Refrigerating prepared biscuit dough
May 4, 2011 7:06 AM   Subscribe

Can I prepare and save this biscuit dough 1 day in advance of my Kentucky Derby dinner party?

I need to coordinate a rib dinner for twelve and would like to not have to make the biscuits from scratch in the middle of the party. Ideally I'd like to make it the night before and save it in a airtight bag, then roll it out and make the biscuits in the final minutes prior to dinner. The recipe is as follows:

* 1 3/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
* 1 tablespoon sugar
* 1 tablespoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
* 3/4 cup chilled whipping cream

Link here:

I know so little about the chemical properties of this stuff. I've made these in the past at the time of cooking and they were great, but anyone with more culinary insight than I should feel free to weigh in.

posted by docpops to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Baking powder/soda reacts as soon as it comes in contact with liquid, so I wouldn't think you would be able to pre-prepare these biscuits. You could cut in the butter ahead, though, and leave just the addition of the cream and the rolling to do day of.
posted by apparently at 7:14 AM on May 4, 2011

Baking powder begins working as soon as it's hydrated. I would mix the dry ingredients, cut in the butter, and store that. Then just stir in the cream when it's time to roll and cut (after you pre-heat the oven). Otherwise you'll lose (some of) the lift provided by the baking powder.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:15 AM on May 4, 2011

No. There are assuming you're using double action baking powder (most baking powder you buy is!), the first half of that action (rise) happens when the baking powder gets wet. The second half happens with exposure to heat. You'd still get the second half of the action, but your biscuits would be kinda flat. You can retard yeast with cold, but not baking powder.
posted by mollymayhem at 7:24 AM on May 4, 2011

This is great. Thank-you.

So if I understand, I could prepare most of the dry stuff and maybe the butter, but add the cream and baking powder at the time of prep?
posted by docpops at 7:27 AM on May 4, 2011

A problem you may run into is that butter has a relatively high water content. However, if you use shortening instead, you may be better off.

On the other hand, you could make rolls instead, which, being yeasty (and about as easy), would actually get better if you mixed up before hand and let to refrigerate overnight before cooking.
posted by General Malaise at 7:31 AM on May 4, 2011

I make biscuits in a food processor along a very similar recipe, and I'll tell you, it takes less time to make the dough than it does to heat the oven to the temperature. Measure out your dry ingredients into the food processor bowl and whirl them together, cut your butter into bits and leave it in the fridge. Then when it's Time -- when you'd be rolling out the dough anyway --start the oven preheating, dump the butter bits into the food processor, run the food processor until it stops thumping, then pour the cream in while it's still running. Wait until the dough balls up and whumps around the bowl half a dozen times or so, then roll out and bake.

If you don't have a food processor, this is an EXCELLENT excuse for one. ;-)
posted by KathrynT at 7:51 AM on May 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

Sift your baking powder in with the flour so that it gets distributed. And it's fine to cut in the butter ahead. Keep it uncovered in the fridge if your kitchen is warm, keeping in mind that you may need a little more liquid to compensate for the drying action of the fridge air.

Your biscuits may be a tiny bit less high and light, but they'll be plenty fine. I have known old ladies (the kind of old lady who believes in buttering bread before using it for chicken salad sandwiches) who scoff at Bisquick - they've kept a homemade version, butter cut into flour and baking powder, in a can on a pantry shelf thier whole lives, ready for biscuits at a moment's notice.
posted by peachfuzz at 7:56 AM on May 4, 2011

Oh - one other idea. When I don't feel like dirtying the food processor or my fingers cutting in butter, I make drop biscuits this way: combine the flour, baking powder, and any other dry ingredients. Melt and slightly cool the butter. Stir it into very cold buttermilk—the butter will coagulate into little beads. Combine this with the dry ingredients, and you get more or less the same action (pockets of butter surrounded by flour) with a lot less mess. You could prep the butter/liquid mixture and the dry ingredients well ahead of time and just combine them when you need.
posted by peachfuzz at 8:02 AM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I googled "make ahead biscuits" and found this method. It looks like cutting them out, then freezing them, is the best plan.
posted by katemonster at 8:05 AM on May 4, 2011

Thanks everyone. This is great help and very educational. May be time to get that food processor finally.
posted by docpops at 8:12 AM on May 4, 2011

As an alternative, I made these biscuits for a holiday party a few years ago. I flash froze them 3 days in advance and they were divine! The recipe is very, very similar to yours above. You could cut out the butter dip at the end of the recipe if you want them to be less rich. I just threw them straight into the oven from the freezer. No problems at all!
posted by fyrebelley at 8:15 AM on May 4, 2011

fyrebelley - did you butter them and then just leave them on a baking tray in the freezer? Covered?
posted by docpops at 8:18 AM on May 4, 2011

Making hte dough, butting the biscuits, and freezing, then baking the frozen hockeypucks would work just fine. One can buy bags of Pillsbury biscuits in the freezer case that follow this very method and are delicious.
posted by aimedwander at 8:24 AM on May 4, 2011

Docpops--I dipped them in butter, placed them on parchment paper (wax would work too) on a baking sheet and into the freezer. Once frozen (an hour or so later), I took them off the paper and stored them in a ziploc so they'd take up less room in the freezer. I think I made 3 batches this way. Then I just loaded them on a baking sheet with parchment paper straight from the freezer, into the oven, increasing the cooking time by 2-3 minutes.

