The thing about a sourdough starter is that you have to throw away a bunch of dough every time you refresh it. Fortunately, there are a whole bunch of recipes that make use of the discarded portion; King Arthur Flour has helpfully compiled a bunch of theirs onto one page, including a recipe for biscuits. This recipe is not that recipe. I started there, but since my sourdough is smaller and drier, I altered it quite a bit.
Makes 10 or so
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 TB baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 stick (8 TB) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
sourdough starter remains: about one cup, or whatever you have going on
1 cup-ish buttermilk (depends on how wet your sourdough is)
1. Preheat the oven to 450° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
2. Mix the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter however you prefer (but see below). Add the starter, and enough buttermilk to make a slightly-sticky-until-you’ve-floured-it dough. Mix with a fork, then knead gently once or twice just to get it to cohere. Flour your fingers, or they will get coated in dough!
3. Dump the dough onto a floured surface and pat into a half-inch thich rectangle-ish shape. Fold it in half twice, then roll out into a 1/2″ – 3/4″ thick (look, to be honest, I don’t usually measure or care, just go for biscuit-sized) square. I try to go for big enough to make nine biscuits, but I almost always underestimate.
4. Using a biscuit cutter, or other round cookie cutter, cut out as many biscuits as fit (or don’t, and cut them into squares or triangles with a knife), then re-roll and cut out more until you’ve used up all the dough. The first ones are the best, so really try to fit as many in as you can.
5. Put the biscuits on the cookie sheet — separate them if you like crispier sides, or put them close together if you like soft, pull-apart sides. Bake for 16 minutes, or until they’re lightly-browned top and bottom, rotating once halfway through. Remove to a rack to cool slightly, then enjoy,
Honestly I recognize that these are not the most practical to make, because most people don’t have sourdough starter going, but I’m including them because they are literally the best biscuits I’ve ever made, and I own a whole cookbook of just biscuit recipes, of which I’ve made most of them.
Anyway, if you’ve made it this far, here are some general tips for biscuit making:
1. Handle everything gently. You should never be grabbing handfuls of dough and squeezing! Your biscuits will only be as tender as you are.
2. That includes any twisting or smearing! My preferred method of cutting in butter is to use a pastry cutter to start, and then break up any remaining clumps by hand, but! You have to only move the pastry cutter up and down, don’t wrench it around. And only use your fingertips to break things up. I forget where I read it, but you basically want to do the cash money hand gesture, where you rub your thumb and forefingers together, but in the dough. Also, when you cut the biscuits out, go straight up and down with the cutter, don’t twist it.
3. Don’t exactly panic about temperature. I mean, keep your butter as cool as you can, but some recipes have you popping everything in the fridge every five minutes, and that just isn’t necessary. Biscuits were perfected in the South, before air conditioning, so they can survive it if things aren’t perfectly cold.
4. Get the best buttermilk you can. It will definitely make a difference. But also, don’t be afraid to try yogurt, sour cream, or sour milk in a pinch, just as long as you have the best of those that you can.