Okay so knowing you are going to have a soft pillowy biscuit hot out of the oven is truly exciting but calm down, that excitement could ruin your product. A couple of things to remember:
- Biscuits do not like to be touched, do not over work your dough
- Everything should be COLD, as cold as you can make it
- Do not open the oven to “just check on them”, you’ll alter the temperature and prevent the most effective environment for the steam and rise…..
- Biscuits are not hard to make
I always keep a couple of sticks of butter and flour in the freezer for biscuit or pie crust so I always have it on hand; this is only a good idea for you if you bake a lot. The kind of butter isn’t critical but I can make your biscuits better for sure. I like Kerry Gold unsalted butter, NEVER buy salted butter*, but you really can use whatever kind of unsalted butter you have. I like any kind of European butter because it has a higher fat content which helps in the science of the rising and flakiness of the biscuits.
[Note: The reason you should never buy salted butter is because you want to control the amount of salt in everything you make, you have no idea how much salt is in salted butter so you will have no idea how it will affect the flavor of your dish!]
People swear by White Lily Flour but I like King Arthur, there are so many options. Don’t obsess over the brand of flour because biscuits were originally a staple in kitchens of poor people because of the cost to make them, they didn’t use “the best” flour but they sure made the best biscuits!
Over handling your dough will develop an amount of gluten strands that will make your dough tough, gluten strands are strong; you don’t want your biscuits to be strong. These biscuits call for a quick knead (no more than a minute in a half) because you do not want to heat the butter and affect the quality of the baked biscuit.
General baking info: Heat is important because it leads to a better rise so make sure you fully pre-heat your oven by waiting 10 minutes after it has indicated it is pre-heated to the appropriate temperature. When able, use the center rack and never over crowd the oven as that will cause the temperature to drop. Now, on to the biscuits….
What you will need:
- A box grater, pastry cutter or a fork
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 12 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt (use coarse kosher or sea salt)
- 1 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup buttermilk
Place all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl, mix them together well and grate the butter (see note) into the mixture using a paper towel to hold the butter so your hands do not warm it; this is really important.
Why is it important? Cold butter creates steam as it melts in a hot oven, the steam from the melting butter expands between the layers of dough which creates pockets of air, yielding a flaky biscuit (or anything else you are making using butter so use this tip for all pastries, etc.).
[Note: I use a box grater because it is the quickest way to get evenly sized pieces of butter but you can also use a food processor for the same effect; I just really hate cleaning that giant thing. If you use a food processor, only use it for the butter because using it for the biscuit dough would make it tougher. If you are using a fork or a pastry cutter, I would “cut” it outside of the flour and put it in the fridge for about 5 minutes to cool it down before adding it to the flour.]
Once you have placed the butter into the flour mixture, mix around to “coat” the butter pieces in the flour and dump in the buttermilk. Use a fork to mix everything together until it starts to come together then dump it out onto a floured surface.
Fold the mixture over itself a couple of times to create “layers” of dough. Fold, turn, fold, turn, etc. Gather anything that isn’t fully incorporated along the way, just scoop it up as you turn the dough. DO NOT HANDLE THE DOUGH TOO MUCH! If you do, you will have flour bricks, do the fold and turn for no more than one or one and a half minutes!
Roll out the dough with a rolling pin to maybe a 1/2” thick rectangle and grab what you are using to cut the biscuits. I use a knife and cut square biscuits so I don’t have waste and don’t have to handle the dough too much. Whichever mechanism you are using to cut, be careful so you don’t “pinch” the edges which prohibits rising.
If you use a pastry cutter or glass to cut them, do not turn as you cut; a quick down and straight up is best. If you are using a knife, just slice straight down with a sharp long knife.
Use butter or Crisco to grease a pan, I use either a cake pan or 9×13 baking pan with higher sides so the biscuits rise more; I have always found that biscuits “touching” while they cook results in a higher and better rise. Place the biscuits on the pan and brush with some heavy cream or melted butter and bake in a 400 degree oven for 12 minutes.
If they aren’t as brown as you like, you can place them under a broiler to do that but I always burn them when I try using the broiler (it happens fast!) so I don’t recommend that. At all.
Once they are done, brush them with a little more melted butter and try not to eat them before anyone else can try them; it makes about 12 biscuits But don’t judge me please. Enjoy and after you try the original, add some flavor like garlic, herbs, cheddar, lemon, etc. It is your food so make it your own!