Gluten free angel biscuits, made with both baking powder and yeast, rise high in the oven with layer upon layer of flaky goodness.
If you've ever had trouble making biscuits (or, to be honest, even if you haven't), then this is the pastry recipe for you. With baking powder, baking soda, and some yeast, these biscuits rise like angels.
Tender, light and flaky angel biscuits, with a bit of extra flavor from the yeast development—not to mention biscuit-rising insurance. Do you hear them singing? ?
These biscuits take a bit more time than, say, the easiest of all biscuits but not necessarily the most rewarding, drop biscuits. And they freeze beautifully after baking, but not before since they're yeasted.
But the flavor development and lightness of the layers are unequaled. Let me at least make my case…
How to make pastry that needs cold with yeast that needs to rise?
Yeast, once hydrated, needs at least some warmth to be active. Pastry like biscuits needs cold fat (like butter) to expand in the oven. How can we do both?
Pastry is about architecture as much as it is chemistry. The pieces of cold butter, surrounded by flour, expand when they hit the warmth of the oven and push out the flour all around. But then how is the yeast supposed to proof?
The answer lies in a slightly different recipe ratio (a bit less butter), handling the dough as you would expect, then allow rising in warmth followed by a shock of cold.
Cold, then warm, then cold again
First, handle the dough like you would any pastry with cold ingredients and a light touch. You don't want the cold butter to melt in your hands, and you want to layer it in between pieces of flour, just like we always do with flaky biscuits.
Since these biscuits are made by folding the dough repeatedly as we do with any layered pastry, you'll begin to see the layers separating from one another before the pastry dough even goes into the oven.
Set the dough to rise in our usual warm, draft-free location, but we've used a bit less butter. That helps keep the dough together during the rise, without leaking at all.
Then, right before it goes in the oven (after proofing), we shock it in the freezer. Keep that in mind when selecting the size baking pan you'll use, and use multiple pans if necessary so they can fit in your freezer.
Ingredients and substitutions
The flour blend: In place of the combination of a well-balanced all purpose gluten free flour like Better Batter, along with nonfat dry milk and cornstarch, you can use 2 1/2 cups (350 g) Cup4Cup gluten free flour, or my mock Cup4Cup blend. Cup4Cup is a perfect pastry flour, and we are mimicking it here by adding milk powder and cornstarch.
Dairy: The dairy in these gluten free angel biscuits comes from buttermilk, butter, and from nonfat dry milk. I've successfully replaced them both in this recipe, which is good news if you're avoiding dairy.
In place of buttermilk, I recommend using half (4 fluid ounces) plain nondairy yogurt and half (4 fluid ounces) unsweetened nondairy milk, like almond milk. I don't recommend simply adding some vinegar or lemon juice to almond milk, as it won't produce a truly thickened buttermilk substitute.
In place of butter, I highly recommend Melt or Miyoko's Kitchen brand vegan butter. The biscuits will not brown quite as well in the oven, and the edges won't be exactly as clean but they'll have great taste and texture.
In place of nonfat dry milk, you can use coconut dry milk. I really like Native Forest brand dairy free and vegan coconut milk powder, and I find it at most larger grocery stores today.
Cornstarch: In place of cornstarch, you can use arrowroot powder or even potato starch.
Gluten Free Angel Biscuits
2 cups (280 g) all-purpose gluten free flour (I used Better Batter*), plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
1/4 cup + 3 tablespoons (42 g) nonfat dry milk powder
1/4 cup (36 g) cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons (24 g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons (6 g) instant yeast
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons (84 g) unsalted butter, grated or diced and chilled
1 cup (8 fluid ounces) buttermilk, chilled
*In place of the mock Better Batter + nonfat dry milk + cornstarch, you can use 2 1/2 cups (350 g) Cup4Cup gluten free flour, or my mock Cup4Cup blend.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper and set it aside.
In a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, nonfat dry milk, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and yeast, and whisk to combine well. Add the salt, and whisk again to combine. Add the grated or chopped and chilled butter, and toss to coat it in the dry ingredients. Flatten each piece or clump of butter with the back of the mixing spoon. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the buttermilk, and mix until the dough begins to come together. If necessary, press together with floured hands, handling it as little as possible.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured piece of unbleached parchment paper and press into a disk. Roll out the dough into a rectangle that is about 1/2 inch thick, moving the dough frequently and sprinkling lightly with flour to prevent sticking. Fold the dough over on itself like you would a business letter, and then fold the side thirds of the rectangle into the center to form a square. Sprinkle the dough again lightly with flour, and roll out the dough once again into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Repeat the process one more time for the flakiest biscuits. Sprinkle the dough again lightly with flour, replace the parchment paper and roll out the dough, but this time into a disk about 1/2 inch thick. Using a floured 2 to 2 1/2-inch cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out rounds of dough. Place the rounds about 2 inches apart from one another on the prepared baking sheet. Gather and reroll the scraps, cut out as many more round of dough as possible, and place on the prepared baking sheet. Cover with an oiled piece of plastic wrap, and place in a warm, draft-free location until nearly doubled in size (about 1 hour). Place the covered baking sheet in the freezer until firm (about 15 minutes). Preheat your oven to 375°F while the biscuits are chilling.
Remove the baking sheet from the freezer, remove the plastic wrap, and place the baking sheet in the center of the preheated oven. Bake until the biscuits are puffed, very fragrant and lightly golden brown around the edges (about 12 minutes). Remove from the oven and allow the biscuits to cool briefly on the baking sheet before serving warm.
I do not recommend freezing the raw dough, since freezing yeasted dough can sometimes kill the hydrated but unbaked yeast. But the finished biscuits, once cooled, freeze and reheat beautifully.
Originally published on the blog in 2014. Method tweaked only slightly; recipe unchanged. A few photos and video new.