For forever my go-to biscuit recipe was the one we used at Baked. It was not unlike the biscuit recipe at Cooks Illustrated, and produced the fluffiest and tenderest of cream biscuits. And I loved it. It came together in a snap (i.e. no cutting of cold butter bits into flour until coarse meal is formed, etc.), always garnered lots of oohs and aahs, and kind-of/sort-of fit the bill for exactly the kind of recipe I like best (short ingredient list, easy instructions, totes delish). But here’s the thing: I think this Cacio e Pepe biscuit of mine is even better. Yes, there is some butter cutting, and even some mascarpone to be incorporated, but the ingredient list is still short, the instructions beyond easy, and the final product uber-tasty.
Funnily enough (at least to me), I didn’t even set out to develop a biscuit recipe. Instead, while perusing my collection of vintage baking recipe-pamphlets for inspiration, as I am wont to do, I stumbled upon a recipe for baking powder ones and I couldn’t look away. It was short, sweet and infinitely tweak-able. Moreover, the margins of the pamphlet were filled with tips and tricks on the fine art of biscuit cookery. No, we are not talking knock-your-socks-off/never-before-seen tips and tricks, they were all ones I’d come across in the past, but here in the pamphlet they were all in one place and spelled out extremely clearly and I was beyond smitten.
Tweaking of the pamphlet’s recipe began tout suite (intensive biscuit research wasn’t really in order, as the recipe is essentially the gold-standard/blank-canvas of biscuit recipes, kind of almost exactly like this New York Times biscuit recipe). I was on board with the sifted-before-measured flour and the flour’s ratio to baking powder, but I amped up the salt, increased the amount of butter, and subbed heavy cream (a tribute of sorts, to Baked’s recipe) AND mascarpone cheese for the milk (I did do just the tiniest bit of mascarpone biscuit research, but turned up nothing savory). The Cacio e Pepe flavor profile is one that I just love. I even developed a Cacio e Pepe quiche recipe for Matt and Nato back in the day, and it just seemed to make sense in a biscuit.
With my recipe taking shape, I turned to technique and lifted all the choice tips straight from the pamphlet, such as the importance of finding the biscuit-dough’s sweet spot, where it is neither too wet nor too dry (i.e. only add just as much liquid/mascarpone as is necessary to moisten the dough and no more), the importance of a hot oven for a high-rising biscuit, and the importance of a light touch when shaping the biscuits, to name only a few. And my resulting peppery, yet cheesy; fluffy, yet tender biscuits were not only beyond easy and fast to make/bake, but beyond marvelous to eat — slathered in butter and still warm from the oven — as well.
Cacio E Pepe Biscuits (Pecorino Romano and Black Pepper Biscuits)
- 1 stick 8 tbsp, unsalted butter, cold
- 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour sift before measuring
- 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup pecorino romano freshly grated
- 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
- 2 Tbsp heavy cream add more depending on how dry the dough is, up to 1/2 cup
For the egg wash
- One egg
- Splash of heavy cream
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Cut the butter into small cubes and place in the freezer.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, pepper and salt together. Add the cheese and whisk again.
- Add the butter to the dry ingredients and working quickly, and using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until the flour resembles coarse meal.
- Add the mascarpone, and using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon (or your hands), gently incorporate the mascarpone into the dry. Add two tablespoons of heavy cream and using your hands, knead the dough in the bowl until a shaggy dough forms. If the mixture seems too dry, add a tablespoon more of cream at a time, until the dough is workable.
- Lightly flour your work surface, and dump the dough out on the counter and knead the dough a few times until it is no longer crumbly and the dry and moist bits are fully integrated.
- lightly flour your work surface again, if the dough is at all sticky, and pat the dough into a rectangle about 3/4 of an inch to one inch thick (i like to keep mine extra tall). be super gentle as you pat. using a 2 1/2" biscuit cutter, dipped in flour, begin cutting out biscuits from the rectangle. do not twist the cutter as you push through the dough (if you twist as you push down or pull up, the biscuits will not rise as well).
- place the biscuits on a parchment lined baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. continue cutting out biscuits until you have used up all of your dough, re-forming your rectangle with scraps, as you go.
- at this point, you can freeze the biscuits, still on the tray and tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to two weeks.
- to make the egg wash, combine the egg and heavy cream and brush the wash on the tops of the biscuits. place in the pre-heated oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating after 6, and checking after 12. the biscuits are ready when they are golden brown on top and lightly browned on the bottom.
- let the biscuits sit a minute or two on the tray, until they are still warm, but easy to handle. serve with loads of high-fat salted butter.