The Big Bottom Biscuit

Specialty Biscuits and Spreads from Sonoma's Big Bottom Market


By Michael Volpatt

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In the heart of wine country, Big Bottom Market has perfected and elevated the humble biscuit with a decidedly California twist.

The Big Bottom Biscuit: Specialty Biscuits and Spreads from Sonoma’s Big Bottom Market brings the experience of dining at the market to everyone who can’t make it to Sonoma. In 2016, the Big Bottom Market biscuit mix and honey was heralded as one of Oprah’s Favorite Things– and with good reason! Volpatt’s passion for this simple food showcases its versatility in easy to prepare, accessible recipes. Try any of the following:

  • Egg in a Biscuit: the classic!
  • Sea Biscuit: with smoked salmon, crème fraiche, pickled onions, and capers
  • Sweet biscuits like Chocolate Bacon and Apple Pie
Volpatt’s charming recipes will delight all tastes. The cookbook also includes butters, jams, and spreads, as well as savory embellishments. The voice is accessible and light, and will appeal to Californians, Southerners, Yankees, and just about anyone who can’t resist a piping-hot biscuit.


This cookbook has been on my mind since my business partners and I opened Big Bottom Market steps away from the Russian River and Redwood Forest in the town of Guerneville, CA, in historic Sonoma wine country. After opening our doors, we quickly realized that guests loved our flavorful biscuits and were returning to the Market to both indulge in the classic version—made with our signature “wet” dough—and to try our other creative variations. Today, I’m proud to say we’ve served over 100,000 customers and sold tens of thousands of biscuits!

But before our little space transformed into what has become the heart of the Guerneville community, our kickoff team came up with the concept for the restaurant during long hikes in the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Preserve just two miles outside our hamlet. We called the forest our “boardroom” and used it as a place for creativity and innovation. The history behind the massive trees made us realize that we needed to create a bit of our own lasting history in town. As a team we used the inspiration of the environment around us to come up with the idea for Big Bottom Market. In honor of the forest and the trees that inspired the opening of the market, we decided to name some of our menu items after the majestic redwoods. And it is here that the idea behind the biscuit was born.


The Big Bottom Market name celebrates the history of the area and our little town. Here’s how it came about.… Our frequent hikes in the beautiful landscape of Armstrong Woods moved us to further explore the history behind the name of this amazing town where the market resides. We learned that modern-day Guerneville was first settled in 1860 on the bank of the Russian River in an alluvial flat known as Big Bottom, which became the name of the town. The area was sadly renamed Stumptown for its redwood logging and then changed to Guerneville in honor of the Guerne family. We decided it was time to take back the original name and celebrate the true settlement and history of the town, hence, Big Bottom Market. A unique, quirky, and historical description of the area that also suits the distinctive aspects and incredible environment we’ve created at the Market.

While our goal for the restaurant was to have a broad menu with gourmet sandwiches and salads (something that our town was sorely lacking), we also wanted to point to one thing about our eatery that we could call our own—something that would differentiate us, make us unique, and create a buzz. We scoured through recipe books, visited gourmet restaurants and storefronts and met with artisanal food purveyors and winemakers up and down the West Coast. Then one day it hit us—what could be made sweet or savory and loved by just about anyone? The biscuit.

This realization is when the research began—with the help of Christian Gomez we started testing recipes and tasting just about every type of biscuit we could make. The biscuit team—led by Sue Steiner, the momma of the Market and the woman that we’ve dedicated this book to—overwhelmingly agreed that the “wet biscuit” should be our biscuit. The wetness of the batter consistently ensured a fluffy biscuit while also allowing us to easily add all types of ingredients to further transform the recipe and make it our very own.

In 2011 we opened the doors and became known for our biscuit. People traveled from far and wide to taste our fluffy buttermilk morsels. The media got wind of our restaurant, too, and articles in local publications including San Francisco magazine, Sonoma magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, and many more featured the market and talked about our biscuits.

With a background in PR, I wanted to get the most out of this early media and worked hard to see that we were consistently in the press, both locally and nationally. While we continued to enjoy much success, in 2016 we decided to partner with a few restaurants in New York City to see if including our biscuits on their brunch menus would prove successful. Customers loved them, and in response, we popped up the Big Bottom Biscuit Bar in the takeout window of Osteria Cotta on the Upper West Side, which caught the attention of numerous local media outlets including the New York Times. Once the New York Times came knocking, this was our signal that national expansion of our product was something we really needed to consider.

The Market’s big break came on November 3, 2016, when our newly launched biscuit mix and honey was named one of “Oprah’s Favorite Things.” We quickly went from selling fifty bags of mix and jars of honey a month to more than six thousand of each in only six weeks. Collectively, our team ramped up production and pulled it off with the help of some locals and a relationship with Amazon.

It was around this time that my business partner and I decided that it was time to refocus our efforts and expand nationally. This decision led to a partnership with Zoe’s Meats, a wholesale food company with warehouses and distribution relationships across the United States. In addition to now selling our mix and honey at several stores, we are also in the process of developing new products and further expanding our line into the food-service side of the business so that other bakeries and restaurants can also proudly serve Big Bottom Market products.

