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What Are Biscuits?
If you’re on the US side of the pond, biscuits are a variety of quick bread made from flour, butter, salt, and a liquid dairy like milk or buttermilk. They get their signature puff from two leaveners: baking powder and baking soda. They can be tender (more muffin-like in consistency) or flaky (with doughy layers); savory (with the addition of cheddar cheese) or sweet (with a hint of sugar).
What Makes Biscuits So Fluffy?
Biscuit dough is a bit like pie dough or rough puff pastry in that you’re aiming for a relatively even distribution of small bits of butter or shortening throughout layers of dough. When baked, the water in the dairy turns to steam and pushes air pockets into layers of dough, creating an accordion effect.
How to Fold Biscuit Dough
Folding biscuit dough is a case of hands-off kneading since overworking the dough yields tough biscuits. Once the dry and wet ingredients are combined, fold the dough over itself like a book, repeating as you rotate a few times. You don’t want to over-knead and wind up with a dense crumb—the goal is to create natural stacks within the dough.
The Most Important Tip for Making the Best Biscuits
Speed is of the essence when working with cold butter or shortening. While working it into the dry flour mixture, you can smash it between your fingers (just like when you make pie dough), use a pastry cutter, blitz it very quickly it in a food processor, or grate frozen butter on a box grater to make things even easier.
4 Recipe Ideas Using Homemade Biscuits
- Biscuits and jam: Let flaky biscuits shine by serving them warm with salted butter and seasonal jam (like Chef Dominique Ansel’s strawberry jam).
- Fruit Cobbler: Top fresh fruit with drop biscuits and bake in the oven for an easy summer dessert.
- Sausage and gravy: Drown biscuits in sausage gravy for of a stick-to-your-ribs breakfast options.
- Breakfast sandwich: Layer any combination of eggs, sausage, ham, or bacon, greens like arugula or spinach, and cheese inside a biscuit and finish with hot sauce.
Homemade Buttermilk Biscuit Recipe
Prep Time15 min
Total Time35 min
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- +½ teaspoon sugar (more if making a sweet biscuit)
- 1 cup buttermilk
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Place a cast-iron skillet in the preheating oven, or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and whisk well.
- Work the cubes of cold butter into the flour mixture with your hands or a pastry cutter, until
- Add buttermilk to the mixture, mix until it just comes together.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead a few times, creating rough layers. Once the dough has come together (it shouldn’t be too wet—if the butter is melting, you can throw it in the fridge for 10 or 15 minutes), use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a square that's 1 ½ inches thick, then cut into whichever shape you prefer: cut them into squares with a sharp knife or punch out circles with a biscuit cutter.
- Place the biscuits tightly together in the skillet or on the pan, and brush each biscuit with melted butter or buttermilk. Bake for 20 minutes, or until risen and golden brown and crisp all over.
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