Biscuits with gravy. Sausage biscuit sandwiches. Biscuits with butter and jam. Biscuits with more biscuits. Maybe it’s typical of me to say because I’m from the south but… BISCUITS. ARE. SO. AWESOME. And apparently the word makes less and less sense the more I type it out. Biscuits. Bis-cuits? Weird.
Even though a breakfast of biscuits and gravy is really traditional down here (and one of my favorite things to eat) it’s something that has made its way around to other parts of the states. Even if you’ve never had yours with a savory milk gravy, you’ve likely had some sausage patties or fried chicken sandwiched within a soft buttery biscuit. If you’re not from the U.S. you might be more familiar with scones, which are very similar but not quite the same. They are prepared in much the same way but scones are usually a bit sweeter and are often full of mix-ins like fruit and nuts. Also I’ve noticed they are more likely to be cut into cute little triangles whereas a traditional buttermilk biscuit is almost always round.
OK – enough of that. Let’s get some food porn up in here.
Over time I’ve learned a few things about making good biscuits. If you’ve ever made them before, or had experience with other flaky baked goods such as pie crust, then you probably know that using COLD butter is key to getting the texture right. Cold out of the fridge, cold while you’re mixing, and cold when it goes in the oven. For this reason that also means you need to handle your dough as lightly and quickly and possible. Not only will the temperature of your butter lower as you touch it, over mixing will cause the gluten in your flour to go nuts and you will end up with a dense, chewy product in the end. Unfortunately for me I have uncommonly warm hands which is why I opt to use the food processor when making biscuits. It has the added bonus of being super quick. Whenever I feel like my hands are especially hot I will run them until cool water and dry them off before handling the dough. Another tip I use for making sure my dough is super chilled is that I put the butter and flour into the freezer while I preheat my oven. If you’re reading this a feeling a little bit intimidated (“OMG WHAT IF I AM NOT FAST ENOUGH??”) – don’t be! If I can make tender, fluffy biscuits with my fists of lava anyone can.
- 6 tablespoons COLD unsalted butter
- 2 1/4 cups cake flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2-1 teaspoon salt (1/2 teaspoon is good if you’re serving with gravy, 1 teaspoon lets the biscuits stand on their own a little better)
- 1 cup buttermilk
- In a food processor pulse together everything but the buttermilk until a bit crumbly. You want small pieces of butter to stay in tact. Transfer to the freezer.
- Preheat oven to 500F and butter a round baking pan.
- When the oven is hot put your flour mixture back on the food processor. Pour in the buttermilk and pulse until just combined. Absolutely do not overmix! The dough will be loose and shaggy – that’s ok.
- Pour the dough out onto a floured surface and with a light touch press it into a rough rectangle shape. Fold it over itself twice and then press it out again so it’s about an inch thick.
- Using a biscuit cutter begin to cut out your biscuits. Depending on how much you pressed out your dough, you will get 5 or 6 big biscuits with a 3″ cutter. You could press your dough out a little bit more, use a 2″ inch cutter, and probably manage to squeeze out 10-12 biscuits if you prefer that. Alternatively you could use the method of cutting out the biscuits with the rim of a drinking glass. This is a common thing to do but the dull edge of the glass can crimp and seal the sides of the biscuit, causing it not to rise quite as well. It will still work though and I did this for years.
- Put the buttered pan in the oven until the butter gets hot (not too long or it will smoke). Remove it and place your cut biscuits inside. The edges will probably touch and that’s ok. It’s also ok if they don’t.
- Pop the pan in the oven for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown on top. Eat them warm from the oven and realize how great your life is right now.
- Cake flour is used because of its lower gluten content. You could also get an extra light biscuit flour (easier to find in the south, and more expensive than the other flours) to go the extra mile. If you only have all purpose flour on hand, you can reduce the amount to 2 cups and whisk in 2 tablespoons of corn starch.