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Since moving to North Carolina for college in the fall of 2007, and then to South Carolina in the summer of 2011, I’ve come to adore biscuits. They’re. So. Good. I’m a sucker for carbs, and if a biscuit is made right, its light, airy, and oh-so-buttery, like a little piece of heaven. And when you pull it apart you can see all the layers with steam escaping from between all those delicious flakey layers. Those frozen biscuits that come frozen in a bag just don’t compare.
Don’t let buttermilk biscuits intimidate you. I don’t buy buttermilk, I make it whenever I need it. Trust, it only takes a second, it’s not some kind of amazingly complicated process you have to go to culinary school to learn. Biscuits can be tricky business, but the end result is 100% worth the few trial-and-error attempts. My first few tries were…bad. The biscuits were tough, dense, or they didn’t rise, or they did rise, but only slightly; not enough to produce those amazing flakey layers. A few were like hockey pucks.
And then one glorious Saturday morning, magic happened in my oven and BAM, a beautiful batch of buttermilk biscuits (alliteration, anyone…?)
Enough about biscuit faux pas, let’s get down to business. Biscuit business.
As already stated, don’t let buttermilk intimidate you. I used to avoid attempting recipes with buttermilk in them because it wasn’t something I ever had in the house, let alone put on my grocery list. Why would I want to buy an entire half gallon when I only need ½ cup? But I digress. Here’s what I do for buttermilk: for every cup of buttermilk needed, just add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. Lemon juice works too.
That’s it. Let it sit for a few minutes, and you’ll be able to see the milk start to curdle after a few minutes. Science!
Here are a few biscuit-making tips I’ve learned over the years:
- Use COLD butter. I usually cut it up into tablespoon-sized pieces and then stick it in the freezer while I’m getting the other ingredients ready to go.
- Do not use a rolling pin. You’ll activate the gluten in the flour and end up with a tough biscuit. Use your hands instead.
- Work the dough as little as possible – mix until just combined once you’ve added the wet ingredients. This helps keep the dough light and airy when baked. The more you handle the dough, the denser your biscuits will be.
- You can use a food processor to cut the butter into the flour if you prefer. It’s less work than using a pastry cutter – I’ve utilized both methods, and I prefer using my pastry cutter.
- If you’re using a biscuit cutter, don’t twist after you’ve pressed through the dough. Straight down, straight up. If you twist the biscuit cutter, the dough won’t rise as much – think of it as “creating a seal” on the outside of the biscuit.
Pre-heat your oven to 450.
First, cut up your butter into tablespoon-sized pats, put them on a little plate and stick ‘em in the freezer for the next few minutes while we get everything else rolling. Then make your buttermilk/measure out your buttermilk if you’re a person who has some on hand already, and stick that in the fridge.
Next, measure out the flour into your mixing bowl. Use a big bowl, we’re going to add everything to the flour, and you’ll want enough room to mix the dough together. Add the baking soda, baking powder, salt, and mix to combine. Grab the butter from the freezer, toss it in the bowl with the dry ingredients, and use a pastry cutter (2 butter knives will work in a pinch if you don’t have a pastry cutter) to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it looks like sand.
Make a well in the middle of the mixture, and mix with a wooden spoon until just combined. Don’t overmix, or you’ll end up with a tough biscuits. The dough should be “shaggy” (y’all, the first time I read that in a recipe before I had figured my way around the kitchen at all, I had NO idea wtf that meant. It should be wet and not totally uniform. Kind of messy. It’ll stick to your hands more than you want it to, but that’s ok!)
Toss some flour onto your counter top or a pastry board, and then put the dough on top of it. Flatten it with your hands until it’s about ¾-1 inch think, and use a biscuit cutter to get as many biscuits out of the dough as possible. (If you don’t have a fancy biscuit cutter, just flip a glass upside down – they work just the same and are about the same in diameter.) Roll the scraps of dough together, fold a few times to create some more layers, and flatten again. Cut as many biscuits as you can, and repeat this process until you run out of dough. Place biscuits on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and stick it in the oven for 10-12 minutes. When they’re done, they should be golden brown on top. Use them for breakfast sandwiches, or just eat plain. I promise they won’t last too long, your fam will gobble them down in no time.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
½ tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
½ cup buttermilk
To make buttermilk:
½ cup milk + ½ tablespoon white vinegar
These are super delicious on their own, or if you want to make a really awesome breakfast sandwich, try using these in place of the round rolls for my new york style breakfast sandwiches.