Mrs. Bug’s Buttermilk Drop Biscuits from The Fiery Cross

Mrs. Bug’s Buttermilk Drop Biscuits from The Fiery Cross

IT SEEMED RATHER  a long time before Jamie reappeared, though the indignant cries of the searchers had been quickly stilled.  If Jamie had got his bum smacked, Roger thought cynically, he appeared to have enjoyed it.  A slight flush showed on the high cheekbones, and he wore a faint but definite air of satisfaction.

This was explained at once, though, when Jamie produced a small bundle from inside his shirt and unwrapped a linen towel, revealing half a dozen fresh biscuits, still warm, and dripping with melted butter and honey.

“I think perhaps Mrs. Bug meant them for the quilting circle,” he said, distributing the booty.  “But here was plenty of batter left in the bowl; I doubt they’ll be missed.”

Diana Gabaldon, The Fiery Cross (Chapter 108 – Tulach Ard)

You asked for it, you got it!

Mrs. Bug’s Biscuits was the number one requested recipe for 2013, which, I have to say, surprised me.  I was expecting a lot of requests for Turtle Soup…there’s always a lot of requests for that.  In fact, I couldn’t believe it that there wasn’t even one mention of it this time.

Instead, I got a creative list of suggestions that I plan to go back to again and again.

(Never fear.  Turtle Soup is on the OK menu…one day.)

Buttermilk Drop Biscuit Dough

Mrs. Bug makes more than one batch of biscuits during her tenure in the Ridge kitchen.  These ones, slathered in butter and honey, were specifically requested by the Biscuit Bandwagon, so, as I do with almost every recipe I create here on OK, I went back to DG’s text for a specific description of the food in question.

There’s batter left in the bowl.  Now, if these were rolled biscuits, you’d expect Jamie to have found the dough rolled out on the kitchen bench, with holes cut out from the ones Mrs. B had already baked (and he, Himself made off with).  However, he didn’t, so I’m going with buttermilk drop biscuits.

Which is also a good fit with the number of people that mentioned Bisquick along with their request for a homemade recipe.  If you’re used to the speed of Bisquick, consider this recipe a warm up to rolled biscuits.

baked buttermilk drop biscuits

I am proud to know several Southern ladies because of Outlander and Outlander Kitchen.  They are a great source of information for me when I start to research recipes, especially those from the Ridge.  My call for biscuit tips got a great response, and I now know a lot more about keeping rolled biscuits tender.  There will be a second biscuit post verra soon.

But for now, I can hear their inevitable indignant cries as I type away here, knowing that as they scroll down to look at my recipe, they’ll discover I disregarded almost every piece of advice their grandmothers gave them. But I had good reason (and results), I promise.

Cook’s Illustrated stirs slightly cooled, melted butter into the buttermilk in their drop biscuit recipe to speed the whole process up.  The result is a strange looking mixture full of clumps of butter which act, just like the cut-in butter in a traditional recipe, to add height and buttery flavour.  I started with theirs as my base recipe, then made a few changes based on some additional research.

Many sources for a real Southern biscuit will direct you to the recipe on the side of a package of White Lily Self Rising Flour.  Available predominantly in the South, Lily-White is from southern Winter Wheat, which, like most European flours, contains less protein than the harder Spring Wheat grown in the northern parts of North America.

The protein content of flour greatly affects the tenderness of the finished product.  In general, bread flour has more protein than all-purpose, which has more protein than cake & pastry flour.  White Lily flour is somewhere between the all-purpose and cake & pastry flours we have up here.

All of that is a good way of making something much more complicated than it should be…but I was asked for an Ultimate Biscuit, so I went all out and got into the chemistry of things.  If you’re interested, I’ve listed the protein contents of the flours I used in the recipe.  My combination of two different flours made for a delicious, tender biscuit.

Buttermilk Drop Biscuits

If all you’ve got is all-purpose, don’t let that stop you.  They’ll be just as delicious, if only a little less tender.  No big deal.  

