It was a photo from my friend Beth that set me on a quest to perfect my homemade biscuits. Hers rose into lofty layers with crisp edges that concealed a tender buttery center. They were everything a biscuit should be.
I had to know: Did she scoop or weigh her flour? Did she whisk or sift her dry ingredients? Did she knead or fold her dough? Did she use plain milk or buttermilk?
She patiently answered my questions and even passed along her base recipe from a vintage Betty Crocker cookbook. I got to work.
A dozen tries ensued in my kitchen: all butter, just shortening, a blend of both, mixing my hand, then in the food processor, and again, in the stand mixer; regular milk, buttermilk, powdered buttermilk... Here's what I discovered.
Here are the key steps I learned to making fluffy, flaky, buttery, tender homemade biscuits.
- For the best texture and flavor skip the shortening and use all butter.
- Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or a couple of butter knives instead of using a food processor. Less mess and I consistently got the flakiest results from cutting the butter in by hand.
- Use buttermilk instead of regular milk, it adds just the right tangy depth of flavor.
- Use baking powder as the primary leavening agent. When I used more than ¼-teaspoon of baking soda, the alkaline flavor came through.
- Be gentle with the dough when kneading and rolling for maximum height.
- To maximize layers, dip your biscuit cutter in flour between each cut. And cut straight down, resisting the urge to rotate back and forth.
- Bake biscuits in the top half of the oven to prevent over-browning on the bottom.
What To Do With Leftover Biscuits
Homemade biscuits are best when they're still warm from the oven. So what should you do with leftover biscuits? Two words: Biscuit Crackers. They are incredible! I got the idea from the brilliant cookbook: Carla Hall's Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration. The method is simple: with a sharp, serrated knife, cut leftover biscuits top to bottom into ⅛-inch thick slices. Arrange them on a buttered baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 350˚F, flipping them halfway through. Carla calls for 25 minutes (15 on the first side and 10 on the second), but I liked them better with a shorter cooking time. Cool completely on the baking sheet and serve. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.
Can You Freeze Biscuit Dough?
Freeze biscuit dough to make homemade biscuits that are almost as good as those made from fresh dough. I recommend rolling and cutting the dough so that the biscuits are pre-formed. Freeze uncooked biscuits in a single layer on a baking sheet and transfer to a freezer bag once frozen (I like to write baking instructions with a sharpie on the outside). You can bake biscuits straight from the freezer or thaw them in the refrigerator the night before you plan to bake them. Either way, bake at 450˚F. I prefer to bake them straight from the freezer (they tend to rise higher than those thawed overnight), adding a minute or two to the baking time.
How To Make Homemade Biscuits
Step 1: Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl. Cut in butter with pastry blender until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add buttermilk and stir into a shaggy dough.
Step 2: Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead several times into a cohesive dough. Roll or pat dough to a ½-inch thickness. Dip a 2 ½-inch biscuit cutter in flour and cut biscuits straight down, without twisting.
Step 3: Transfer biscuits to un-greased baking sheet. Bake in the upper half of the oven at 450˚f for 10-12 minutes. Serve hot or warm.
- 2 cups all purpose flour 272g
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ cup cold, unsalted butter cut into ½-inch cubes
- ¾ cup buttermilk
- Adjust rack to upper half of oven and preheat to 450˚F.
- Sift flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda into a large mixing bowl.
- Cut butter into dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two butter knives, until mixture looks like a coarse meal. Add buttermilk and stir into a shaggy dough.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently about 10 times. Roll or pat dough to ½-inch thick loose round or rectangle. Dip 2 ½-inch diameter biscuit cutter into flour and cut biscuits straight down (for maximum height and layers resist the urge to twist the cutter). Transfer to ungreased baking sheet and bake in 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot or warm.
- Once you've cut the biscuit dough, you can freeze for later baking. Freeze on a baking sheet, transferring to a freezer bag once frozen. Bake at 450˚F from frozen (my preference) or thaw in the refrigerator overnight. If baking from frozen, add a minute or two to baking time.