It’s my mother-in-law’s fault that I stopped making proper piecrusts.
I blame her because during the first Christmas eve I ever spent with my
future husband’s family, she served her specialty, a traditional
french-Canadian pork pie called tourtière. The savory spiced filling was
enveloped by a buttery, meltingly tender crust, which she told me was
made from biscuit dough. As the story went, many years earlier, she’d
run out of time to make a pastry dough for her tourtière and had used a
fast biscuit dough instead. everyone raved, so it became her standard.
Now it’s mine, too.
Since then, I’ve used biscuit dough instead
of pastry dough for just about everything. Not only is it buttery and
flaky, as a good piecrust should be, but it takes less time to make
because there’s no chilling or resting required before you bake it. And
biscuit dough doesn’t shrink when baked, as pastry dough can.
dough is endlessly versatile: I roll it very thin to make crackers,
wrap it around peaches for a summertime riff on apple dumplings, fill it
with cinnamon-sugar and nuts and roll it up into pinwheels, and even
use it as a tender crust for a savory tomato pie. Of course, I still
turn biscuit dough into biscuits, but following my mother-in-law’s lead,
why stop there?
Three Steps to Perfect Buttermilk Biscuit Dough
This versatile biscuit dough comes together in minutes and can be used to make not only biscuits, but many other tasty treats as well.
Work the butter into the dry ingredients just until the mixture looks
like coarse cornmeal with some pea-size lumps of butter remaining. Those
lumps of cold butter will melt in the oven, releasing steam that forms
air pockets and creates flaky layers in the biscuits.
Stir the buttermilk into the dry ingredients just until they’re
moistened and come together in a mass. Mixing too much at this point
will lead to tough biscuits.
Gently knead the dough by hand, using as light a touch as you can and
dusting the dough with flour if it’s sticking. Knead just until it’s no
longer shaggy. You should still see lumps of butter.