Buttermilk Biscuits


There was a special kind of magic back in the late eighties that made it perfectly acceptable for one of the biggest names in rap music to release a song about his favorite breakfast food in the style of a square dance. And the song was the first track on his debut album. From Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Buttermilk Biscuits (Keep on Square Dancin’)”:

Now, buttermilk biscuits here we go
Sift the flour, roll the dough
Clap your hands and stomp your feet
Move your butt to the funky beat (huh huh)

He manages to work in some rhymes about “a freak named Shelly” and a helpful tip about softening honey. This is the same guy who dropped a rhyme about a Romanian gymnastics coach into a track on his sophomore album. The man is a lyrical genius. But back then, even Rakim (with considerably more street cred than Sir Mix-a-Lot) snuck in a rhyme about “a nice big plate of fish, which is my favorite dish.” It was a simpler time. So, if you’re willing to take a lesson in hip-hop history from a white kid who grew up in Marin County, maybe you’ll entertain a lesson in biscuit making from the same.

Making great buttermilk biscuits is all about technique. What separates a beautiful, light, flaky biscuit from a lump of hard tack is a bit of finesse. This recipe produces great biscuits if you keep a few things in mind. Keep your butter cold. Have a light touch with the dough. And dip your biscuit cutter into some flour between each cut.

We usually have ours for Sunday breakfast, but they’re good anytime of day. Pair them with some honey or jam at the breakfast table, a slice of warm ham for lunch and beside a plate of fried chicken at dinner. If you manage to still have some sitting around by dessert time, slice one in half, cover it in ripe berries with a dollop of whipped cream or crème fraîche on top. Enjoy.

Adapted from Sarabeth’s Bakery by Sarabeth Levine and Rick Rodgers

This recipe will produce 10-12 biscuits depending on the size of your biscuit cutter, how thick you roll the dough and how well you manage the second and third roll.


  • 3¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 1½ cups buttermilk
  • more flour for dusting


  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400°F. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper or a Silpat.
  2. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together into the bowl of a stand mixer. Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit with the paddle attachment.
  3. Add the chilled butter pieces. Mix on low speed (1 or 2 on a KitchenAid) until the mixture resembles coarse meal with some pea-sized pieces of butter.
  4. Add the buttermilk, mixing on lowest speed just until the dough barely comes together.
  5. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and lightly knead it a few times until the dough is smooth-ish. Take it easy on the dough and try to work fast.
  6. Dust your work surface (again) as well as the top of your dough with a bit of flour. Roll out your dough to a thickness of ¾ to 1 inch. Using a 2½ inch (or thereabouts) biscuit cutter, cut our your biscuits, dipping the cutter into flour between each cut. Place the biscuits about 1 inch apart on the lined pan. Gently press the scraps together, roll and cut until the dough is used.
  7. Bake until the biscuits are well risen and golden brown on top, 17-20 minutes. Serve hot or warm.

Dutch Baby

Dutch Baby

The Dutch Baby is a more recent addition to our Sunday morning repertoire, but it has become an instant classic. They have a curious look that is softened by a dusting of powdered sugar and a smell that draws everyone to the table. I never had one until just a few years ago, but Jody remembers them from her time in Germany. The Dutch Baby is a variation on the German pfannkuchen. I’ve heard variously referred to as a pancake, popover, soufflé and/or omelette. Technique-wise, I think it is most similar to a giant popover. In any case, it is damn tasty. The story of the name is well-documented.

This is a great recipe when you’re in a pinch and need a low effort (and low cost) breakfast for the whole family. We prefer ours with a dusting powdered sugar and some maple syrup, though I’m keen to try the more traditional treatment: powdered sugar, lemon and butter.

Cole Dickinson for Williams-Sonoma

This recipe makes one big Dutch Baby, enough for four servings. This recipe scales really well, up or down. If you have a larger or smaller pan just keep the same ratio in mind: one egg to ¼ cup of flour to ¼ cup milk to ¼ teaspoon of vanilla. The recipe below represents that ratio x 4.


  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 Tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
  • Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

  1. Put an 12-inch cast iron skillet or ovenproof sauté pan in a cold oven. Preheat the oven to 475°F.
  2. Put the eggs, flour, milk, vanilla and salt in a blender. Blend on high until frothy, about 30 seconds, stopping the blender to scrape down the sides as needed.
  3. When the oven is preheated, put the butter in the hot skillet. Return it to the oven until the butter melts and browns, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Carefully pour the batter into the hot skillet. Bake until the Dutch baby is lightly browned and the sides have risen, 17 to 19 minutes.
  5. Remove the pan from the oven and let the Dutch baby cool for 3 to 4 minutes. Cut the Dutch baby into wedges and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Serve immediately with your choice of toppings. Some ideas: powdered sugar, butter, lemon, maple syrup, whipped cream.

