A Recipe: Whole Grain Buttermilk Biscuits

Whole grain buttermilk biscuits are a rare treat in our home.  We begin most mornings with a breakfast of pastured eggs and wilted greens or homemade yogurt and soaked oatmeal porridge.  Occasionally, just occasionally, I find the time to prepare whole grain buttermilk biscuits as a special treat.  I dust the flour off Meta Given’s Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking, a cookbook worn by six decades of use in various kitchens, and turn to page 236 which details a classic recipe for whole grain buttermilk biscuits that I’ve subsequently adapted for use in our kitchen.

Given’s original version of buttermilk biscuits calls for all-purpose flour which has no place in our kitchen as we’ve grown to prefer the rustic texture and fuller flavor of sprouted grain flour.  Yet, these buttermilk biscuits, despite the inclusion of whole grain or sprouted flour, are as tender and pleasantly flavored as the original, but richer in micronutrients.  Consider this improved vitamin and mineral profile a sort of gift of the whole grain that would otherwise be stripped and absent from its refined counterpart.  The generous use of freshly cultured buttermilk (see sources) and freshly rendered lard or butter makes for a soft, tender and flaky crumb.

Good homemade bread is easy to eat, and who isn’t thrilled to see puffy, crusty, golden-brown biscuits, muffins, rolls and loaves come out of the oven?  That’s why women in the cities as well as in the country will go on serving homemade breads. Meta Given, 1948.

When I begin mixing the buttermilk and flour for fresh biscuits, my son’s eyes widen in anticipation.  He knows that a real treat awaits him.  He sets the table, taking care to place fresh butter in the center of the table and our raw, wildflower honey – an even greater treat in our home – just a touch closer to his plate.  From time to time, we’ll serve these biscuits in the southern tradition with pasture-raised pork sausage seasoned heavily with sage as well as a heavily peppered cream gravy.

This recipe for whole grain buttermilk biscuits calls for a simple soak.  Soaking flour and grain in a slightly acidic solution – such as buttermilk – helps to mitigate the effects of phytic acid.   Phytic acid is an antinutrient naturally found in whole grain that binds minerals in your intestinal tract, preventing your body from fully absorbing them.  By soaking flour in buttermilk, you can help to release neutralize the effects of phytic acid.  The end result of this simple and traditional process is that your breads are more tender, easier to digest and more nutrient-dense. If using freshly ground flour, you’ll only need to soak the flour in buttermilk for a few hours as freshly ground flour is rich in food enzymes.

whole grain buttermilk biscuit recipe

By Jenny Published: March 16, 2010

  • Yield: 16 to 18 biscuits.
  • Prep: 15 mins
  • Cook: 10 to 15 minutes (baking) mins
  • Ready In: 25 mins

If you’re using freshly ground flour, you need only soak the dough for a few hours though you can certainly soak it longer, by choice if not necessity. This recipe produces a classic buttermilk recipe with a tender crumb and is best served with fresh butter and wildflower honey or jam.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups whole grain flour
  • 1/2 cup cold butter or pastured lard
  • 1 cup freshly cultured buttermilk
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp unrefined sea salt

Instructions

  1. Sift the whole grain flour before combining it with cold butter or pastured lard in the basin of a mixer.
  2. Mix the fat and flour together until it resembles the texture of cornmeal, then stir in the freshly cultured buttermilk and combine together until the flour, fat and buttermilk form a thick dough.
  3. Allow this dough to sit, covered, in a warm spot in your kitchen for at least two hours (if using freshly ground or sprouted grain flour) or overnight if using store-bought flour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Once the oven is preheated, knead baking soda and unrefined sea salt into the dough.
  6. Flour your hands and gently form the biscuits either by rolling them out and cutting them out with a biscuit cutter or roll dr op them, as I prefer to do, straight from the mixing bowl onto a baking sheet or preheated baking stone.
  7. Bake the biscuits at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about ten to fifteen minutes, or until they puff up and become a golden brown color.

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What people are saying

  1. Jana says

    When (and how) do you add the baking soda and salt? This is the part that has always tripped me up with soaked recipes, especially tender ones like biscuits. I just don’t understand how to get the rest of the dry ingredients in there without developing too much gluten through stirring.

    Another thing I don’t understand about the soaking process is how it’s advertised to produce more tender baked goods. Gluten, the enemy of tenderness, is formed either by kneading or by a long rest (soaking) before baking (as in the no-knead bread method). Whenever I attempt a soaked recipe, at the end of the soaking period, my dough has formed long strands of gluten. These strands make a wonderful sourdough bread, but not so wonderful biscuits or muffins. Am I misunderstanding the process or what is meant by “tenderness”?

  2. Annie says

    they sound awesome and very husband-pleasing :) quick question – we’ve never bought sprouted flour ($$$) but I thought that it didn’t need to be soaked. How would sprouted flour benefit from soaking?