(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)

Mrs. Bug’s Buttermilk Drop Biscuits from The Fiery Cross

: Tender, buttery southern-style biscuits, ready in a flash.  No kneading or rolling required.   

Yield:  1 dozen

  • Butter – ½ Cup
  • All-Purpose Flour (13% protein) – 1 Cup
  • Cake & Pastry Flour (10% protein) – 1 Cup
  • Baking Powder – 2½ tsp
  • Salt – 1 tsp
  • Baking Soda – ½ tsp
  • Buttermilk, cold – 1 Cup
  • Honey – 1 tsp
  • Butter, melted – 2 Tble (for brushing the baked biscuits hot out of the oven)

Move the rack to the upper-middle of the oven and heat to 475°.  Melt the butter and allow it to cool for 5 minutes while you assemble the other ingredients.

Whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, melted butter and honey.  Stir well.

Add the lumpy buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed, and the batter pulls away from the side of the bowl.  Use a lightly greased ¼ cup measure to scoop out level portions and drop onto an ungreased 9-10” round pan.  Arrange 9 biscuits around the outside and 3 in the middle of the pan.

Bake until the tops are golden, 13-15 minutes.  Once out of the oven, brush the tops of the biscuits with the 2 tablespoons of melted butter.  Cool 5 minutes on wire rack before serving.

Serve warm, drizzled with honey and even more butter if your hips can handle it.

Reheat day-old biscuits briefly to refresh.

Ith gu leòir! (Eat Plenty)

Notes:

  • If you don’t have cake & pastry flour, substitute all-purpose – the biscuits will be a little less tender.
  • I recommend real buttermilk for this recipe.  Clabbered milk, a common substitute for buttermilk, just isn’t the same here.  That said, I did make a batch with clabbered milk, and they’ll do in a pinch.  To clabber milk, stir 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice into 1 cup of milk and set aside for 10 minutes.  Stir again and proceed with recipe.
  • I used a cast iron pan, but a round cake pan will also do.

I am a professional chef, a food writer and an unabashed fan of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series.

72 Comments

  1. Ouida Lampert

    Argh! I have Celiac disease…got any idea for a gluten-free version? I am so NOT a chef, and could muddle through trials, but you – well, you ARE a chef, and, therefor, may have ideas that would help. Please? (Granted, Mrs. Bug wouldn’t have made gluten-free anything, but, well, it never hurts to ask!).

    Reply

    • Theresa

      I am a Chef, Ouida…you`re right on that account. But gluten free baking is not something I know a lot about. Ginger`s suggestion to try Bob`s Red Mill Gluten Free Flour is a good one…here is a recipe from a site I trust. As you can see, a number of ingredients, that wouldn`t be in the average pantry, are required: http://realfoodmadeeasy.ca/2012/09/the-best-gluten-free-biscuits/

      Reply

      • Ouida Lampert

        Thanks Theresa! I’ll look into the recipe at the link you gave me.

        Reply

        • Theresa

          My pleasure…hope it works!

          Reply

    • anna

      I just realized from your post that Mrs Buggs biscuits where probably rolled since when Claire tried they always came out hard and non-edable. I am still going to try this recipe it looks delicious. I don’t think I could do rolled and have them come out right at all.

      Reply

      • Theresa

        Well, these ones weren`t rolled, because there was still batter left in the bowl…but there`s no doubt Mrs. B also had a recipe for rolled. :)

        Reply

  2. ginger

    I recently discovered Bob’s Red Mill gluten free all purpose flour. We baked christmas cookies with it and they were fantastic!

    Reply

    • Theresa

      Great suggestion, Ginger!

      Reply

  3. Aaron Brown

    ohh my yummy!!!

    Reply

    • Theresa

      Hope you like them, Aaron!

      Reply

  4. Gayle

    I need to buy myself a cast iron skillet because these look so good and easy how could I pass this recipe up!

