Because Biscuits

It’s biscuit season, and a true expert shares his hard-won tips for success. You’re welcome.

story by Greg Horton

Chris McKenna, the former executive chef and partner at HunnyBunny Biscuit Company, steadfastly refused to give us his biscuit recipe. We asked. He said no. Other than saying, “They’re made with a lot of butter,” he refused to offer any more details that would allow a reverse engineering project. Once you taste them, you will understand why we want to reverse engineer them. Yes, at HunnyBunny, biscuits have a wide assortment of ingredients on them, but they are fluffy, buttery and delicious all by themselves, too.

Last winter, as they were preparing to open HunnyBunny, McKenna shared some pro tips for amateur cooks, because it’s embarrassing to be an Okie and not be able to make good biscuits. McKenna said he’s tried dozens of recipes, and even he was surprised at how diverse the approaches and recipes are when it comes to baking biscuits. That’s his way of saying, “Your grandmother just made it look easy; it’s not.”

The Flour

White Lily Flour is his preference. The bad news? It’s two to three times the cost of all-purpose flour, and it’s hard to find. Online is the best option.

Butter or Shortening? Butter or Sweet?

“Reading through recipes, I came across all kinds of blends of butter and shortening, and some people preferred just butter or just shortening. I tried a bunch of combinations, but I kept coming back to unsalted butter. That’s all I use now.”

If you are using butter, McKenna said to make sure it’s very cold when you add it to the mixture. You know it’s right when the butter looks like “pea gravel” in the dough.

The Milk

As for the milk debate—sweet or buttermilk—he prefers the latter because of the “twang” it adds.

Technique

Rule number one, and it’s number one because it’s critical: Do not overwork the dough. When making a small batch—a dozen or less—McKenna uses the hand method. He makes a flour well, similar to pasta making, and then slowly works the wet and dry ingredients together. When the dough comes together, stop working it!

When cutting biscuits, do not twist the cutter: “My experience is that when you twist the cutter, it pinches the dough, which can cause it to not rise or to rise unevenly.”

When placing biscuits in the pan, make sure they are touching each other. McKenna said the biscuits push against each other, which helps the rise process. If you are making a small batch, use cast iron for a crispy crust, but do not crowd the pan. They just need to be touching, not smushed.

Rather than grease the sheet, use parchment paper. A good temp is 400-425 for a 2.5-inch biscuit, and if you put enough butter in the dough, you don’t need to brush them with butter.

Opening in February. HunnyBunny Biscuit Co., 429 NW 23rd St. hunnybunnybiscuitco.com @hunnybunnybiscuitco