Something magical happened the day I decided to dump a container of fresh ricotta into my standard biscuit recipe. I thought I would get lumps and layers of cheese in the biscuits, but I got something better than that. The ricotta melts into the biscuit in most places and creates a fluffy crumb that I had been trying to achieve for years but never knew the secret to. These are dangerously addictive. Proceed with caution.
5 cups (500g) cake flour, plus more for rolling
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 sticks (226g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups (472ml) cold buttermilk, plus more for brushing
1 1/2 cups (372g) cold whole-milk ricotta cheese, drained for at least 1 hour in a fine-mesh strainer lined with two layers of cheesecloth
1. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large mixing bowl. Place the bowl in the freezer to chill for 20 minutes.
2. Add the butter to the dry ingredients and toss to combine. Pinch and smear the pieces of butter between your fingers. Processing the butter like this creates small leaves of butter that layer in the dough, resulting in flakes later. Once all the butter chunks have been pinched, grab small handfuls of flour and butter and rub the two together between the palms of your hands until the mixture resembles uneven pebbles on a sandy beach.
3. Create a well in the center of the mixture and add 1 cup of the buttermilk. Using a fork, toss the flour and butter from around the edge of the well into the center. Fluff the buttermilk and flour mixture with the fork five or six times, until shaggy looking.
4. Crumble the ricotta cheese into tablespoon-size chunks over the dough, making sure not to break up the cheese too much. Using your hands with your fingers spread wide open, loosely incorporate the cheese into the dough with a lift-and-gently-squeeze motion. Drizzle the remaining 1 cup of buttermilk over the dough while using the fork to bring the mixture together into a loose and shaggy mass.
5. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and use your hands to shape the dough into a 10 x 7-inch rectangle. Fold the rectangle in thirds like a letter and then rotate 90 degrees. Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough back into a 10 x 7-inch rectangle. Repeat the folding, rotating, and rolling process two more times, ending with the dough shaped into a 10 x 7-inch rectangle of about 1-inch thickness. Wrap the dough with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
6. Position two racks in the center zone of your oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
7. Return the dough to the work surface and roll it out into a 12 x 10-inch rectangle of about ¾-inch thickness. Using a sharp knife, trim and discard ¼ inch from all sides of the dough. Cut the rectangle into 4 evenly spaced vertical strips, and then into 4 horizontal strips to get 16 biscuits. Place 8 biscuits about 1 1/2 inches apart on each prepared baking sheet. Generously brush the tops of the biscuits with buttermilk.
8. Bake until the biscuits are golden brown and have expanded upwards to reveal fluffy layers on the sides, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool for as long as you can stand it, or risk a burned mouth and go for it.
Reprinted from Dappled: Baking Recipes for Fruit Lovers by arrangement with Avery, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2019, Nicole Rucker. Photos by Alan Gastelum.
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