    Reply

    • Theresa

      you could use a cake pan, Gayle…but I couldn’t live without my cast iron collection…I have one in almost every size!

      Reply

      • Gayle

        That’s great advice! I am going to pick one up this weekend.

        Reply

        • Susan

          Gayle, my cast iron skillets are my first choice cookware. I use them so much, I leave them sitting out on the stove top!

          Reply

  5. Becky S.

    I clicked on the title and it just repeated this article. No printable recipe. Also, it’s my understanding that Bisquick is a GMO product.

    Reply

    • Theresa

      I’ll fix the link now, Becky…thanks! And it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if Bisquick was GMO.

      Reply

  6. Gayle Anderson

    You can make your own pastry flour. 3/4 Cup of sifted all purpose and 1/4 Cup of Corn Flour (cornstarch), sifted and then the two mixed.

    Reply

    • Theresa

      I have heard of combining cake flour and a.p. flour to make pastry flour, Gayle, but never cornstarch. Cornstarch and corn flour are also 2 very different products in my experience. Do you have experience using this mixture? Or perhaps a link where you found it? Thank you!

      Reply

      • Kim

        I think for every cup, it’s just two tablespoons. I do that home when I’m out of cake flour. Here is someone else who does the same thing. :)

        http://joythebaker.com/2009/09/how-to-make-cake-flour/

        [K]

        Reply

        • Theresa

          Thanks, Kim. I think that’s a great idea for use in a pinch. I would compare it to using clabbered milk in place of buttermilk…it’s not the real thing, but it’s great when you don’t have the time, money or inclination to buy another bag of flour.

          (The cornstarch reduces the protein count in the flour…however it’s not true cake or pastry flour.)

          Reply

  7. hockeyirene

    Thank you so much, Theresa, for your tantalizing recipes inspired by DG’s books – it is a brighter day when there is a post from you. I can’t wait to try these – now to find “buttermilk” in Zurich! (Shopping and cooking, and especially baking, are an extra challenge in a foreign country – does away with complacency, though!)

    Irene – On The Road

    Reply

    • Theresa

      As always, it`s my pleasure, Irene…I have the best job in the world. :) Buttermilk shouldn`t be too hard to find in Switzerland. Europeans are fond of their buttermilk…but if you don`t have any luck, don`t forget you can always use clabbered milk (directions for that are under the recipe in the notes section)

      Reply

  8. Jessica Godfrey

    So good!!!! I didn’t think about adding honey to the mix. I usually add a tbsp of sugar. Going to try it this weekend with the flour combo!! We need a cookbook for all the delish-dishes

    Reply

    • Theresa

      I subbed honey for the sugar in the base recipe, Jessica…it just seemed more like something Mrs. Bug would use.

      Reply

  9. Jeanette Pridemore

    Thank you so much for this delicious looking recipe. My husband’s mother is from Virginia and made biscuits like this using lard. This seems like a “healthier” version to me. Thank you for taking time to do this for us crazed Outlander fans!

    Reply

    • Theresa

      I`m glad you put healthier in quotes, Jeanette…fat is fat, but I have to agree; I prefer butter in most things.

      Reply

  10. Jennifer Harrell

    These turned out quite wonderful – I didn’t have buttermilk or cake flour. I did have unbleached bread flour, unflavored Kefir, and a fresh batch of yogurt whey from last night’s crock pot yogurt making. I used the bread flour and the yogurt whey. These are still light, airy, and have an excellent flavor! I’m forever needing ways to use up yogurt whey that doesn’t end up dense. These did perfectly with it!

    Reply

    • Theresa

      I love a frugal cook who wants to use everything! A woman after my own heart, Jennifer…and I`m thrilled that you liked them!

      Reply

      • Jennifer Harrell

        So did the baby girl I keep – I posted her joy over them at your Facebook page :)

        Reply

  11. Alyson

    I’m so amped you made us a biscuit recipe!! Thank you! As usual, you always post stuff that even us newbie cooks can look at and realize, hey, I can make this! Kitchen motivation. So awesome.

