How To Make Cowboy Biscuits

“The heart of his breakfast was a plentitude of sourdough biscuits, which he cooked in a Dutch oven out in the backyard. His pot dough had been perking along happily for over ten years, and the first thing he did upon rising was check it out. The rest of the breakfast was secondary, just a matter of whacking off a few slabs of bacon and frying a panful of pullet eggs.” —Lonesome Dove

I recently had the immense pleasure of reading Larry McMurtry’s epic and masterful Lonesome Dove. I have to agree with Brett, my grandfather-in-law, and many others who note it as a lifetime favorite read that they’ll return to again and again.

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In addition to the story’s epic narrative arcs, part of what makes the book so compelling are the vivid descriptions of cowboy life at the close of the Old West. As a home bread baker, one of the details that stood out to me the most was Augustus McCrae’s famous sourdough biscuits. He made them every morning for the Hat Creek crew (a group of Texas Rangers on a cattle drive), and kept his sourdough starter alive for over a decade. If you’re a baker, you know how impressive that is. And upon some further research, I came to discover that his concoction was fairly common for cowboys back in the day (and still is among the ranchers who continue to operate). I had to find a way to make some cowboy-style sourdough biscuits of my own, so I got to work experimenting.

Generally, biscuits are a little bit involved — the dough is made with baking powder, baking soda, and/or yeast and has butter cut into it, and the biscuits are cooked on a baking sheet in the oven, coming out super fluffy and flakey.

That’s not a cowboy biscuit. First off, sourdough is utilized for substance,…

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