Friday, November 30, 2012

In Search of the Best Biscuits...and Buttermilk Biscuit variation

I have been trying different biscuit recipes for a while- always searching for the best taste and the fluffiest texture. So this quest has turned into a 2 day baking challenge trying different versions and techniques. I read numerous cookbooks (old and new) and looked at videos online-- I also tried buttermilk versus using regular milk. There are two different types of recipes, one that uses self-rising flour and ones that keep the flour and other ingredients separate. Some even recommend cake flour for the best rise. I, however, used all-purpose flour for my different biscuit recipes. The first baking powder and buttermilk biscuits I made, I didn't brush the tops with butter prior to baking-- but when I tasted the last butter-brushed batch, I was convinced that it is truly necessary for the best taste.

Also, the last batch I made, I put the biscuits in the pan so they were all touching each other. This seemed to give more uniformity to the rise and they were not as lop-sided. In the future, I will put one batch of biscuits in an 8 or 9 inch pan so they can touch and have side of the pan all around to keep the outer biscuits from spreading out too much. Initially, I indented the centers of the biscuits in the first couple batches because people said that helps them rise straight, but I still had a problem with some of them being a little uneven. Another thing I experimented with was my biscuit dough more wet and sticky versus not-so-sticky. The last batch was a more wet dough and seemed to have the most tender texture inside.

My conclusion? I could not decide which I preferred more- baking powder versus buttermilk biscuits. They were equally good- especially when brushed with butter before baking. The most important things seemed to be working with a more wet dough and not mixing or kneading it very much at all.   Do you have a favorite biscuit recipe?

Yields: 16 medium biscuits (if rolling out dough to 1/2 inch thickness), or approximately 8 extra thick (if rolling 1 inch thick)

  • 2 cups all purpose flour (or cake flour as some recommend)
  • 1/2- 3/4 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp sugar- up to 4 Tbsp if you like a sweeter taste
  • 1/2 cup shortening or butter (I used palm shortening, which is not artificially hydrogenated)
  • 2/3- 3/4 cup milk
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  • Sift dry ingredients together into a medium bowl. 
  • Cut in shortening or butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs the size of peas.
  • Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour all the milk in at once.
  • Stir just until dough follows the mixing utensil around the bow, adding milk as necessary to get a moist dough.
  • Lightly flour your counter/cutting board and sprinkle top of dough with some flour. Roll dough ball around in the flour, giving it a couple gentle kneads until outside is not so sticky. Pat or roll out the dough. 
  • (Optional- fold one third towards the middle and then the other third over the first- like an envelope. Then pat the dough out to the desired thickness.)
  • Cut with a biscuit cutter or glass, being careful to press straight down and not twist until the cutter is all the way to the bottom. Alternatively, you may just cut them into equal squares with a sharp knife, but make sure your dough is squared up on the corners and sides first. 
  • Place on an ungreased baking sheet with sides touching and brush with melted butter for extra flavor! 
  • Bake for about 10-12 minutes until golden brown.
** For Buttermilk Biscuits:
do not use cream of tartar, increase baking soda to 1/2 tsp, decrease the fat to 1/3 cup and use 1 cup buttermilk instead of milk. Follow the directions otherwise as above.

flour and shortening
first batch of dough- less sticky

first batch cooling

wetter dough sprinkled with flour
Make sure you brush the top with butter!

final biscuit batch

tasting the final batch- YUM!

If you really want a shortcut- make the dough wet enough that you are unable to roll out the dough, then put into a greased glass baking dish in which you have melted 1/4 cup of butter. Lightly press flat in the pan and pour 1/2 stick of melted butter over top and score top of the biscuit dough 3-4 times in each direction. (courtesy of The Country Cook) Bake for about 20 minutes or just until golden brown. 


  1. Thanks for sharing and nice photos!

  2. The pictures of the first batch look really good. How did they taste?

    1. Thanks, Charlotte. They were all yummy, especially with some homemade jelly and jams.


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