I love biscuits. Love ‘em. In the middle of winter, I whip up a batch and serve them with a hearty meal. Then summer arrives and fruit shows up at the market. And then? Well, I almost run into the kitchen to bake a pan of biscuits.
Today let’s talk about how to make easy, tender gluten-free drop biscuits. (spoiler: it’s easy)
There’s two ways to make biscuits: either in a food processor or in a large bowl with a pastry cutter. I prefer the food processor method because our goal when making biscuits is to cut cold fat into gluten-free flour. Those cold little piece of fat release steam during baking and that steam, along with the baking powder, helps to leaven the biscuits. Warm fat, in contrast, doesn’t release steam as powerfully as cold fat and can result in denser biscuits. (By the way, if this sounds familiar, it’s because the same effect happens in pie crust and gives us those flaky layers. That’s why we use cold fat in pie crust.) A food processor cuts the fat into the flour quickly and doesn’t warm up the fat at all. However, if you don’t own a food processor, you can still make awesome biscuits.
Food Processor Method
Combine dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. This is key. My recipe for gluten-free biscuits uses a few ingredients that combine to create delicate, tender biscuits. When you combine the ingredients, you ensure that everything is distributed evenly before you add the fat and liquid.
After combining the flours, add cold fat (butter or shortening) that you’ve cut into tablespoon-sized pieces. Pulse the machine until no large pieces of fat remain, about ten pulses. After about eight pulses, I usually take off the lid to check the progress.
Now, here’s where the food processor method is a little tricker. When you add the milk (or dairy-free replacement), allow the machine to run for a few seconds. Then stop the machine and feel the dough. Sometimes in a food processor the dough gathers around the blade and it appears dry. But when you feel it, the dough is moist. To avoid adding too much liquid, always give the dough a feel. You want it to be damp and sticky but not mushy.
Once the consistency is correct, scoop those biscuits onto a baking sheet and bake. That’s it. Making biscuits with a food processor takes less than five minutes. (After you measure out your ingredients.)
One Bowl Method
What if you don’t own a food processor? Are light biscuits impossible to make? Nope! You just need to keep things cold. Now, I know in the middle of the summer that might seem tough but here’s how to do it.
Measure out the dry ingredients, whisk them together in a large bowl, and then chill for ten minutes. This won’t make your ingredients ice cold, of course, but it does chill them enough that they won’t get warm while you cut the fat into the flour.
Cut the fat into teaspoon-sized pieces and work it into the flour. By cutting the fat smaller than you do for the food processor method, you can work it into the flour fast. It take a lot of effort to cut an ice cold tablespoon of butter into flour, trust me. If the fat is smaller, you won’t need to handle it as long.
For this step, I like to use my fingers. I place both hands into the bowl and “snap” the fat into the flour, sort of tossing the mixture lightly as I do this. Once no large pieces of fat remain, stop. If the mixture got warm, go ahead and chill it for a few minutes. If it didn’t, add the cold milk (or dairy-free alternative) and stir just until a tender dough forms.
Drop biscuits onto a prepared baking sheet and you’re done.
RECIPE: PERFECT SUMMER BISCUITS
- 2 cups (9 ounces) brown rice flour (or white rice or sorghum flour)
- 1/2 cup (2 ounces) potato starch
- 1/2 cup (2 ounces) tapioca starch
- 1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) granulated or turbinado sugar (optional)
- 5 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold butter or 1/2 cup cold solid vegetable shortening (traditional or soy-free)
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold milk or dairy-free alternative
- turbinado sugar for topping the biscuits, optional
- fruit for serving, optional (see note below)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
2. Food processor method: In bowl of food processor, combine brown rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, and xanthan gum. Pulse a few times to combine. Cut cold butter into tablespoon-sized pieces. Add to flour mixture. Pulse until no large pieces of butter remain, about ten long pulses. Add one cup milk. Run food processor until milk is combined. Dough should be soft and damp, not dry. If dough is dry add additional milk until a stiff but scoopable texture is achieved.
One Bowl Method: In large bowl, whisk together brown rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, and xanthan gum. Chill ingredients for ten minutes. Cut butter into teaspoon-sized pieces. Using your hand, rub butter into flour mixture until no large pieces of butter remain. If you don’t want to use your hands, use a pastry cutter. Add milk and stir into dry ingredients with a wooden spoon. Dough should be soft and scoopable. If dough is dry, add additional milk until desired texture is achieved.
3. Scoop six mounds of dough, about 1/4 cup each, onto prepared baking sheet. Space dough about three inches apart. If desired, sprinkle a little turbinado sugar on each biscuit. Bake until biscuits are golden brown around the edges, about fifteen minutes. Transfer biscuits to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough. Biscuits are best enjoyed the day they are baked.
Note: Preparing Fruit for Biscuits
These biscuits pair well with any fruit. In fact, I love them in the early fall with sliced apples that I soften slightly in brown sugar and butter. Fruit comes to us from nature so perfectly that you don’t need to “do” anything with it. Just plop some fresh berries or stone fruit onto the biscuits and call it a day. But…if you want to do something with the fruit, it’s easy!
While the biscuits bake, wash and slice fruit (if needed). Place in a bowl. For about two cups of fruit, add 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar and the juice of one lemon. Taste. Adjust sugar–slowly–as needed. Once you’ve achieved the desired sweetness, add a splash (about one teaspoon) of vanilla. Allow to stand for 20 minutes. Juices will run from the fruit. Spoon fruit and juices over a split biscuit and enjoy.
It’s easy to make a compote with summer fruit. Wash and slice (if need. I don’t slice small berries) about two cups of fruit. Set aside. In a small saucepan, melt two tablespoons of butter. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Cook until sugar just begins to melt. Add fruit and cook until juices run, about four minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Stir in the juice of one lemon and one teaspoon of vanilla extract. Serve warm or at room temperature.