Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits

Having been taught how to make baking powder biscuits by my sister Patsy, I soon started thinking about the wonderful whole wheat baking powder biscuits that our friend Toni made. Toni had a little hand-powered mill that she used to grind her own whole wheat flour. The freshly ground wheat berries gave a wonderful nutty flavor to the biscuits.

I don’t have a flour mill or Toni’s recipe, but these biscuits have  that nutty flavor anyway. The whole wheat, butter, sugar and buttermilk work together to produce biscuits that are light, fluffy and tasty.

They are great with sausage gravy or eggs for breakfast or with soup for lunch or dinner, and they are just sweet enough to make you want to pop one in the microwave for a few seconds, spread it with butter and gobble the little morsel before you go to bed.

Here’s how to make them.


2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 T sugar
½ tsp. salt
¼ cup butter
3/4 – 1 cup buttermilk


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Thoroughly mix the flour with the baking powder, soda, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into half inch pieces and blend it with a fork or pastry blender into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal.

Stir the buttermilk with a fork into the dry ingredients, adding more buttermilk if necessary to moisten the flour. The dough should be moist but not wet.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and turn it with a spatula to coat the outside lightly with flour. Flour your hands and knead the dough 12 to 15 times, then pat it out until it is about ½ inch thick. Cut the dough into rounds with a biscuit cutter or a floured drinking glass. Knead and pat the trimmings lightly and cut more rounds.

Place the biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet and bake them for 10 to 12 minutes.

NOTE:  As with regular baking powder biscuits, do not knead the dough more than just enough to get it to pat out on the counter or breadboard.  Kneading too much makes for tough heavy biscuits.

Patsy’s Buttermilk Biscuits

There are times when baking powder biscuits are indispensable. Sausage gravy, for instance, demands light, tender homemade biscuits hot from the oven.

Unfortunately, mine were neither light nor tender. Though some family members have disagreed, I still think that my biscuits were edible when hot from the oven and covered with gravy or spread generously with butter and jam. And once they had cooled, they could be used for coasters, hockey pucks or skeet practice.

It took courage to make them. Every few months I would try, with no noticeable improvement. Instead of floating down on the plate, they dropped, like ceramic coasters, with an annoying clinking sound. It also took courage to eat them. My victims/guests would ask for extra gravy or more jam.

A few weeks after I mentioned the problem to my sister Patsy, who is an excellent cook, I received the following email:

“Just thought I’d pass on this recipe for biscuits. It is from my Betty Crocker Cookbook and is my favorite for buttermilk biscuits. They always turn out well for me. Give them a try sometime.”

And so I did, and they were at least ten times better than any of my earlier efforts. Here is the recipe.


2 cups flour
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup shortening
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 T milk


Heat the oven to 400º F and bring the buttermilk to room temperature.

Sift the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Cut in the shortening as you would for pie crust until it looks like cornmeal, and then add the buttermilk. Add a little more buttermilk if it looks too dry. Turn the dough out and knead it on a a floured board about fifteen turns, just until the dough forms a smooth ball.

Roll the dough to about a half inch thick and cut it with a water glass or doughnut cutter and place the biscuits an inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Brush the tops with a little milk. Bake the biscuits for ten to twelve minutes or until they are lightly browned.

NOTES: Don’t knead the dough too long or the biscuits will be tough. You may have to make these biscuits a couple of times until you can recognize when you have kneaded the dough enough but not too much. Incidentally, a turn is rolling the dough over after you press it down and turning it a quarter turn.

The dough should be a half inch thick. A little thicker is better than too thin. You should end up with a dozen biscuits.