As if that weren’t enough, we were also compelled to share our biscuit recipe with the world and give people a glimpse into our kitchen. Our goal was simple: let our guests and fans get a closer look at how our team works together to create our biscuits and the delicious recipes that complement and accompany them. What you hold in your hands right now is a dream come true and a labor of love for our entire team.

When people want to know what makes our biscuit just so special, I tell them it’s that our easy-to-prepare biscuits take on a contemporary approach to the southern classic with a decidedly Northern California twist—and I don’t know many people who can’t resist a piping-hot biscuit. In this cookbook we’ve tried to elevate the biscuit with personal stories and unique recipes that have transformed our market and the way people eat our amazing biscuits. Within these pages you’ll find more than fifty recipes for the biscuits, butters, jams, and spreads that we prepare and serve at the Market. There are numerous recipes for specialty biscuits—always a customer favorite—that have everything from chocolate, bacon, and apples to all kinds of artisanal meats and locally sourced cheeses. You’ll learn how to prepare some market favorites including The Sneaky (here), the Egg in a Biscuit (here), and the aptly named Sea Biscuit (here), with smoked salmon, crème fraîche, pickled onions, and capers. Rush to the Savory Embellishments section (here) for tasty dishes you may have never thought would pair well with the biscuit. We’ve even included dishes that actually incorporate leftover biscuits, such as the creative quiche recipes—the crust is made from day-old biscuits (here). What’s the point here? The whole team worked and cooked our butts off to make sure there are a variety of recipes here to delight all tastes. And that is exactly what we’ve done in the pages ahead.

We do hope you will enjoy reading and preparing these recipes as much as we have loved the process of creating this beautiful cookbook.


The world’s first biscuits were baked in Persia during the seventh century. What we think of as a biscuit today was a French invention. The French version is a twice-baked flat cookie or cake with a name derived from two Latin words—bis (twice) and cuit (cooked). Through the years, many nations have adapted the name and created their own version of the biscuit. In Italy, a biscotti is a hard “cookie” often served with espresso. The biscuit also has a strong identity in British culture as the traditional accompaniment to a cup of tea. The Brits are known for dunking biscuits—what we in the United States call a cookie—in tea so that they soften a little from the warmth of the liquid before being eaten.

For Americans, the biscuit is a quick bread, somewhat similar to a scone, and usually unsweetened (although we add sugar, and in many cases, as you will find in this book, other sweet indulgences). Self-rising flour—or flour with baking powder—is used to make the dough rise when baking in the oven. The North American version of the biscuit has its origins in the southern states, where generations have passed down family recipes.

We like to think that we are a new part of the biscuit’s historical journey and evolution. Our version is a little wet, which makes it melt in your mouth and requires a preparation that is different from the southern style. To make it more “California,” as we like to say, our team adds all sorts of sweet and savory ingredients. Of course, we always encourage our team to come up with their own versions; we hope you will take the base recipe and do the same. If you discover something you love, please share it with us on the Big Bottom Market Facebook page. Your creations just may make it onto our menu, and of course we will give you the credit you deserve.


You’ll need a few simple ingredients and a handful of kitchen tools and equipment to concoct the perfect biscuit.

8 × 8-INCH BAKING PAN—If you don’t have one already, get an 8 × 8-inch pan for baking your biscuits. We do not use pans that are coated with a nonstick surface; instead, we rely on cooking spray to ensure that the biscuits easily slide out of the pan when they’re done cooking.

DISPOSABLE PLASTIC GLOVES—Since the batter can get messy, plastic gloves will keep your hands and batter nice and clean. We use gloves when combining the shortening with flour at the very beginning of recipe preparation.

TOOTHPICKS, SKEWERS, OR A KNIFE—These are used to ensure your biscuits are done before pulling them out of the oven. When your timer goes off, poke your cooked biscuits with one of these tools, and if it comes out clean they’re done; if not, put them back in for another minute or two.

ICE CREAM SCOOP—You’ll need an ice cream scoop to get the right amount of dough for each biscuit and to transfer the dough from the bowl to your baking pan (although a soup spoon also works). We use a 2.5-ounce scoop that we purchase online from a restaurant supply store, but you can also find one in your local kitchen store or in the grocery store. If you plan to make the Mini Biscuit recipe (here) you’ll also want to get a 1.5- or 2-ounce scoop. Keep in mind you don’t need to be a restaurant owner to shop for kitchen tools at a restaurant supply store. In fact, they are often less expensive and you can find pretty much everything you need to outfit the cook’s perfect kitchen.

