Buttermilk Biscuits that are light and flaky aren’t beyond your baking skills. These beauts are resplendent in all of their buttery glory. The mounds of love are easy to make, so long as you know the technique needed to help them bake up to their full potential.
Once upon a time a Southern girl told me, “Can’t no Yankee make a biscuit like a Southern Belle can.” So, after correcting her grammar, I made my Buttermilk Biscuits and gifted her a dozen. She mumbled something in her cute, country drawl and then apologized (profusely) for stereotyping me. Where you come from has no bearing on how well you can make a recipe. Hell, I know people born and raised in Puerto Rico who can’t make rice and beans to save their lives. This recipe will prove to you that you don’t have to be born sipping sweet tea, nor sucking on a boiled peanut to make an amazing biscuit.
What is Buttermilk?
A buttermilk biscuit is a quickbread that is made with buttermilk. Buttermilk is usually made from fresh skim milk. The skim milk is soured by a bacteria or a culture, which is why it’s referred to as “Cultured Buttermilk”. This differentiates prepared buttermilk from the liquid that remains after churning butter. But, if you find yourself without buttermilk, don’t worry, you can make your own. Stir together 1 1/2 cups of skim milk with 1 1/2 tablespoons of white vinegar or lemon juice. Leave the mixture to sit for 15 minutes and you’ll have your cultured buttermilk!
The chemistry behind baking with buttermilk is something I’ve always geeked out over. The conversion of the lactose (milk sugar) in buttermilk to lactic acid is what makes it different from plain milk. The acidity in the buttermilk needs to be neutralized in order for your baked goods to not taste like crap. To do this, baking soda needs to be added to the dough in addition to baking powder, which is the main leavener. If you don’t add the baking soda, the biscuits will taste very chemically and acrid. The benefit of the lactic acid in buttermilk, though, is that helps weaken the gluten in the flour, which contributes to a tender biscuit.
A Yank’s Perspective on Flour Used in Biscuit Making
Popular [Southern] opinion is that all “good” biscuits must be made with White Lily flour. And … yeah, that’s a hard “no” from me. First of all, you can’t even buy White Lily everywhere in this country. So, if not everyone in the country can get their hands on a sack of White Lily, you mean to tell me all those folks have been making bad biscuits?!? Nah, bro.
I have only been able to bake with White Lily flour once and I couldn’t spot the difference it made in my baked biscuits. Sure, it was good flour, but it also costs a bit more money than the most expensive flour on the shelf. So, will it ever be a product I hold hard and fast to; forgo my biscuit-making because I don’t have it? Hell-to-tha-naw. Ain’t nothing so “sacred” that it’ll stop me from making these buttermilk biscuits.
And, guess what? Not a single Southerner to date has ever told me my biscuits weren’t the bomb. Will some Southerner hell-bent on being right slide into the comment section and try to tell me different? Yes.
Will I care? Probably not. #sorrynotsorry
If you can get your hands on a sack of White Lily, grab it. See what you think. If you can’t get it? *shoulder shrug* Oh, well. We’re going to make them anyway.
What You Need to Make these Buttermilk Biscuits
The bulk of this buttermilk biscuit recipe is flour. Not just one flour, either. You are going to use, both, all-purpose and cake flours. Both have lower protein content (gluten) than bread flour, which means the baked goods they will produce are going to be tender and less chewy. Buttermilk is the next most important ingredient in these biscuits. For, without it, we wouldn’t be able to call them buttermilk biscuits. Unsalted, cold butter, sugar, salt, baking powder and soda will round out this recipe.
You will need a round biscuit cutter, a sheet pan, a pastry brush, and some more melted unsalted butter for brushing on the baked biscuits later.
Combine the Dry Ingredients
First, as with most of my baked goods, this recipe will begin by our mixing the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
Sift to combine the flours, the baking powder and soda, sugar, and salt together in the bowl. Sifting the dry ingredients aerates them, which helps contribute to the light and fluffy quality we’re aiming for in the finished biscuits.
Grating the Butter Makes Life Easier
Take the very cold unsalted butter and use a cheese grater to grate it into the flour mixture. Oftentimes, I will put the butter into the freezer while I’m measuring out the rest of my ingredients. Since we will lean on steam to also aid in the biscuits rising, it’s important to keep the butter in the biscuit dough as cold as possible. The steam is produced when the water in that cold butter is hit with the high heat of the oven. So, freeze the butter, if only for a few minutes, to maintain that super cold temperature. At the very least, keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to shred it.
After shredding the butter into the flour mixture, use your hands to crumble the two together. Shredding the butter cuts down on the time it takes to cut it into the flour, which means our dough won’t grow too warm. The mixture should resemble a coarse cornmeal when you’ve finished.
Finish the Buttermilk Biscuit Dough
Now that the butter and flour have been combined, add the very cold buttermilk to the bowl.
Use your hands to lightly toss the mixture together. Mix just until the flour is absorbed and a scraggly dough forms.
Since the more we handle the dough, the more gluten we will form, be mindful not to over mix the dough. Just knead it enough to incorporate all of that loose flour. After the dough forms, cover the bowl and let it rest in the fridge for 2-3 minutes.
Fold for the Fluffiest Buttermilk Biscuits Ever
Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into an 10″x6″ rectangle. Fold the dough like you would fold a letter and roll it out once more to the same size as earlier. Fold it one last time.
Roll the dough out again into a rough 10″x 6″ rectangle. The dough should be about 3/4″ to 1 inch thick. You’re now ready to cut your biscuits.
Cut and Economize!
