! I had to make a few adjustments as we are dairy free as well so they were a little heavy, but the taste and texture of them was excellent. Yay!!! They made some really awesome ham and egg breakfast sandwiches the next day as well… the possibilities are running through my brain – thank you again!!

  19. Jenn

    I’m a kickstarter donater, and I simply CAN’T WAIT to receive my flour! Biscuits sound challenging, but I’m willing to try!

  20. AB

    I made these with So Delicious coconut milk and sour cream, and they were delicious. Thank you for always encouraging us to play and be creative in recipe interpretation. I sometimes have trouble following recipes to the letter and the results don’t always turn out great, but sometimes they do, and I appreciate you pushing readers to make your recipes our own.

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