    Reply

    • Theresa

      Cooking should be fun and doable, Alyson. So glad to be your kitchen muse! :D

      Reply

  12. #

    Looks like a great recipe! I’ll have to give it a try, though I do think of myself as “biscuit gene” lacking. My grandma made wonderful biscuits and she tried very hard to teach me her method, I just never got it. Her’s weren’t rolled or dropped, more patted out and then cut. If you have any ideas about how that would work I would love to hear your thoughts. I really miss her biscuits! Till then I’ll give your recipe a whirl. Thanks for sharing it with us. :)

    Reply

    • Theresa

      I bet your grandma’s recipe was for rolled biscuits…she just patted the dough out instead of using a rolling pin. The less you work a dough, the more tender the biscuits, so your grandma must have been very gentle with her dough.

      Reply

  13. Kim

    I agree w/ you actually, that using corn starch to make cake flour isn’t the same thing. I came to that conclusing by doing a side by side comparison of that and the “real thing.” The results were noticeably “different.”

    Also, I’m back to report that I made a batch of these drop biscuits over the weekend to go with my sausage gravy. I didn’t have the patience to roll out my usual recipe, so tried this one instead. I think it’s a winner! I like the tip about putting cold buttermilk onto melted butter to make little clumps. After making the dough, I also put it back into the freezer to stay cool while my oven warmed up to the correct temperature.

    Very nice.

    Thansk!

    [K]

    Reply

    • Theresa

      I’m glad we agree, Kim! I was thinking I might experiment with that sub for pastry flour too…

      And I’m chuffed that you like the biscuits. :)

      Reply

  14. Joy

    Just to note…the southern brand you reference is White Lily — close, but no cigar ;)

    Reply

  15. Elaine Boyle

    Honey chile, being a Southern lady myself, I have to correct just one little thang – it’s White Lily flour, not Lily White!

    Reply

  16. Nikki skinner

    I made these today and they are amazing! Delicate, flakey, full of flavor and, the best part, so easy! Thank you for the recipe!

    Reply

  17. Jen

    Ok, I really want to make these, but I’m the most hopeless cook in the world. I didn’t read this whole post, since I was in a hurry, and I just read the ingredients. I ran to the store, and sure enough, there was nothing at all called cake/pastry flour. (I’m one where flour is the most foreign thing – if the recipe flour doesn’t match up with the name of the flour on the package, I get confused lol).

    Anyway, I am in the south and have the White Lily or whatever flour at the store – is that the best type of flour to use in lieu of cake/pastry flour? I’ll probably try these soon with just all-purpose flour (it sounds like bread flour is not a better substitute than all-purpose?), but I’m wondering if the White Lily is better…

    Reply

    • Theresa

      White Lily is the ULTIMATE choice for Southern biscuits, Jen. If you choose to go with that, simply omit the baking powder in my recipe. I would probably try them with just All Purpose flour first…after all, why buy another bag of flour if you don`t “need” it? :D

      Reply

      • Jen

        Thanks :) I’ll definitely try all-purpose since I have it and I can’t stand waiting any longer for them – they look so yummy! I’ll let you know how they turn out!

        Reply

      • Jen

        I made them with all-purpose flour just now – they were AMAZING! (Served them with dinner of ham and mashed potatoes – perfect!). They started browning before the insides were cooked, so I had to bake them a couple minutes longer, but the outsides didn’t burn or get too crispy or anything (I think I made them too big – I used the measuring cup but I somehow only got 9 biscuits total instead of 12) – so it’s even better – a recipe that still tastes amazing, even when I mess it up :)

        Reply

        • Theresa

          Doesn’t sound like a very big mess up to me…in fact, it sounds plain delicious!