I had a house of 30 or so guests, and this was super easy for me!
posted by fyrebelley at 8:36 AM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

We freeze both pizza dough and pie crusts, so I can't see how biscuits would be any different. Don't defrost - bake them frozen - and monitor the baking very carefully.

I would cover them - heck, I am anal so I would wrap each one in saran wrap before freezing to keep out as much air as possible, but maybe this isn't as important for biscuits as it is for pizza dough or crusts.
posted by muddgirl at 8:37 AM on May 4, 2011

We freeze both pizza dough and pie crusts, so I can't see how biscuits would be any different

The rising function of yeasted doughs (like pizza and bread doughs) is very different from that of chemically raised doughs (like biscuits). Yeast beasties just go dormant when frozen, and happily wake up to eat and give off gas when thawed. Baking powder doughs work a little differently—baking powder is usually a mixture of baking soda, an acid, and a moisture absorber/filler like cornstarch, and the rising is caused by hydration: when the acid is dissolved, it's free to react with the baking soda. The action is slowed by freezing the water in the dough. I think you lose a lot of rise potential before the dough is actually frozen, but most baking powders today are double acting (they contain a second acid that gets activated once it hits baking temperatures) and it's not a huge deal.

Pie crusts aren't raised at all. They just rely on layers of butter for separation and flakiness and a little puff where it melts and creates steam between layers. They freeze like champs.

Wow, when did I become such a dough nerd?
posted by peachfuzz at 9:42 AM on May 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

Freezing biscuits sounds completely horrible to me - biscuits are something of an art without adding the "make-ahead" complications to them. Have you considered just buying a roll of refrigerated biscuits? They're designed for this situation and are guaranteed to not turn out like hockey pucks. They're better than a lot of fresh biscuits I've had. You could also bake the biscuits a day ahead and reheat in the oven.

If you must from-scratch make-ahead, I would mix the dry ingredients, freeze the butter and grate/zest it into the dry stuff and mix (Microplane FTW!), and then cover and freeze at that stage. Keeping it frozen will prevent any water in the butter from affecting your rise. Mix in the cream just before baking. Or use buttermilk instead. Buttermilk is awesome, partly for flavor, partly because the acidity helps the baking soda work its magic.
posted by momus_window at 10:01 AM on May 4, 2011

You can prep the dough, including adding the butter/shortening beforehand(That's what Bisquick is). Add the liquid at the last minute.
posted by theora55 at 10:32 AM on May 4, 2011

Speaking from recent experience, you definitely can prep, cut, freeze and re-bake biscuits. They just take a little longer to bake, but I've always still gotten a REALLY nice rise. I made a batch yesterday that'd been in the fridge for about 4-5 days and were all kinds of amazing. The liquid in this batch wasbuttermilk rather than cream, so I don't know if that makes a difference. I'm 95% sure I've frozen and then delighted over cream-based biscuits before.

My vague, half-scienced impression is that the heat-rise portion of the baking powder along with the steam from the butter (big chunks of delicious butter) are what gives me my rise, rather than the initial water-based CO2 release.

Also - put a little melted butter on the bottom of the biscuit before you bake it, and a generous-ish brush of egg-wash on top. The crust will get a little more bite to it and the browning will make you look like a badass.
posted by frankdrebin at 11:35 AM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have also frozen and baked cut biscuit dough with no loss of quality or diminishment in lift. As suggested above, do flash-freeze them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet first, then when they're fully frozen, put them in an air-tight container like a Tupperware bin or a Ziploc bag. (If you pack them up touching before they're frozen solid, you'll end up with a frozen clump of biscuit dough, not individual pucks of dough.) Do not thaw, do not raise the oven temperature, just plan to bake 'em a few extra minutes. Mine always turn out fluffy and beautiful.
posted by Elsa at 4:21 PM on May 4, 2011

Oh: and be absolutely sure you're using double-acting baking powder, not "old-fashioned" or "single-acting" baking powder.
posted by Elsa at 4:23 PM on May 4, 2011

We use the Mark Bittman biscuit recipe, and what we do (because seriously, if we make the whole batch, we EAT the whole batch. We = 2 people. 2 chubby people, natch) is make the biscuits, roll and cut them out, and then freeze them on a cookie sheet. When they're frozen, we put them in a freezer bag and make a couple at a time. The biscuits last at least 3 weeks before they get freezer burn. And they are delicious.

So theoretically you could make them a few days ahead, freeze them, and bake as needed.

Good luck!
posted by bibliogrrl at 6:34 PM on May 4, 2011

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