Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits

Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits

I made these bis­cuits some­what suc­cess­fully for 10 years before they totally flopped on me.

That’s not entirely fair–the recipe is awesome–it turns out I was hav­ing user-interface prob­lems. One day I made them and they just sat there. On the pan. In the oven. Bak­ing, but not per­form­ing. They were flat, dense, ugly, yuk! I thought for cer­tain it was the bak­ing pow­der fail­ing me, but I write the date on each can as I open it, and mine was fresh. I was so frus­trated at the capri­cious­ness of the bis­cuits that had worked fine up until now, that I started ‘kitchin-cussin’. You know, where you start mum­bling non­sen­si­cally and throw­ing things around, then rais­ing your voice to a higher pitch until some­one (the Chef) comes in to inves­ti­gate. I vented a bit about my bis­cuit trou­bles and showed him my sub­stan­dard product.

He pro­ceeded to (in about 5 min­utes flat) pro­duce beau­ti­fully cut lit­tle cir­cles that baked to per­fec­tion using the exact same ingre­di­ents I had just pulled from.

This is the day I learned some things about bis­cuit makin’:

1. I already knew about the impor­tance of fresh bak­ing pow­der. Very. Only buy the size of can that you will use within 3 months. I know they say it lasts for 6. They lie.

2. Do Not Over Work Your Dough. Appar­ently I was tak­ing out some issues on the bis­cuits that night, and mixed them a lit­tle too good. A light touch is essen­tial. This will come with prac­tice, but it really isn’t dif­fi­cult at all.

3. Roll them out thick. Leav­en­ers can only do so much, and I was expect­ing mir­a­cles as I rolled my dough to a whop­ping 1/2 inch. You are bet­ter off get­ting less yield, and nicer bis­cuits, so stop at 1 inch! And by rolling, I really mean using your hands to gather/pat the dough together so it can be cut out. Don’t take a rolling pin and treat it like cookie dough. If you use a pin at all, use it to even out the top some. This dough is so soft and fluffy that any seri­ous rolling will ruin your tex­ture, thus giv­ing you hockey-pucks.

4. Cut with some­thing sharp. Like actual bis­cuit cut­ters. I know grandma always used her favorite cof­fee cup and had fab­u­lous results, but unless you inher­ited that exact same cof­fee cup, you should buy some­thing suit­ably sharp. Using some­thing with a thick, dull edge can com­press the edges of your bis­cuit mak­ing it unable to rise prop­erly. A nice, sharp cut will give you max­i­mum height. Oh, and when you are done cut­ting the first round, Do Not gather the scraps up into a ball and start over. Just pull them together like puz­zle pieces, fit­ting and lightly press­ing them together to make another disc to cut, repeat­ing until all your dough is used up. The end bis­cuits will not be as per­fectly attrac­tive, but they will still be as deli­cious as the first cut.

So, the bis­cuits I had been mak­ing for years were really not as good as I thought they were. I had never eaten home­made bis­cuits grow­ing up. I didn’t know what they were sup­posed to be. I was sat­is­fied with what I had, but when you know bet­ter, you do bet­ter. And now I have a higher stan­dard thanks to a lit­tle well placed advice. I’m just pass­ing it on now to you.

Go. Bake. Enjoy. And don’t stop at jam or honey. These bis­cuits are per­fect with sausage or chicken gravy!

 

Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits

 

Flaky But­ter­milk Biscuits

makes 18 to 20 biscuits

4 cups all pur­pose flour

8 tea­spoons fresh bak­ing powder

1 tea­spoon table salt

4 Table­spoons sugar

1 tea­spoon cream of tarter

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

2 eggs

1 cup shortening–either cut the short­en­ing into 1/2-inch cubes if using sticks, or pinch bits off into the flour when the time comes to incorporate

Pre­heat oven to 450 degrees F.

In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingre­di­ents, then make a well in the mid­dle of the flour, and set aside.  (by ‘well’ I mean an inden­ta­tion about the size of a large orange–make your flour look like a volcano)

Beat the two eggs and add to the milk. Mix together and set aside.

Add the short­en­ing (that you have cut into small cubes –or– pinched off into bits) to the flour in the large bowl.

Cut in the short­en­ing using either your hands, two knives, food proces­sor, or a pas­try blender.

**Cut­ting in involves incor­po­rat­ing a solid fat like but­ter or short­en­ing into a flour until only lit­tle solid bits remain. How much cut­ting in you do depends on the recipe. The bits of fat left melt, leav­ing behind small pock­ets of air that sep­a­rate the pas­try into lay­ers. This is what adds to the flak­i­ness of the pas­try you are mak­ing. For these bis­cuits, I use a pas­try blender and, using a rock­ing motion, chop the short­en­ing up with the flour until the bits of short­en­ing left are a bout the size of a very small pea.**

Add the milk/egg mix­ture to the mid­dle of the flour/shortening mix­ture and gen­tly mix the two with your hands. Use a scoop­ing motion to bring the flour from the edges into the mid­dle where the liq­uid is. Mix just until the mix­ture comes together enough to pat out on a table. It might seem like a loose mix­ture, but you don’t want to over mix the dough.

On a floured sur­face, pour out the dough and, using your hands, gen­tly pat it together into a disc about 1 inch thick.

Cut the bis­cuits and place on a bak­ing sheet that is either lightly sprayed with cook­ing spray, or is lined with a sil­pat. 12 bis­cuits to a sheet.

Bake 10–15 min­utes, until risen and golden brown on the tops. The time for this really does vary accord­ing to your oven, so just watch care­fully for the brown­ing to know when they are done.

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5 Comments

  1. I SO love a good but­ter­milk bis­cuit! Alas, I have NEVER made a good but­ter­milk bis­cuit. Seri­ously never. I am so excited for this recipe! Espe­cially because of the tips because with bis­cuits, I think know­ing that is more than half the battle.

  2. These. Look. SOOO. Deli­cious.
    I can­not /wait/ to try them myself! Mmmm!

  3. Explains a lot of the prob­lems I have had with bis­cuits in the past. Def going to buy a bis­cuit cut­ter now. Thanks!

  4. Very help­ful post! I love fluffy but­ter­milk bis­cuits but I’ve never made them myself. Can’t wait to try :D

  5. I love myself a good but­ter­milk bis­cuit. I will have these on my next 3 day menu.

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