Recipe: Buttery Lemon Angel Biscuits

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Have you ever had an angel biscuit? We've talked about them before. They are simple, airy biscuits that include yeast, baking powder and baking soda. They may be the perfect dinner roll, with the light lift of a yeast roll, and the rich, tender crumb of a biscuit. Also? They are foolproof, easy to make, and perfect for making ahead of time.

Angel biscuits have also been called "bride biscuits" because their combination of three different leavening agents means that they are foolproof and reliable — they will always rise, even for an inexperienced cook.

I just love their taste, and their tenderness. Straight out of the oven these are probably my favorite sort of bread. There is a mild, yeasty sweetness, and that tenderness you expect in an excellent biscuit.

But most angel biscuits are made with shortening. This makes for a very tender biscuit indeed, but I don't like the flavor quite as much. I also don't usually keep shortening around (although I do use it from time to time). So I make my angel biscuits with butter, and also with a touch of lemon. Lemon puts these over the top; it turns them into a treat that, with a little extra sugar and some strawberries, could also serve as a spring dessert.

The lemon and the butter together make these the perfect dinner roll for a roast chicken with a good salad, or for a dish of tossed pasta with greens.

A final note on this recipe: I have looked at many angel biscuit recipes around the web, and many do not allow time for the biscuit dough to rise. Some allow just a little — 30 minutes or so. These are a yeast bread, and as such they really need time for the yeast to do its work. I refrigerate my dough, letting it rise slowly, for at least 2 hours, although I would prefer 4, or even overnight. This allows the yeast to work, and ensures a real spring and lightness in the final biscuit.

This dough holds well in the refrigerator, so it's a great breakfast treat, too! Make up a batch of dough the night before, then quickly bake them off and eat with eggs and seared spring vegetables.

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Buttery Lemon Angel Biscuits

Makes about 2 dozen biscuits. Adapted from Abbie at Please Pass the Pie.

2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast
2 cups 2% milk
1 lemon, zested and juiced
5 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, well-chilled

Stir the yeast into 1/2 cup tepid water in a small bowl. Stir to dissolve.

In a large measuring cup, measure out the milk and add the lemon juice. Set aside while it curdles.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the lemon zest and rub it through the dry mixture with your fingers. Cut the butter into about 16 small cubes and add to the flour. Use your fingers to work the butter through the dough until it resembles large crumbs. (Alternatively, you can blend the flour mixture with the butter in the food processor.) Add the yeast mixture and the milk with the lemon juice. Quickly stir to combine. Stir just until moist, folding the flour mixture up from the bottom to thoroughly combine.

Cover and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, and up to 24 hours.

Heat the oven to 450°F. Turn the refrigerated dough out onto a heavily floured surface. Knead lightly just a few times, or until the dough becomes smooth enough to pat out easily. Pat the dough out to a 3/4-inch thickness and cut into rounds with a glass or a biscuit cutter.

Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake at 450°F for 12 minutes or until golden.

Serve warm with jam, butter, or a braised chicken.

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(Images: Faith Durand)

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