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Buttermilk Biscuits

July 20, 2012
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Despite the fact that I grew up solidly in the Midwest, some of my favorite comfort foods are distinctly Southern.  They even have the same cadence, which lends itself perfectly to the Southern drawl: chicken & dumplings; chili & cornbread; biscuits & gravy.  That last one in particular is a staple in my household: a simple sausage gravy made with reg’lar ol’ flour and milk is enough to make me swoon.  It’s pretty much the most satisfying breakfast you can have.  Add a fried egg and some shredded cheese, and you’ll be full until supper!

And although I’ve been making biscuits and gravy since I was ten, it wasn’t until recently that I discovered how to make really flaky, crunchy-on-the-edges, mile-high biscuits.

First, start with the advice you’ve heard a million times: use just enough liquid to bring the dough together.  Only mix it until you have a “shaggy mass.”

But when you turn the dough out onto the counter, fold it on itself 2-4 times in order to create flaky layers.  It should look about like this.

When you cut it, you should be able to see those lovely layers on the inside.  By the way, don’t twist your cutter–whether you make your biscuits round or square, be sure to cut straight down.

If they look like this on the baking sheet, you’ve done  a good job.   Just put them in the preheated oven and let the baking powder do its job.

And those few extra folds should result in a flaky, golden brown biscuit with a perfect crack around the middle where you can pop it open… perfect for sharing (if you insist) or just for ladling some warm sausage gravy on top.  Enjoy!


Buttermilk Biscuits

Adapted from the baking powder biscuit recipe in this version of Betty Crocker’s Cookbook

2 c. all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp. granulated sugar

1/4 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1/4 c. cold butter, cubed

1/4 c. shortening

3/4 c. – 1 c. cold buttermilk

1. Preheat the oven to 450º.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

2. Using a pastry blender or a fork, cut in the butter and shortening until they are in pea-sized chunks.

3. Add enough buttermilk to bring the dough together, just until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Do not overmix.

4. Turn out the dough onto a floured counter and gently pat to a thickness of 1 inch.  Notice that for a batch this small, I don’t even bother with a rolling pin; I find that I treat the dough more carefully if I just use my hands.  Fold the dough on itself 2 – 4 times, each time patting to a thickness of 1 inch.  This will help create flaky layers without overworking the dough.

5. Cut out biscuits with a 2 1/2-inch round cutter.  Gently pat the scraps to a thickness of 1 inch as many times as necessary to use all of the dough.  You shouldn’t need to re-roll the dough more than twice.

6. Bake the biscuits at 450º for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown.

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