I don’t have even a scoch of Southern blood in me, but my love of the region’s biscuits runs deep. It hasn’t always been this way, though — in my childhood, I had one too many run-ins with dry, crumbly, powdery biscuits that left nothing behind but the taste of flour in my mouth. I swore off biscuits for a good long while, that is, until I was old enough (and smart enough?) to try making them in my own kitchen.
That journey, however, is peppered with its own experiences of flat, dense, under-risen biscuits with no flavor. What is such a simple food can sometimes be so finicky and frustrating. And YET. And yet I knew I couldn’t give up, because there had to be a way to redeem all those years of subpar biscuits and it had to be done by me, in my kitchen. Preferably with lots of butter.
I am here to tell you I finally figured it all out, guys and gals. I think I have found the most perfectly flaky, fluffy Southern buttermilk biscuits I will ever be able to make at home. And they’re SO EASY, too. Which means if you follow along with me on this journey to buttery biscuitdom, by the end you, too, will be a biscuit lover (if you weren’t already).
OK, so here’s my first tip to the flakiest, fluffiest biscuits you ever did see/make/shovel into your face — grate the butter. And make sure it’s cold, as in, preferably frozen. Just grate the frozen stick with a box grater and place the grated butter in a bowl in the freezer while you prep the remaining ingredients. If you don’t have a grater, that’s OK — you can cut the frozen butter into really small cubes, too. The key is to keep that butter cold all the way to the oven so there will be tiny pockets and ribbons of butter speckled throughout each biscuit (are you drooling already? Because I am).
In a large bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together until they’re well combined. This kind of does the same service as sifting the ingredients, but it’s a lot quicker and easier to do. OK! Cool!
Use a pastry blender or two knives to cut in/blend the butter into the dry ingredients until the butter pieces are about the size of very small peas. Don’t use your hands to blend in the butter — the heat from your hands will warm up the butter and that no es bueno.
Pour in some cold (as in, chilled really well in the fridge) buttermilk. You can take a pause to applaud from excitement, as I did.
Use a wooden spoon or spatula to stir the mixture just until a dough forms, and no more. You want to treat this dough like it is your baby — your dough baby, if you will — so be gentle with each step and don’t overmix or overwork the dough at any point. That will help the biscuits become extra tall and fluffy.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and sprinkle the top with some flour. Then gently and quickly shape the dough into a rough ball.
And now here’s the trick to extra-flaky biscuits, which I learned on Lifehacker, of all places: Stack the dough. Cut the rough ball of dough in half, then stack one piece of dough on top of the other. Gently press and smoosh the pieces back together into a rough ball, then cut the dough in half again, stack again, smoosh again. Repeat that process a total of three or four times to create some magical air pockets in the dough which, in turn, create all the flaky layers of heavenly, buttery, carb-loaded goodness.
Shape the dough into a rough rectangle about 1-inch thick, then cut the dough into 12 equal squares. Transfer the biscuits to a generously buttered baking sheet and space them about 1-inch apart.
At this point, I stick the baking sheet with the biscuits on them into the freezer for another 10 minutes or so to let the butter get cold again after all that handling. It’s not a necessary step (and I know it keeps us waiting that much longer for biscuits), but I’ve found it extra helpful in achieving the tallest, flakiest, fluffiest biscuits possible.
Transfer the baking sheet straight from the freezer to a 450 degree F oven and bake the biscuits 10 to 12 minutes until they’re golden and puffy and your kitchen smells like a giant, buttery biscuit ← PS if they make a candle like this I NEED IT. Serve the biscuits immediately, which shouldn’t be hard to do.
In fact, the easiest part of this recipe, I’ve found, is the eating part. Who knew.
Biscuits are really best served within a few hours of being made, but you can leave them at room temperature for the day, covered with a clean kitchen towel. After that, however, it’s best to freeze them in an airtight container or bag. When you want to eat them later, put them on a baking sheet and heat them in the oven at 350 degrees F just until they’re warmed through. Proceed to devour.
Happy biscuit-ing, frands!
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen or refrigerated, plus more for greasing baking sheet
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (measured out with the scoop and sweep method)
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup cold buttermilk
- Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Generously grease bottom of a baking sheet with butter.
- Use a box grater to grate cold butter into a small bowl -- or, cut butter with a knife into very small cubes. Place bowl in freezer.
- In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda until well combined. Add grated butter and, using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in butter it's the size of small peas. Pour in cold buttermilk and stir mixture with a wooden spoon just until a dough forms (do not overmix).
- Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface; very gently pat into a rough ball. Use a sharp knife or bench scraper to cut dough in half. Place one half on top of other half, and very gently press halves together, shaping into a rough ball again. Repeat 3 times.
- Gently shape dough into a rough rectangle about 1-inch thick. Cut dough into 12 equal squares; transfer to prepared baking sheet, spacing biscuits at least 1 inch apart. Place baking sheet in freezer 10 minutes to re-chill dough.
- Transfer baking sheet directly from freezer to oven and bake biscuits 10 to 12 minutes until golden and fluffy. Serve immediately.