How They Made It: Buttery Sourdough Biscuits from Fraser’s Ridge
Welcome back to our occasional series, “How They Made It,” where we explore the food and drink of Outlander. This month we’re using sourdough discard to put buttery sourdough biscuits on the table — just as Claire would at Fraser’s Ridge. Slainté!
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Waste Not, Want Not
Making biscuits is about as homey an item I can think of Outlander‘s Claire (or Jenny or Mrs. Fitz) baking. They take a minimum amount of time (not like baking bread, which requires time for the dough to rise) so they can be made at the last minute, almost as a whim. And when you’re searching for ways to use the discard from feeding sourdough starter (I’m looking at you, Spice Cake!), having a recipe for Buttery Sourdough Biscuits in your back pocket comes quite in handy for a last-minute accompaniment to a family dinner (…or breakfast…or lunch…or snack…). Drizzled with honey (maybe from a father-daughter bee hunt?) and slathered with butter or jam, these crumbly bits of portion-controlled bread heaven are comfort food that practically sings of family and home.
[Side note for our UK friends: by “biscuits,” I mean the flaky little roll, kind of like a savory scone, and definitely not like what we Yanks would call “cookies.” By the way, if anyone is interested in the etymology of these terms, here’s a quick explainer, along with a recipe for some delicious Mocha Chocolate Truffle Cookies.]
The hunt is always on
I’m always on the lookout for ways to use my weekly sourdough starter discard. Thinking up ways to use sourdough starter discard requires a little creativity, and a healthy dose of willingness to experiment. I’ve used my discard to make bannocks, pretzels, bagels, dinner rolls, the aforementioned spice cake, and pizza dough. Actually, most any recipe can be adapted to use sourdough starter discard, if you know its hydration level (a fancy term meaning the ratio of water to flour in the starter itself). My sourdough starter is made from equal parts, by weight, of flour and water (100% hydration), so adapting a recipe just means I reduce the amount of flour and liquid in any given recipe by half the weight of the starter I plan to use. For example, if I take out 8 oz of starter from my crock to discard, I have the equivalent of 4 oz each flour and water (which translates to about 1 cup of flour and ½ cup water). I’d just reduce the flour and water in a recipe by that amount. Presto change-o, I can use my sourdough starter discard and not waste it. (Sorry about the math diversion, but hey, I like math!)
Sourdough Biscuit Basics
The recipe below makes the standard roll-out biscuits using a biscuit cutter, but I’ve also included instructions for drop biscuits in the recipe notes (they’re a bit less work as no rolling out is required). Also, this recipe uses less salt than most standard biscuit recipes because the sourdough starter discard already has a…er…sour flavor that salt provides. You can, of course, adjust the salt to your tastes (and your starter).
Biscuits go from good to great when you give them a “butter bath” before baking them.
Warm and buttery from the oven
My whole apartment smelled wonderful as these were baking… buttery sourdough bread came to mind. The biscuits had a very mild sourdough flavor; they were more buttery, really. The texture was slightly crunchy, and they weren’t as flaky as traditional Southern-style biscuits. My theory is that using sourdough starter discard yields results that are less airy since the flour in discard is fully hydrated. The remaining (non-hydrated) flour in the recipe may not be enough to fully coat the butter chunks, and it’s this coated butter that turns to steam as it melts that creates those flaky layers. For you experienced biscuit bakers, just be aware that your sourdough biscuits may be a little more cake-y than flaky, and you’ll be good to go.
So who’s down for some last-minute buttery sourdough biscuits made by using up something that would otherwise be wasted? Great! I’ll meet you in the kitchen, and I’ll bring the honey and jam. I think Claire would be proud!
Do you have a family favorite recipe for making biscuits? How about your uses for sourdough starter discard?
Buttery Sourdough Biscuits
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (4 ¼ oz, 120g)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt
- ½ cup butter (1 stick, 4 oz, 113g), cold unsalted
- 1 cup sourdough starter (8 oz, 227g), unfed discard
- 1-3 Tbsp butter, melted (optional, for topping)
- Preheat the oven to 425°F, with a rack in the upper third. Grease a baking sheet, or line it with a Silpat or parchment paper.
- Combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Using a pastry blender (or 2 forks), work the butter into the flour until the mixture is unevenly crumbly (called “cutting in” the butter).
- Add the starter, mixing gently until the dough is cohesive.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface (a piece of parchment works well), and gently pat it into a 1-inch thick round. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 15-20 minutes (you’re just firming up the butter after working it…the dough should be pliable but not stiff).
- Use a sharp 2 3/8-inch biscuit cutter to cut rounds, cutting them as close to one another as possible. Be sure to press straight down with the cutter...don't twist or the biscuits won't rise as much. Pat any scraps together, and cut additional biscuits.
- Place the biscuits onto the prepared baking sheet and brush with melted butter, if desired.
- Bake the biscuits in the upper third of your oven for 20 to 23 minutes, until they're golden brown.
- Remove the biscuits from the oven, and serve warm. Or cool completely, wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for several days. Freeze, well-wrapped, for longer storage.
Discovering Outlander after Season 1 first aired, Tammy quickly went down the rabbit-hole on social media and podcasts and found a world of like-minded fans who not only tolerated her obsession, but encouraged the madness! She combined her Outlander-inspired interest for scotch whisky with her continuing passion for baking and storytelling in her blog, Scotch & Scones…Explorations in a glass and in the oven. Joining the staff of Outlander Cast as the resident baker has brought Tammy full circle, from a podcast fan to a contributing writer. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest at @scotch_scones, and find her on Facebook at @scotchandsconesblog.