  3. Jenny says

    Annie -

    You absolutely can use a food processor to cut the fat into the flour, and this recipe calls for any whole grain flour.  I prefer to use sprouted flour because it’s still richer in vitamins than regular flour and that’s all we really use in my kitchen.  If all you have is regular whole grain flour, use that instead.  It will work just fine and soaking effects – more or less – the same goal as sprouting.

    - Jenny

  4. Jenny says

    Jana -

    I amended the buttermilk biscuit recipe to include the step for adding salt and baking soda – but you knead these two ingredients in after you’ve sufficiently soaked your flour.  The key is not to stir too much, knead them in very quickly and don’t spend a lot of time on it. These biscuits, when you’re using freshly ground flour, only soak for about 2 to 3 hours which is a sufficient amount of time to neutralize phytic acid (but not if you’re using anything but freshly ground whole grain or sprouted grain flour).  The crumb is quite soft and these biscuits are actually quite light.  I don’t find that soaking results in long strands of gluten at all – except when  yeast is added to the mix (either in the way of sourdough starter or baking yeast.

    Hope that helps -

    Jenny

    • Kelly says

      So I have a novice question….I have started buying sprouted flour and was under the impression that sprouting was enough to neutralize the phytic acid, but if I am understand your post you soak sprouted flour too. Do I get additional benefits from soaking sprouted flour? Would I get the same effect using un-sprouted whole wheat flour and soaking (this certainly would be cheaper)?

  5. Briana says

    I would love to see your recipe for sausage gravy as well!! I have an old recipe from my great grandma and it is good, but lacks the sage aspect.

    Also, I am confused about soaking verses not soaking. If you are using sprouted flour are you soaking it too?

  6. Alicia says

    Sounds great, I have been wanting to convert my current recipe since we LOVE cheese biscuits with butter brushed on top! If you add grated cheese, would you try to knead that in after soaking or just include it before soaking? Normally, I cut in the fat, and toss in the grated cheese before adding the milk/buttermilk.

  7. says

    I ended up with the same results as Jana when I tried a soaked flour recipe. I was trying to make the banana bread in the NT book and ended up with a dough that looked just like regular bread dough after soaking for the recommended 24 hours. I thought for sure that the bread would turn out, otherwise the recipe would not have been in the book. Not so. It was the worst, heaviest, pastiest banana bread that I have ever made! I was so disappointed at the result and ended up pitching the loaf. It was an expensive waste. For that reason, I am hesitant to try soaking again!

  8. says

    Just made this recipe today after randomly choosing your site after a “soaked wheat buttermilk biscuits” search! I do grind my own wheat but had never used buttermilk or soaking before. I am very pleasantly surprised! The biscuits do look a little like rocks, and I was afraid they would be hard or grainy like most things made with 100% fresh ground wheat, but they were soft! I’m adding this recipe to my collection.

  9. says

    Oh my goodness! These biscuits are fantastic!! I have been in search of a really yummy biscuit recipe, and this is it! I was *sure* that I was going to end up with rock-hard biscuits because I was sure that I kneaded/worked them too much – but no, they really are light & fluffy!

    I used whole-wheat pastry flour, soaked them overnight, and viola – awesome biscuits for breakfast! I even rolled mine out and cut them with a fluted biscuit cutter – they’re gorgeous!

    WOW! :)

  10. Sarah says

    I know this is a very novice question. But, I have to ask, if you are soaking the flour overnight in buttermilk – is it okay to let the butter milk sit out of the refridgerator for that long?

    Thanks,
    Sarah

  11. Jenny says

    Sarah -

    It really helps if you soak at room temperature.  I’ve never had a problem with doing so.  Soaking in the refrigerator may a few hours longer.  We eat a lot of fermented, probiotic foods around here – and all of them are cultured at room temperature.  Stick around, and you’ll lose your aversion to it!

    Blessings -

    Jenny

  12. says

    I just made these, with a lot of changes. The fun part of cooking is experimentation!
    I used 100% stoneground rye; I went to the store for buttermilk, but was horrified when I saw what all they add to it, so I used homemade raw milk yogurt instead. Since I was using the rye flour, I added caraway seeds and dried rosemary before the soaking.
    They didn’t rise very much – I might add a skosh more baking soda next time – but they are a nice combination of crunchy (like cornmeal) from the coarse rye, and tender, as promised. Husband declares them a hit, especially with extra Kerrygold slathered on top! :-) I’m off all grains for the most part, but I know that I tolerate 100% rye better than any wheat, and a treat now and then is nice.
    Thanks for this!

  13. Kristen says

    A practical question: how do you only soak these for a couple of hours if you are making them for breakfast? Do you wake up really early to soak, or have a late breakfast/brunch???

  14. Jenny says

    Hi Kristen  -

    If we’re soaking only a few hours which is only possible with freshly ground grain which is naturally rich in phytase.  We often serve them for brunch around ten or eleven in the morning, which leaves plenty of time for soaking; in general, though, we soak the dough overnight.

    - Jenny

  15. Sarah says

    I made these for my very traditional SOUTHERN in-laws and they loved them! Very impressed, I assure you this is the first time they have had biscuits made out of wheat!