Because my goal is to use up as much of my biscuit dough as possible, I re-roll my scraps. However, if you want the fluffiest biscuits ever, you may want to forgo the circle cutter altogether. Since circle cutters leave scraps, I recommend using your sharpest knife to cut the biscuit dough into triangles or squares. Done this way, you’ll get anywhere from a baker’s dozen (13) to 16 biscuits.
Since my life’s mission is your viewing pleasure- and because people have such visceral reactions to biscuits that aren’t round- I’m going the circular route. My circle cutter is 3 inches in diameter, so I’m barely going to eke out 12 biscuits.
The key to achieving flaky layers in your buttermilk biscuits is to press your well-floured cutter straight down and pull it straight up from the dough while cutting. DON’T press down and twist the cutter as this seals the layers of dough together. Sealed layers won’t rise. “Down and up,” chant that while you’re cutting.
Press the scraps together, but don’t knead them again. Just run the rolling pin over them, pressing down slightly, to seal them together. Cut out however many more biscuits you can get from these scraps. This is the max that you want to re-roll your scraps. Any more than two rolls and you may end up with hockey pucks instead of biscuits. For me, I can’t throw away an ounce of dough without feeling guilty, so I press any remaining scraps of dough into my cutter.
Transfer each of the discs of dough to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
One of my tips for making sure these buttermilk biscuits bake up as evenly as possible is to use my knuckle to press a dimple into the center of each biscuit top. The dimple prevents a bulge from forming on top of the biscuits as they bake.
Bake and Butter MAH BISCUITS!
Speaking of “bake”, pop your pan of biscuits into an oven preheated to 400°F. Bake them 15-20 minutes, depending on how light or dark you like yours. I’m a fan of biscuits that have some color so I go for a full 20 minutes.
While your biscuits are baking, slowly melt a half-stick of butter over medium-low heat.
Once the biscuits are done baking, pull the pan from the oven and use a pastry brush to brush the melted butter over each top. Doing this while the biscuits are hot from the oven seals more buttery flavor into the buttermilk biscuits, while at the same time keeping them soft.
Serve the Buttermilk Biscuits on their Own or Topped
Did you notice that my biscuits are so fluffy, they’re falling over because they couldn’t climb any higher? That’s gangster, right there.
If you prefer biscuits that stand straight up, position them a 1/2″ apart on the sheet pan prior to baking. Being able to use each other’s sides as they bake helps them stand straighter.
These Buttermilk Biscuits may be stored on the counter for 2 days, just keep them in an air-tight container.
You can also freeze the pre-baked, cut circles of dough, or the baked biscuits, as well. Just allow them to freeze on a lined sheet pan (allow baked biscuits to cool completely first) before transferring the biscuits to a freezer storage bag. Freeze the biscuits for 2 months (unbaked) or up to 6 months (baked).
Allow the unbaked biscuit dough to thaw on a sheet pan in the fridge for 2 hours before baking as instructed. Biscuits that were baked prior to being frozen are ready to eat right after thawing.
Be sure to pin and share this post for your biscuit baking needs. Even if you are just a Yankee.
- 2 or 3" round cutter
- pastry brush
- 2 cups (256g) all-purpose flour
- 2 cups (226g) cake flour
- 4 teaspoons (16g) baking powder
- 2 tablespoons (25g) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons (12g) kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon (6g) baking soda
- 2 sticks (226g) unsalted butter very cold
- 1 1/2 cups (360ml) buttermilk very cold
- 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter melted, for brushing the baked biscuits
- Preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
Prepare the Buttermilk Biscuit Dough
- Combine then sift the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda into a large mixing bowl.
- Grate the cold butter into the flour mixture. Cut the slivers of butter into the dry ingredients to create a coarse, cornmeal-like mixture.
- Pour the cold buttermilk into the mixture and gently fold everything together just until the dough comes together. Try not to handle the dough too much.
Roll the Biscuits
- Roll the biscuit dough into a rectangular shape, then fold the dough in thirds- letter-style- before rolling the dough out again into a rectangle. Fold the dough again and roll it back out one more time before folding it a third (and final) time. Wrap the dough and allow it to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. This resting time isn't mandatory, but it will keep the dough from shrinking back when you go to roll it out a final time.
- Roll the dough out until it is 3/4"-1" thick. The rectangle should be approximately 10"x6".Press a floured, round biscuit cutter straight down and pull straight up into the dough to cut out rounds. Don't twist the biscuit cutter or you'll seal the dough, which will prevent the biscuit from rising fully. Cut the biscuits as close together as possible to get the most out of this first roll. You can also use a very sharp knife to cut triangles or squares of dough.
- Gather any scraps of dough and press them firmly together until they stick to one another. Lightly roll the dough out to 1" thick and recut.Arrange the biscuits on the prepared sheet pan.
Bake and Butter the Buttermilk Biscuits
- Make a dimple in the top of each biscuit with your knuckle or fingertip. This creates an even surface in the baked biscuit which will prevent the center from bulging up.
- Bake the biscuits for 15-20 minutes, depending on how dark you like your biscuits. As soon as you remove the baked biscuits from of the oven, brush them lightly with the melted butter.
Freeze the raw, cut biscuits on a prepared sheet pan until they are frozen solid. Transfer the biscuit dough to a freezer storage bag and store for up to 2 months.
When you're ready to bake, allow the biscuit dough to thaw under refrigeration for 2 hours (or overnight) before baking as instructed. To Freeze Baked Biscuits:
Allow the baked biscuits to cool completely. Freeze the biscuits on the same sheet pan they were baked on. When the biscuits are frozen, transfer them to a freezer storage bag.
The biscuits may be frozen for up to 6 months. Thaw at room temperature before eating.
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