Scone of the Month: Adding spice to whole wheat biscuits

Rarely a month passes that I don’t make a biscuit of some kind. They are simply my favorite bread, probably because they are so simple to make (and comforting to eat). I’ve been celebrating the scone all year with recipes each month and decided to honor the biscuit in September, which has been deemed National Biscuit Month.

My recipe for this month is a bit of a mashup between biscuits and scones (which are closely related, anyway). And the inspiration came from a trip to a health food market in Marin a couple of years ago on a chilly autumn afternoon. This market, which carries everything from essential oils to hand-knit gloves — also has a little cafe that serves homemade soups and an irresistible bakery case. On this particular afternoon, while the homemade carrot cake and apple tarts took center stage among the baked goods, it was the golden, earthy tone of a beautifully lofty ginger biscuit that called my name. 

The biscuits were whole wheat, with perfect biscuit-y layers, only slightly sweet, but nutty-flavored from the flour and a smattering of dried ginger,  as well as chopped chunks of candied ginger throughout. I’ve thought about these biscuits many times the last two years, even venturing back to this market for more, but alas, they seemed to be a one-time, limited offering.

When I decided to try and re-create these biscuits in my own kitchen, I considered working from a scone recipe, but I went with a good basic biscuit, something that would bring about a similar shape, texture, lift and taste. This would start with whole wheat flour, which I love so much and should use more (I love even just smelling whole wheat flour)…the health incentive of whole wheat is just the cherry on top of all that is good about this flour.

I considered just going with ginger as the spice for the biscuits, which, I believe was all that was used in the bakery biscuits I loved. BUT, I thought maybe some cinnamon would be great, too…heck, who am I kidding? Of course! There is little that cinnamon does not make better in some way.

My biscuit recipe went with using good old butter as its fat, cutting it in to evenly distribute in all the dry ingredients. As with my bakery biscuit, I tossed in some chopped crystallized ginger here as my dried fruit element to make the biscuit more “scone-y.”

Another element of scones I incorporated into the mix was whisking in an egg yolk to the buttermilk I used for the biscuits.

The dough was moist and soft when I kneaded it a few times to bring it together. 

It was easy enough (and also required one less implement) to just pat the dough to about 3/4-inch thickness to then cut out using my heirloom (very old and especially cherished) wood-handled biscuit cutter. I ended up with about 10 2-1/2 inch biscuits.

The biscuits I got at the bakery had a bit of a sheen on them, so I used the egg white separated from the yolk used in the dough for a brushed-on glaze that I finished with some sparkling sugar (some golden turbinado sugar would be great here, too).

I let the biscuits get a nice golden-brown (about 12 minutes of baking)…they turned out nicely raised with those biscuit-like layers throughout.

But the proof was in the tasting. I have found I have beginner’s luck in recipe-testing (it’s a blessing and curse…more on that another time), so I was well-pleased with the tastes of these biscuits. They had those nice crispy edges, but were tender within. The cinnamon was subtle, but a welcome softer note to the spicier ginger, which was not too much here. The sweet-spicy chew of the candied ginger, which plumped up a little with baking added lively little bursts of flavor and texture throughout the biscuits, just like those that enlivened the homey biscuits I’d fallen for two years ago. I think I nailed it. My biscuit recipe file grows, but so “B” it!

Whole Wheat Cinnamon-Ginger Biscuits

Makes 10 to 12 2-1/2-inch biscuits

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried ginger
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick)  cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 2/3 cup roughly chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 egg white
  • Sparkling or turbinado sugar for topping biscuits

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and ginger. Using a pastry blender or fingers, blend in butter until it is evenly distributed and makes the mixture look grainy. Toss in crystallized ginger.

Whisk egg yolk into buttermilk and pour gently into batter, stirring in with a fork until all is moistened. Knead briefly in the bowl (6 to 8 kneads). Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat or roll the dough to about 3/4-inch thickness. Using a 2-1/2 inch cutter (or drinking glass) that has been dusted with flour, cut out biscuit rounds and place on a large parchment-lined baking sheet.

Whisk egg white a bit then, using a pastry brush, glaze the tops of the biscuits and sprinkle with sparkling sugar.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool a bit on a wire rack. Serve warm or room temperature. 

Blogger’s Note: Lemon curd is yummy on these!

Comments are closed.