    Thanks so much! Sarah

  16. Kylie NZ says

    I find that really interesting that freshly ground flour doesn’t need to be soaked as long.. I never knew that. Does that apply to all recipes using fresh flour or just this one? I would love to know why store bought flour needs to be soaked longer.

  17. Monika says

    Can these biscuits be frozen, since the recipe makes a fairly large quantity? And if yes, do you just let them thaw at room temperature or would you bake them again for a few minutes to warm up?

    • Jenny says

      I imagine that they can, though I’ve never tried it. I would freeze them unbaked and then bake them as you would a frozen pizza crust. Let me know how it works out.

    • says

      YES! These can be frozen. I made my first batch last weekend, and broke it into 16 biscuits. I cooked a few immediately, and put the rest in the freezer.

      To bake from frozen, I preheat the oven with my pizza stone in. Once it’s preheated, I pop in the number of biscuits and bake 17 minutes.

      PERFECT for brekkie (or ANY time you’d like a bread nosh with a soup or pasta)!

      I’m about to try making these with blood orange-infused olive oil and a bit of zest to eat for breakfast with an organic honey chevre.

  18. Kimberly says

    I am going to attempt to make these with gluten free flour, see what happens. I’ll keep you posted. MORE gluten free, NT friendly recipes would be SO awsome!

  19. Amy says

    Praise God!!!! I am so excited. I made these this morning and my teens love them. I have three that have been raised mostly on “traditional” groceries. It has been a challenge getting them used to the healthy foods that are so nutritional to them. Thank you so much! They taste so good. You have 8 new fans!

  20. Jennie says

    These were wonderful! I have been searching for a soaked whole wheat biscuit recipe that my family would like, and this fit! Thank you for sharing!

  21. says

    Ours came out doughy, even though we baked them for 25 minutes. I used whole wheat flour and followed the steps. Any idea how to get a fluffy interior next time?

  22. says

    I made this this morning and slathered them with Kerrygold butter. The family devoured them! They were fluffy, but rich, and so delish! Thank you for posting this! I am definitely making these again.

  23. Angie says

    I am looking into buying a sifter and am curious what brand you use. Also, what kind of grain mill do you use?

    Thank you!

  24. Angie says

    I am looking into buying a sifter and am curious about the brand that you use. Also, what kind of grain mill do you use?

    Thank you!

  25. Angie says

    Another question: I’m trying to learn about sifting flour. Why is it that you sift the flour in this recipe? Is it for measuring accuracy? For texture of the biscuits? For nutritional purposes?

    Thanks again!

  26. Marija M. says

    Thank you for this recipe. We just had ours with dinner. They were great! I used freshly ground spelt, lard, and some buttermilk from making butter earlier this week, but I was about 1/4 cup short so filled it with regular (raw) milk. I did forget to cover the mixing bowl and I also left the mixer paddle in. So when I went back a few hours later I had to scrape it all off the paddle. I’m wondering if this caused them to break easily (butter was too hard!), I’m still trying to figure out bread-making. (I guess its ironic for me but grinding the flour and making fresh butter is the easy part!) Jenny your recipes are awesome and frankly, much better than the ones in NT!

  27. says

    These are so good! Fresh out of the oven with butter on top allowed to melt and then homemade strawberry rhubarb jam. To die for. I literally had to walk away so I wouldn’t eat them all. Melt in your mouth goodness.

  28. Lydia C says

    I have looked at this recipe before but never made it – I’m always a bit wary of soaked bread recipes because I’ve had duds in the past, so I generally stick to sourdough or sprouted. But I was out of sprouted flour and out of eggs, so I needed something new for this morning’s breakfast. Very pleasantly surprised! The mixing last night took only a couple minutes, then the salt and baking soda blended much faster and more easily than I expected. My four year-old was over the moon when she got up and discovered we were having biscuits for breakfast. We ate them with pastured breakfast sausage from a friend’s farm and then had seconds with butter and honey. Yum yum yum. Thank you for such a fantastic recipe!

  29. Racquel says

    Hi! Can’t wait to try this. Can I use almond milk with some vinegar as buttermilk? My husband has dairy allergies. Thanks!

  30. Erin says

    This recipe was fabulous. I can’t believe I got such flaky, delicious biscuits from sprouted flour. I made them first with butter, and then with lard; I have to say that I liked lard much better.

  31. Erin says

    Forgot to add that I did the first two steps in the food processor the second time around and found it much easier. The biscuits turned out great either way.

  32. says

    Hi Jenny!
    I absolutely love your site! I am learning so much!!! I was hoping to make your buttermilk biscuits for breakfast tomorrow, but I only have traditional raw milk buttermilk (just made butter from our raw cream), would this work in the recipe? I had planned to soak our store bought flour over night in it, but as I’m reading more, sounds like I need cultured buttermilk and I don’t have the means of getting cultured buttermilk right now.

    Would love to hear what you think ! Thanks in advance, Emalee

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