INGREDIENTS—While the ingredient list is short, the type of flour, sugar, honey, salt, shortening, buttermilk, and heavy cream will make a difference. You should always use self-rising flour because it has a leavening agent (baking powder to be exact) and you want your biscuits to rise up into fluffy little pastries. If you don’t have self-rising flour we’ve included a recipe in the next paragraph that will show you how to make it on your own. Granulated sugar is a must for texture purposes. We use locally sourced honey and you should as well or head to the grocery and buy your favorite brand. Martha Stewart believes that kosher salt imparts a better flavor and we agree. Our team uses Diamond Crystal kosher salt. Shortening with no trans-fat is preferred, healthier for you, and not hard to find these days. Our dairy products, buttermilk and heavy cream, are sourced locally. We use low-fat buttermilk for no other reason than we think it tastes great and then cut the low-fat part out with the heavy cream!

Did you know that you can make your own self-rising flour? It’s pretty easy. Combine 1 cup all-purpose flour with 1½ teaspoons baking powder and ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Stir until thoroughly mixed. We go through tons of self-rising flour at the Market and never concern ourselves with shelf life, but baking powder does lose its potency over time, which means your baked goods won’t rise as they should. So unless you plan on making tons of biscuits (and we hope you do), consider this recipe as an alternative to purchasing a big bag and always check the date on your baking powder.

Oven—Obviously you can’t bake biscuits without an oven, but note that every oven is different. Temperature is very important when baking biscuits, so you may want to get an oven thermometer to test the temperature (especially when cooking with gas) before embarking on your biscuit bake. We use convection ovens at the Market and find that the internal fan helps to better distribute heat and bakes the biscuits more evenly.


What Is a Wet Biscuit, Anyway?

At Big Bottom Market we make a wet biscuit, or what is traditionally known as a drop biscuit—the “dough” has a muffin or soft cookie batter look to it. First, we use an ice cream scoop to form the balls before tossing them with a little bit of flour. Then we nest them in a baking pan, one right next to the other, and as the biscuits bake in the oven they rise together. Dusting the batter with flour is key, because once the biscuits are done, the flour allows them to separate from each other easily. The resulting morsels have a rich, light-brown coloring on the outside and a melt-in-your-mouth warmth on the inside. You’ll find over and over and over again throughout this book that this version of the biscuit goes well at any time of the day and with any meal. Is the biscuit the next donut or dinner roll with slightly more versatility? I’d argue yes, but I’ll let you decide.

What It Means to “Nest” the Dough

Nesting is an important part of ensuring that the biscuits bake up properly. After you coat the biscuit in a little bit of flour, place the first biscuit in the corner of the pan. Place the following scoop of dough next to and slightly touching the first biscuit. Repeat until the pan is full. Note that every once in a while you might use a little too much batter for each of the biscuits and find yourself one or two biscuits short in your pan. If this happens take a piece of foil, roll it into a ball, spray with a little cooking spray, and use it as a placeholder in the pan. Doing this will ensure that the biscuits rise up and not down into an empty space.

Everyone asks for our classic wet biscuit recipe, and for years we kept it hidden away. Before we opened the Market, our team tested and retested a number of recipes until we came up with our signature biscuit. Sue Steiner, the woman we call the momma of the Market and whom this book is dedicated to, deserves so much credit for her tenacity and creativity around everything biscuit. She taught us how to make the perfect biscuit and challenged us to further refine and evolve the recipe.

I recommend that you practice this base recipe a few times to ensure that you properly mix the shortening with the flour, sugar, and salt mixture, and also get the feel for the wetness of the dough. After you’ve perfected this recipe, move on to the others or use it as a base to come up with your own specialty creations.

The Original Big Bottom Biscuit

Makes 9 biscuits

2¼ cups self-rising flour

⅛ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons honey

¼ cup shortening

1 cup buttermilk

⅔ cup heavy cream

2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat your oven to 400°F and coat an 8 × 8-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

Place the self-rising flour, sugar, salt, honey, and shortening in a large mixing bowl. Using your hands, blend the ingredients until the shortening is well combined and the mixture looks like small peas.

Add in the buttermilk and cream and stir with a spatula until fully combined. The dough will look wet and you may think there’s not enough flour, but it’s actually the wetness of the dough that makes the Big Bottom Market biscuit so moist and delicious. Trust me—don’t add more.

Place the all-purpose flour in a medium-size mixing bowl. Use an ice-cream scoop to place one ball of wet dough into the flour. Toss the ball around so the flour coats the dough and then place it into the baking pan. Do this until all of the dough is gone, being sure to nest the biscuits one next to the other so that they all just barely touch in the pan.

Bake for 20 minutes on the top rack. After 20 minutes, turn the pan 180 degrees and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes. After 5 minutes, check for doneness with a toothpick. If it comes out clean and the tops are golden brown, your biscuits are ready. If not, bake for up to an additional 5 minutes and check again. Every oven is different so baking times may vary.

Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.



On Sale
Apr 30, 2019
Page Count
192 pages
Running Press

Michael Volpatt

About the Author

Michael Volpatthas worked in PR for tech companies and startups, but his true passion is cooking. Since opening the Big Bottom Market in Guerneville, CA in 2011, he has worked tirelessly to expand their reach, selling Big Bottom Biscuits in other shops and restaurants across the country. This is the first book for Big Bottom Market, which is a popular tourist destination in Sonoma County. Michael lives in Guerneville, CA.

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