Makes 1 dozen
- 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
- 1 Tbsp. plus 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- 8 Tbsp. (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
- 1 cup cold, whole milk
- 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh chives
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
Preheat oven to 425°.
Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl.
Add the butter and cut it into the dry ingredients, using a pastry blender or 2 knives, until the butter pieces are pea-size and distributed throughout. In lieu of a pastry blender or knives, use your fingers: Squeeze the butter cubes between your fingers as if you're snapping to crush it into small bits. Work quickly to avoid warming the butter with the heat of your hands.
Dig a little well in the center of the butter-flour mixture and pour in half of the milk. Gently fold the ingredients together with a large rubber spatula, wetting the dry ingredients with the milk. Drizzle the remaining milk across the mixture and continue to fold the milk into the dry ingredients until a shaggy dough starts to form and none of the liquid remains at the bottom of the bowl.
Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and squeeze it slightly into a mound. Press the dough into a 1/2-inch-thick rectangle, about 8 by 6 inches, with the shorter sides at the top and bottom (like a sheet of paper situated vertically). Tuck any loose dough pieces onto the mound. Combine the chives and thyme, and then sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the herbs across the surface of the dough and press them in lightly.
Fold the dough in half onto itself, pulling from the top short side of the rectangle to the bottom. Press any escapee herbs back into the dough.
Shift the dough clockwise a quarter-turn, using a pastry scraper or offset spatula to dislodge any stuck pieces from the work surface. Press the dough back into a rectangle, about 6 1/2 inches by 5 1/2 inches. Fold and turn this way 3 more times, pressing the dough out into a rectangle with the same dimensions each time. Go easy on the dough: Don't knead it vigorously as you would bread dough. Be much more casual about it, because the less you press it, the lighter and flakier the resulting layers will be.
Sprinkle the remaining herbs across the surface of the bread. Fold the dough in half, rotate again, and press into a rectangle one last time, 8 inches by 6 1/2 inches and 1/2 inch thick. A rolling pin helps produce this size rectangle more evenly and quickly.
Use a sharp chef's knife (not serrated) to cut the biscuits into 12 squares (cut 3 rows by 4 rows). Avoid using a sawing motion or dragging the knife through the dough, both of which will inhibit the rise of the biscuits when they bake.
Set the biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet, snuggly situated next to each other with no space between, back into the rectangle shape. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, turning the pan halfway through, until the tops are golden brown.
Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack to cool slightly before serving. From Choosing Sides: From Holidays to Every Day, 130 Delicious Recipes to Make the Meal, by Tara Mataraza Desmond (Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC).
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