Since I bought a bag of White Lily flour a few weeks ago, I’ve had buttermilk biscuits on the brain. I’ll get to “regular” old fashioned buttermilk biscuits soon, but first dessert called. These Slightly Sweet Orange Buttermilk Biscuits are the building blocks for incredibly simple and satisfying berry shortcakes.
Cut open, with just a a few ripe berries and a heaping spoonful of cream, the biscuits become luscious berry shortcakes.
What’s so special about White Lily, besides the fact that it isn’t easy to find in my area? It is soft red winter wheat (lower protein and lower gluten) flour, which makes for much softer dough for biscuits than all-purpose flour that is typically made from harder spring wheat. You can make good biscuits with all-purpose flour too, but I was excited to try the “real deal” biscuit flour. (Sam Sifton recommends letting dough with all-purpose flour rest for 30 minutes before cutting and baking it.) Some day I’ll do a blind taste test, soft vs. hard wheat flour, but for now, I’m satisfied to enjoy soft wheat biscuits.
Anyway, back to my Slightly Sweet Orange Buttermilk Biscuits.
I started with a recipe that I got from my daughter’s girlfriend. She’s a bona fide Southern girl and had graced me with her grandmother’s biscuit recipe. Enticing. But I had berries that needed to be used and company coming for dinner, so biscuits had to become dessert. It took me 30 seconds to move from biscuits and gravy to shortcake biscuits.
Now, I’ll admit to a “thing” for orange flavor in desserts. Sometimes oranges are front-and-center, as in oranges and clementines with sugar syrup, or spiked candied orange peel. Other times, orange is a major ingredient; orange and yogurt cake comes to mind. Plus, I like to add orange to a dessert that could stand without it. That’s the category for chocolate babka, croquembouche, and chocolate mousse, all of which I’ve “orange-ized.”
So it was only natural that I would add orange to slightly sweet biscuits. My darling says they are like scones. He meant it as a compliment, though biscuit mavens might not see it that way. In any event, I know what he means. They have a slightly crisp outside and a soft interior. Like any good scone, the flavoring adds to the overall effect, without overwhelming the buttery and crumbly dough.
Slightly Sweet Orange Buttermilk Biscuits
These biscuits are perfect for berry shortcakes. Or eat them for breakfast or snacks on their own.
- 1 navel orange
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 cups flour, preferably soft (White Lily or similar) + extra for flouring counter or mat
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup butter, shortening or a combination I used half shortening (Earth Balance) and 1/4 cup/4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon buttermilk or melted butter
- 1 tablespoon orange sugar (see above)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grate the rind of about 1/2 the orange, about 1 teaspoon. Squeeze half the orange to get 2 tablespoons of juice. Set the juice aside
Mix the teaspoon of rind into the sugar with your fingertips, squeezing the two ingredients together into the sugar is uniformly orange. Set aside about one tablespoon of the orange sugar for topping - the rest goes into the biscuits.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, cream of tartar, and salt together in a medium sized bowl. Add the major portion of the orange sugar and whisk again until the sugar is well dispersed.
Add the shortening, either by hand (using a pastry cutter or two knives) or with a few short bursts in a food processor.
Add the buttermilk and 2 tablespoons of orange juice to the flour and shortening mixture, either with a fork or again, short bursts in a food processor. In either case, mix only until the dough comes together. On a well-floured counter or mat, pat out the dough into a 6-7-inch circle about 3/4-inch high.
Cut the biscuits out with a 2- 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter, cookie cutter, or cup.
Brush the top of the biscuits with the tablespoon of buttermilk or melted butter, then sprinkle on the reserved orange sugar.
Place the biscuits on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the biscuits are golden. Cool on a wire rack.
To make the Slightly Sweet Orange Buttermilk Biscuits into berry shortcakes, after slicing open, add a dollop of whipped cream, creme fraiche, or sweetened yogurt with berries.