          Reply

  18. bullrem

    I make rolled biscuits; live in the South; and have never given a thought to the type of A/P flour I buy, usually Kroger brand. I must start buying White Lily and I will definitely use your drop recipe.
    Thanks, a bunch. Helen in Ark.

    Reply

    • Theresa

      I bet your rolled biscuits are to die for, Helen!

      Reply

  19. Darden

    I am a good southern girl who comes from a long line of ladies who love to cook and bake, but none of them taught me to make biscuits. My elders were all lucky enough to have someone else in the kitchen who made the biscuits. Although my mother could fry some chicken she never attempted the biscuits, too much work, too messy. Seriously, like fried chicken isn’t messy. Tonight I made these biscuits for my Daddy. He LOVED them. They were so easy and were light and fluffy. Dad said he always found the problem was getting biscuits cooked all the way through. He can’t wait for the leftovers for breakfast.

    Inspired, I made some more but added about a cup and a half of extra sharp cheddar cheese. They need about an extra minute to cook, but OMG, fantastic. Now I can’t wait for breakfast.

    Reply

    • Theresa

      Cheese biscuits are the hot “upgrade” on Outlander Kitchen this week! Glad you and your Dad liked them, Darden!

      Reply

  20. Shari Hall

    I am just about to make my 5th batch of these delightful biscuits! I think I will try adding some cheese like I’ve seen some of the ladies say they’ve done.

    Reply

    • Theresa

      Do it, Shari! You won’t be sorry. :D

      Reply

  21. denizb33

    Yum! I could eat an entire panful…

    Reply

    • Theresa

      Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve come awfully close…

      Reply

  22. Darden

    For an Australian Open Brunch, and in honor of Scot Andy Murry making it to the finals, I made Mrs. Bug’s biscuits. However, I did something she thought outrageous, I added BLUEBERRIES! OMG, they were so good. No butter or honey needed after baking. Andy needed to power up on these biscuits and he would have had the energy to win the final.

    Reply

    • Theresa

      Mrs. Aberfeldy’s blueberry biscuits! Well done, Darden!

      Reply

  23. Lisa (Book Blab)

    I have been fasting for over 24 hours now and can’t wait to eat later today! I am going to make these as my first meal. Another way to clabber milk, which seems a bit quicker than lemon, is to put a tablespoon of white vinegar in milk. It curdles almost immediately and you get no lemon flavour out of it. My great grandma used that method and it is in an old family recipe for chocolate cake. Works well. I’ll try both buttermilk and the clabbered milk with vinegar and let you know the difference!

    Reply

  24. Tiffany

    Made these to go on top of my chicken and dumpling casserole when I forgot to grab some pre-made ones. Never going back to pre-made. These have become a permanent part of my favourite recipe.

    Reply

    • Theresa

      Music to my ears, Tiffany!

      Reply

  25. danihaviland

    Baking powder wasn’t around until 1843, baking soda about 1846. Did Claire bring some back with her?

    Reply

    • Theresa

      If you want to bake without a leavener, you go right ahead. :)

      Reply

  26. Cynthia C

    Made these over the weekend along with chocolate chaud for my DH and DD. I doubled the batch and they were gone within minutes. Needless to say the request has already gone out for more this weekend! They’re best fresh but go just fine with a proper cup at tea time.

    Reply

    • Theresa

      That’s my kind of afternoon tea, Cynthia!

      Reply

  27. Garlic & Sage Sausage from A Breath of Snow and Ashes | Outlander Kitchen

    […] your own Sausage McMuffins at home!  Just whip up a batch of Mrs. Bug’s Buttermilk Drop Biscuits, and you’ve got an addtive-free party in your […]

    Reply

  28. Joanna

    Another wonderful recipe and a family hit! I made these without the cake flour and buttermilk since I had neither and they still were magnificent. My 4 year old daughter ate one with her dinner and one with honey for desert. Thank you for all the wonderful recipes.

