By Chef Neil Kleinberg of Clinton St. Baking Co.
Buttermilk biscuits are an important part of Chef Neil Kleinberg's favorite breakfast and a staple of Clinton St. Baking Co. Riley learns how to make them from the expert himself.
Clinton St. Baking Co. is a classic American restaurant with a bakery located on NYC’s Lower East Side. Since 2001, they’ve maintained mom & pop roots by using the highest quality ingredients from local purveyors like sustainable coffee, all natural milk, cage free poultry & eggs, premium ice cream, and heritage farm-raised pork. The eclectic menu takes inspiration from the American South, coastal New England, Jewish New York, and the Spanish cooks who bring to the kitchen their rich culinary traditions from Mexico and the Southwest.
Nearly everything they serve, from raspberry jam and buttermilk biscuits, to corn tortillas and habanero hot sauce, is made on premises, using classic and traditional techniques. The breakfast and brunch earn the most acclaim, but dinner is a great time to visit, when lights are low, crowds are calm and the neighborhood regulars claim their well-earned place. And yes —pancakes are served all day and all night!
When they opened the bakery with a 32-seat café in April 2001, their only mission was to make the best muffins and scones in the city, hand-mixed in small batches. Back in the day, they had only two wholesale accounts, a college student at the register, and a handful of Lower East Siders who lingered over coffee & baked goods, tapping on their laptop keys (before smartphones were born).
Eventually artists and business owners from the neighborhood stumbled in, connections sparked, and a true hangout took shape. Word of mouth about Neil’s cooking spread fast and soon people clustered the block, making a line, with friends and family in tow. When New York Magazine proclaimed them “best pancakes in town,” they knew they had officially arrived. For a decade upon years, the humble bakery hosted hundreds of people a day, thousands per week, all seated shoulder to shoulder at cozy banquettes. In 2016, they expanded next door, and the once-tiny cafe was suddenly twice the size and all grown up. As longtime New Yorkers who love to eat out, they personally favor iconic spots with time-honored history, delicious food and welcoming staff.
- 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 4 tablespoons baking powder
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
- 3 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled and cut into small chunks
- 1.5 cup buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 350° F. If you have a convection oven, preheat the oven to 325°F. (Note: A convection oven circulates air to bake items such as cookies, biscuits, and cakes faster and gives a nicer color to both baked and roasted items.)
Place flour and other dry ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on low speed with the paddle attachment until combined.
Add the butter and shortening to the bowl and mix on low speed until the dough reaches a crumbly texture. The butter and shortening should be the size of peas.
Turn off the mixer and add the buttermilk to the bowl all at once. Mix very briefly on low speed until the dough just comes together (this should take less than 10 seconds). (Note: You can make these biscuits by hand, without a mixer. Mix the butter and shortening into the dry ingredients with your fingertips to achieve a crumbly texture and use your hands to combine the buttermilk into the dough. Make sure to powder your hands with flour if the dough gets too sticky.)
Turn the dough onto a floured surface and form it into a ball. Lightly knead the dough two or three times until combined. (If baking the next day, dust a sheet pan and the top of the dough with flour. Transfer the dough to the sheet pan and refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, overnight. In the morning, bring the dough back to room temperature.)
Pat out the dough to a 3/4- to 1-inch in thickness. Shape the dough into a rectangle, making the sides high. Using a 2-inch-round biscuit cutter, cut out 4 biscuits. (Note: Do not twist the biscuit cutter in the dough. Cut the biscuits by pushing the cutter directly into the dough and then lifting the cutter. If you twist the cutter, the biscuits may not rise.)
Place biscuits on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and dust with a sprinkling of flour. Gather the dough scraps and, using your hands, tuck in the bottom of the dough so there are no wrinkles, much like making a bread roll. Form the remaining dough into another rectangle with high sides and cut out 2 more biscuits.
Place the pan in the preheated oven for 15 to 17 minutes, or until the biscuits are golden brown and cooked through. Halfway through the baking process, rotate the pan for even browning. Serve warm with butter and raspberry jam.