When creating this recipe I had one goal: tenderness. At first, I made the recipe with all shortening. The high melting temperature of shortening means that during baking, the shortening melts and releases steam; the steam from the fat leavens the baking in addition to the chemical leavening from the baking powder.
The problem with all shortening? The taste. I found that while I liked the texture shortening provided, I missed the delicate flavor of butter. On a lark, I decided to use both fats. This worked; the biscuits rose nicely thanks to the shortening and still had a pleasant buttery flavor.
When I make this recipe, I like to use a food processor to cut the shortening and butter into the flour. The food processor keeps the fat cold. Warm shortening and butter melt at a lower temperature than cold and won't leave behind the same little pockets of steam during baking which help to leaven the biscuits and create a tender texture. My only issue with using a food processor is that if you aren't careful, it can cut the fat into the flour too much. Food processors work so quickly, it's easy to "pulse" the machine too much, leaving behind tiny, almost fully incorporated pieces of fat in the dough. Tiny pieces of shortening and butter make denser biscuits than biscuits made with small nuggets of fat. You want the shortening and butter in your dough about the size of small green peas. So go slow while cutting the fats into the flour. And if you don't have a food processor? Cut the fats into the flour by hand with either a pastry cutter or your hands. Just take care to work quickly so the butter and shortening remain cold.
Unlike the biscuits that inspired them, this recipe makes drop biscuits. I found the gluten-free biscuits' texture lighter when dropped by spoon than they were when rolled and cut. Like most biscuit recipes, these taste best served the day you bake them; however, thanks to all the shortening, butter, and cheese, you can serve them the next day. If you do this, I recommend warming them slightly before serving.
These biscuits contain dairy. Replace the butter with all shortening and the milk for a dairy-free alternative if you avoid dairy. For the cheese, I suggest a pre-grated dairy-free cheese, like daiya.
If you need to avoid soy, replace the shortening with either all butter or a solid soy-free shortening like Spectrum. A liquid fat, like vegetable oil, won't work in this recipe.
About the author: Elizabeth Barbone of GlutenFreeBaking.com joins us every Tuesday with a new gluten-free recipe. Elizabeth is an alumna of the Culinary Institute of America and Mount Mary College. With her solid professional baking background, Elizabeth is known for creating gluten-free recipes that taste just like their wheat counterparts. She is the author of Easy Gluten-Free Baking.
- 6 ounces (1 1/2 cups) white rice flour
- 2.5 ounces (1/2 cup) sweet rice flour
- 2 ounces (1/2 cup) tapioca starch
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 6 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 3/4 cup milk
- 2 ounces (1 cup) grated Cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In bowl of food processor, pulse together white rice flour, sweet rice flour, tapioca starch, baking powder, salt, and xanthan gum. (Don't have a food processor? Use a medium bowl and whisk ingredients together.) Add shortening and butter.
Cut shortening and butter into dry ingredients by pulsing food processor a few times. Shortening and butter pieces should be about the size of a small peas. (If doing this by hand, cut shortening and butter into the dry ingredients with either a pastry cutter or by rubbing the fats in with your hands.)
Add milk and cheese and pulse until dough forms. (Stir to combine if doing this by hand.)
As soon as dough comes together, stop the food processor.
Drop dough, about 1/4 cup each, onto prepared baking sheet. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown.