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These lightly sweetened biscuits are ideal for summer shortcake; they're especially good warm. My recommendation? Do as they do at the American Legion potluck suppers I used to enjoy when we lived in Maine. Take hot biscuits out of the oven. Immediately split in half, and butter both halves. Top one half with a thin layer of whipped cream (or heavy cream, not sweetened; you just want a little something to soak into the biscuit along with the butter). Spoon on the fruit of your choice, and dollop with sweetened whipped cream. Add the biscuit's top half, and a bit more whipped cream. The biscuit will crumble into warm, tasty chunks under the onslaught of butter, cream, and fruit. I know, I know... the fat, the calories. Well, consider this the perfect summer indulgence, and have it ONCE. Think of this treat like Christmas: it comes but once a year!
There are two versions of this biscuit: one mainly whole wheat, and one made with all-purpose flour. They're golden and tasty made with whole wheat, but if you don't have access to good whole wheat flour (I recommend King Arthur whole wheat flour, of course, but if not King Arthur, be sure to use something fresh and mild-tasting), then go ahead and use all-purpose flour. By the way, the whole wheat version of this recipe comes from our soon-to-be-published new book, King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking, due out this fall.
2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) King Arthur whole wheat flour, white whole wheat or traditional
1/2 cup (2 1/8 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) cold unsalted butter*
3 tablespoons (2 1/4 ounces) honey
1 large egg
3/4 cup (6 ounces) buttermilk
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia (optional)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons water
*Reduce salt to 1/2 teaspoon if you use salted butter.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, baking powder and baking soda. With a pastry fork or cutter, or using an electric mixer, cut in the butter until the flour mixture is crumbly. In a small bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, and honey. Add, all at once, to the flour mixture, and blend lightly and quickly with a fork until the mixture is evenly moistened.
Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface, and fold the dough over on itself three or four times, until it comes together.
Pat the dough out (or roll very lightly with a rolling pin) into a 9" square (3/4"-thick). Cut the dough into 16 squares, and transfer the biscuits to the prepared baking sheet.
While this next step is optional, it gives the biscuits a lovely, shiny, tasty crust. In a small microwave-safe bowl, whisk together the glaze ingredients. The Fiori di Sicilia, while optional, will give the biscuits a lovely citrus-vanilla accent. Place the bowl in the microwave, and microwave very briefly (maybe 15 to 20 seconds), until the glaze is very hot and starting to bubble. Remove it from the microwave, give it a stir, and brush it over the biscuits.
Bake the biscuits for 20 to 22 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Remove them from the oven and serve warm, or cool on a rack. Yield: 16 biscuits.
To make biscuits using all-purpose flour: Substitute 3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour for the whole wheat and bread flours. Reduce the buttermilk to 2/3 cup.
To make biscuits using milk, rather than buttermilk: Increase the baking powder to 1 tablespoon, and eliminate the baking soda.