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"Alternative" buttermilk biscuits

Charleston DaveCharleston Dave Posts: 571
edited 7:16PM in EggHead Forum
Between birthday posts and Eggfest talk, this tale of blue cornmeal buttermilk biscuits got buried in the shuffle. Apologies to anybody who's offended by a re-post, but it sorta got overlooked and I think anyone who wants to try an alternative biscuit might enjoy this. They are NOT a traditional Southern-style biscuit.

I recently adapted a published recipe for cornmeal thyme buttermilk biscuits, for use on the Egg. The original recipe was published in the San Diego Union-Tribune here, credited to A. R. Valentien at The Lodge at Torrey Pines in CA.

I decided to use blue cornmeal for a more Southwestern/Latin effect, and cook on the Egg.

4-½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup cornmeal, see Note
⅓ cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-½ teaspoons salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, (1 1/2 cups)
5 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
2 cups buttermilk

Yield: 3 dozen tea-size, or 20 dinner-size biscuits.

Note: In my adaptation, I used an organic blue cornmeal purchased at Whole Foods:

1. Rig Egg for indirect baking (I use platesetter legs down, then pizza plate on green feet). Preheat and stabilize to 350ºF dome.
2. Sift flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until pieces of butter are pea-sized. Add thyme and buttermilk. Mix until dough comes together. Do not overwork.
3. Roll out dough to approximately 1 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes; a biscuit/cookie cutter is better than using an inverted drinking glass. Place on parchment paper for transfer and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until golden. Turn parchment paper and biscuits halfway through baking process.

Mixing dry ingredients:

Turning out the dough:

Baking on the Egg:

Plated picture:

The biscuits cooked well on the Egg, although they did not develop as much color on the top as one expects with an American Southern-style buttermilk biscuit (maybe 370ºF next time?). The texture is also a bit different when cornmeal is used instead of just soft flour. The taste grew on me; at first they seemed too plain but then the blue corn flavor became more noticeable and I liked them. This would be a good base recipe to accompany a smoked turkey or Southwestern grilled pork. I took the final plated picture when the biscuits were eight days old; they taste best the day cooked but are quite good for 5-6 days thereafter. They'd also work well cut as smaller tea-sized biscuits (an inch or less in diameter, instead of the big dinner biscuits shown in my pictures).

I cooked half the biscuits on the Egg and half indoors in the oven. The ones on the Egg were superior in flavor but the oven biscuits developed more color (front center in plated picture is an oven biscuit, vs. the back ones cooked on the Egg).

Using the stand mixer was overkill. These would mix up easily by hand in a mixing bowl. I probably lost volume and made the biscuits tougher by using the stand mixer, but I was in a hurry.

Next time I might try substituting rosemary and a pinch of cumin for the fresh thyme, to enhance the Southwestern feel.


  • Sounds good CD. Nice post too. It's hard to imagine they tasted plain with butter, sugar and salt! Scott
  • Thanks for re-posting this, Dave. I like using blue corn meal.

    I often turn on my broiler just before finishing baked goods on the egg - I have trouble getting the nice top color on the egg and bring the finished goods into the house for that last shot under the broiler to make them look better. Maybe that's cheating :whistle: but I don't know another way around it.

  • Dave...Very creative! I like the look of the blue corn. I wonder if a lite egg wash would have helped with color? Trust me...the LAST thing I claim to be is a baker!! :blink: :laugh:
    Again, very creative....they look great! :laugh: Thanks for sharing the info. ;)
  • Good idea, Patty!

    The version in the oven was baked longer, hoping to develop some color. Unfortunately, that dried out the biscuits a bit and the texture wasn't as good as the version cooked on the Egg.

    I'm thinking that cooking at a slightly higher Egg temp might give me a better crust.

    The other alternative, I suppose, is to dig out my MAPP torch. ;)
  • Thanks for the suggestion, LC, that's definitely worth trying.

    I think that using cornmeal, and especially blue cornmeal, requires re-calibrating expectations. The biscuits just don't look the same as a traditional American Southern buttermilk biscuit. There's less flakiness, too, although I suspect the lack of volume was due to my using the stand mixer and overworking the dough.

    Flavor was good, albeit different, so I'll probably make these again. Maybe a touch of minced jalapeño in the dough?
  • I do remember the key to making flakey biscuits was a loose mix, then rolled, folded, rolled, folded, etc....Kinda like a book. That is what provided the flakiness. Much like making a puff's all about layering, and not overmixing. That I do remember. :blink: But, again, baking is NOT my more power to you!!! :laugh: ;)
  • I have made them in the egg a number of times. See the Eggtoberfest cookbook, I think three years ago. Try using a raised grid, to get them high in your dome and a dome temp of 450, indirect. This should get them to brown without burning the bottoms.
  • Thanks for the tip, Rusty. Do you think my (platesetter plus pizza stone on BGE feet) arrangement is still not high enough? I definitely think a higher temperature would make sense.

    Could you provide a link to your recipe?

    I'm also wondering if the (blue) cornmeal changes the biscuit composition enough that the traditional browning ain't gonna happen.
  • Sorry, I do not know how to post a link. My recipe was posted in the Eggtoberfest cookbook that year though. Never tried adding the cornmeal so I am no help on that. I put platesetter legs up, regular grid, them my raised grig & my biscuit pan on top of that. Hope this helps.
  • FidelFidel Posts: 10,172
    Hey trick for flaky biscuits is to freeze the butter and use a box grater to grate it into your dry ingredients and just stir lightly to incorporate it. Stop after every half stick or so and give a stir. The idea is to coat the butter shreds with the dry ingredients without breaking them down.

    During the baking process the butter will let off some steam, creating mini-pockets in the biscuit and give you a lighter crumb and a flaky consistency.

    Usually when biscuits are hard and flat it is a result of overworking the dough. Use a light hand with the rolling pin and hopefully you'll get the results you want.
  • FidelFidel Posts: 10,172
    For better browning you can try a brush with some melted butter about halfway through the bake time.
  • Wow, thanks, Fidel-glad your canoe has internet access so you could pass along some knowledge despite the GA flooding! :)

    The frozen-butter-shredding technique is one that I've heard, and I should have used it. I even keep butter in the freezer, too, but I was behind schedule and took frozen butter out of the deep freeze and ironically softened it without the moral of the story is that hurrying and fluffy biscuits do not mix. That's probably especially true when cornmeal is used along with the traditional soft flour.

    I probably violated every biscuit-making rule of thumb that I know of when making these; they got submitted as part of my throwdown plate, which was submitted with 51 seconds to spare before the 10 PM deadline. I couldn't find my biscuit cutters and was using a glass; I used a stand mixer instead of making by hand; etc. etc.

    I'm lucky the biscuit police don't pull my license. ;)
  • Any thoughts on egg wash vs. melted butter wash, when the goal is to create color?
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