Damn Fine Buttermilk Pancakes

If you’re like me, you grew up eating pancakes from a box of Bisquick or Krusteaz mix. There’s no shame in it. I ain’t mad at ya, Mama. But if you’ve had the real deal, nobody will blame you for straying. I have tried a lot of recipes for scratch buttermilk pancakes, and this one is damn fine. The pancakes are light, fluffy and tasty. We’ve probably made this recipe a hundred times. Autumn knows it by heart. If you have modestly stocked pantry, you can pull this batter together in under five minutes. We keep buttermilk on the shopping list; if not for pancakes, then for biscuits or waffles. (And there are a couple ways to fake it if you don’t have any buttermilk on hand. I’ll post some tips on that another day.)

Bromberg Bros. Blue Ribbon Cookbook: Better Home Cooking by Eric Bromberg, Bruce Bromberg, Melissa Clark

Makes 12-15 pancakes. This recipe is easy to double or triple. With family over for brunch one time, we crushed 40 pancakes in one sitting.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2½ cups buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • 1½ tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, plus more for serving
  • Pure maple syrup

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs and oil. Gradually stir the wet ingredients into the dry. Don’t overmix the batter!
  3. In a large skillet or griddle, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Working in batches, spoon ¼ cup of the pancake batter into the pan. Cook the pancakes until the edges have begun to brown and air bubbles form on the surface, about 3 minutes. Flip the pancakes and cook until golden, about 1 to 2 minutes more. Serve hot, spread with butter and drizzled with maple syrup.

Lemon Cream Scones


The first scone I ever ate came from the first batch I ever baked. It’s true. Up to that point, my appetite for morning treats was limited to the usual suspects: bagels, donuts, muffins, maybe the occasional croissant. Several years ago, when I was first learning to bake, I offered to bring some baked goods to a family brunch. I opened Williams-Sonoma’s Essentials of Baking and looked for the least intimidating recipe I could find. Scones looked like a reasonable challenge…once I discovered where to find currants at the grocery store. That first batch set a new personal standard, and it was made clear to me that henceforth the price of admission to any family brunch was at least one batch of scones.

Since then, I’ve become a bit of a scone snob. I don’t want any part of those sickly-sweet, glazed lumps they sell at certain coffee shops. I want something that is rich and buttery, slightly sweet, and just a bit dry and crumbly.

This is my recipe for a traditional cream scone. They have a tender crumb and not-too-sweet flavor that allows the lemon and butter to come through. I spent a few weeks working through several variations before I arrived at this recipe. While they are traditionally considered a breakfast treat, enjoy these anytime with a cup of coffee or tea.

It is always a good idea to read the recipe top to bottom before getting started.

8 scones


  • 3 cups (15 oz) all purpose flour
  • ½ cup (4 oz) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons lemon zest
  • ¾ cup (6 oz) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch bits
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • For Dusting: 2 tablespoons powdered (confectioner’s) sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Move rack to the middle position.
  2. Line a cookie sheet or half-sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone liner.
  3. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest in a large bowl. Stir to combine.
  4. Add the butter to the dry ingredients. Use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles large crumbs.
  5. Pour the cream over the mixture and mix with a rubber spatula until combined. Don’t over mix.
  6. Press the mixture into a solid mass and then turn it out on a lightly-floured work surface.
  7. Shape the dough into a square, roughly 7×7 inches. Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces: first cut along the diagonals, then then cut each triangle in half.
  8. Transfer the wedges to the baking sheet and space evenly.
  9. Bake for 15-17 minutes; until golden brown.
  10. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  11. Dust the cooled scones with powdered sugar (not too much). A fine-mesh sieve works well for this.
  12. Eat. Smile. Repeat.

Some Helpful Tips
If you are not familiar with the process of cutting butter into dry ingredients, be patient and go a little longer than you think is necessary.

Some recipes suggest using two knifes to cut butter into dry ingredients. I have no idea if this works, but it sounds like insanity to me. Spend $10 on pastry blender and never look back.

This is a relatively dry dough, which can make it frustrating to work with at first. To help: 1) make sure the butter is thoroughly cut into the dry ingredients, and 2) press the dough firmly into shape before cutting. If you’re still having trouble, you can increase the cream to 1 1/4 cups, but you’ll have to deal with a stickier dough and softer scone.

As always, use fresh, high-quality ingredients. This really does make a difference in the final product.