    Reply

  29. Joanna

    Had to comment again on these wonderful biscuits. Made some this morning for breakfast and I added a tsp of cinnamon. Wow! Added some blackberry jam (used the recipe on this site to make some) and now I’m enjoying a delicious breakfast. I LOVE this site :)

    Reply

  30. Julie McDonald

    Having either sensitivities or allergies to wheat, I think there are a few of us who would like to try our hand at this in a gluten free version.
    So, I experimented this morning. The results are delish, as I’m devouring my second biscuit, slathered with honey, alongside my morning cappuccino.
    Here is what I did, I’ll try to explain things as I go:

    1. I replaced the flours in the original recipe with 1 cup of Namaste gluten free flour blend (which is primarily a blend of brown rice flour, tapioca starch, arrowroot powder, sorghum flour, and xanthan gum)
    and 1 cup of a gluten free flour blend that I make (the recipe can be found at Gluten Free Goddess blog http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com/2007/01/cooking-baking-gluten-free-tips-for.html along with a ton of advice and recipes on baking gluten free, my go to for over 2 years now).
    The reason for the two different flour blends is due to the fact that while I like the lightness that rice flour imparts in gluten free baking, it can be a bit gritty. The homemade blend I also used is primarily sorghum flour and potato starch with a bit of almond flour and xanthan gum. It imparts a slight sweetness and cuts down on the grit. Note that xanthan gum is pretty expensive, but it’s a small amount used in recipes, it acts as the glue that holds everything together, as gluten would do in regular flour.
    2. I used 1 cup of homemade, plain kefir in place of the buttermilk. This is because it’s what I had on hand and I wanted to make these NOW!
    3. I used the whisk attachment of my stand mixer to combine the ingredients. In GF baking it helps to incorporate more air pockets, otherwise I’ve found that biscuits and other doughs can become very dense and heavy. I only mixed until the dough begins to pull away from the bowl.
    4. Everything else remains the same.
    5. I suggest using the full 15 mins to cook these. I pulled mine out at 14 mins, but I think they would’ve benefited from the full 15.

    They are light, moist and quite delicious! They even browned well, due to the mass quantities of butter, I’m sure. Usually GF baking doesn’t brown as well.
    They are probably a bit heavier than the original recipe would turn out, I’m betting. But still, they completely and totally scratch that homemade biscuit itch!

    If anyone tries this out, let me know what you think or what changes you made that may make them better.

    Reply

    • Theresa

      Wow! Thanks so much, Julie! I`m glad you were happy with them. :)

      Reply

  31. Natalie

    I just made a batch of these and substituted the buttermilk with plain yogurt, thinned out a bit with 2 tablespoons of water. They turned out perfectly, with great texture and not dry at all. Where can I share pics with you?

    Thanks for the great recipe!!

    Reply

  32. Lisa

    I make this recipe strictly gluten free. I use a mix fron my local GF bakery, and add more butter and buttermilk. Approximately 2 more tbs of butter and maybe 1/4 cup more of the buttermilk. I mix the butter with the dry mix first, and then add the buttermilk. I don’t use any sugar or honey in the mix because I grease a muffin pan and then sugar shake the cups. It allows for a nice browning and adds just a bit of sweet. I made these for the premier party where I had lots of guests who needed GF, and they were a hit. So I just make them that way all the time now. No one notices unless I tell them. Thank you for the recipe! This is a staple in this non-cook’s little collection. My kids adore them. 2 dozen mini muffins won’t last more than 48 hours unless the biscuits are monitored!

    Reply

  33. Pat G

    Biscuits are one of my very favorite things to make from scratch! I can’t wait to try this recipe!

    Reply

  34. Alice Watkins

    Someone already mentioned this but I think it might bear repeating. If you leave the honey out drop biscuits make great dumplings! Also if you do live in the southern US and can get White Lily flour, (or in general) All-Purpose and Self-Raising flours are NOT interchangeable. Self-Raising flour has salt and baking powder already added. If you add more leavening to Self-Raising flour you get weird metallic tasting poof balls.

    Reply

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