Fresh pasta, real Neapolitan pizza, cornbread or corn tortillas: If you’d like to learn how to make these classic dishes from scratch, look no further than Tim Bereika’s Kitchen and Craft channel. A professional chef, Tim calmly and confidently walks you through the steps, making daunting recipes suddenly appear totally doable.
For his appearance in our ongoing Tastemakers series, Tim chose to show you how to make a down-home Southern staple: delicious, flaky buttermilk biscuits.
AMEX ESSENTIALS: Could you introduce yourself, for those who don’t know you?
TIM BEREIKA: Sure! My name is Tim Bereika, and I’m a former executive chef living in Richmond, Virginia. Even though I’ve retired from cooking professionally, I still love to spend time in the kitchen, especially when there’s an opportunity to share ideas and teach others how to find the beauty of cooking. In 2015, I created my YouTube channel called Kitchen and Craft.
Why and how did you start the channel?
My career in the kitchen started to become more about managing people and product rather than cooking and creating new dishes. I was starting to get depressed, and desperately needed a new creative culinary outlet. That’s when I decided to start my YouTube channel. It gave me the opportunity to cook and share with others who loved to do the same, but at my own pace and on my terms. I had complete creative control and freedom to do what I wanted to do. I also love food photography, shooting videos and video production.
For the uninitiated, what are buttermilk biscuits? How do they differ from dinner rolls or scones?
Biscuits are considered a ‘quick bread’, meaning that the dough is easy to make and it doesn’t require any resting or proofing, unlike a bread leavened with yeast. The rise in a biscuit (or other quick breads) comes from the use of a chemical leavening agent rather than yeast. Dinner rolls, on the other hand, are made from yeast dough.
I’m no scone expert, but based on my research, it sounds like a properly made scone is very close to a biscuit and vice versa. The only major difference is that scones always contain eggs, and biscuits do not. Buttermilk is not required when making biscuits; you can use regular milk, too, but buttermilk is acidic and reacts with baking soda and baking powder (also in the recipe) to give the biscuit a better rise. I also like the tangy flavour buttermilk adds to biscuits
Why are these biscuits such an important part of Southern cuisine?
From what I know, quick breads have always been a part of the Southern diet (most people ate cornbread because cornmeal was cheap and readily available), so when flour became more abundant and affordable, and chemical leaveners were discovered, this type of ‘modern’ biscuit really became popular. It was (and is) a much better product than hardtack or whipped biscuits, which predate the leavened biscuits you see today.
So, what’s the secret to making ultra-flaky biscuits?
1. Work with very cold ingredients. I stick all of my biscuit ingredients in the freezer overnight before making biscuits the following morning. It’s really important that the butter stays intact, and doesn’t soften up and melt into the dough before baking.
2. A technique called lamination. When the dough is rolled and folded over onto itself (lamination), then rolled again, layers of butter are formed within the biscuit dough. When baked, the butter melts and releases steam, which creates pockets of air that form layers. This makes the biscuits airy and flaky on the inside.
3. Use self-rising flour that’s been milled from soft winter wheat. The protein content is lower (8-9%) so there’s less chance for gluten formation when handling the biscuit dough. This creates an incredibly soft texture that allows the biscuit to rise better, which in turn creates beautiful flaky layers.
Biscuits are considered a ‘quick bread’, meaning that the dough is easy to make and it doesn't require any resting or proofing, unlike a bread leavened with yeast.
Using lard or shortening is considered a more classic way to make buttermilk biscuits, but you prefer to use butter?
Oh yes, I use butter exclusively when making biscuits. It’s an item that I always have on hand, and in my opinion, tastes better and makes a much flakier biscuit than lard or shortening.
In the video, you pair the biscuits with blackberry jam or blood orange marmalade. What are some of your other favourite ways to enjoy biscuits?
In my neck of the woods, you’ll find biscuits served with breakfast, lunch or dinner. Here are a few other ways to enjoy them:
#1 With hot honey and salted butter
#2 Served with fried chicken
#3 Used as the bread in a breakfast sandwich – I prefer ham, egg and cheese
#4 Topped with sausage gravy
[Photo credit headshot: Kieran Wagner]