So, a few days ago on social media, I saw some talk about their being a National Buttermilk Biscuit Day. I had no idea such a thing existed. I randomly Googled it and there are conflicting opinions on when exactly it is; some folks say May 14th. Others seem to think it’s May 29th. Personally, I don’t know and couldn’t care less what day it is–any day that’s set aside to celebrate the buttermilk biscuit is a-okay with me. I may be a little late to the celebration, but better late than never. The Biscuit Holiday Spirit is kept alive in my heart (and my belly) all year round, I assure you.
I don’t blow my horn about too many things, but one thing that I will not only blow, but blast from the rooftops about, are my biscuit making skills. They’re solid. I make excellent biscuits. It’s just a fact. This wasn’t always the case. I’ve mentioned many times before that my very first foray into baking, EVER, was an attempt to make angel biscuits. As I’ve also mentioned many times before, this was a tragic mistake. As I found out, making excellent biscuits isn’t an exercise for baking beginners. It just isn’t. There’s both a science and art form to it. Even after I became a decent baker, my biscuits still just ‘ok’ and not great, and I knew they were just ok and not great. It bothered me. So, I started doing some research as to how to get the results I wanted: tender biscuits with LOTS of layers that rose high.
After nearly four years of baking, lots of practice, and even more ‘just ok but not great biscuits’, I think I can finally say that I’ve found the perfect method to making tender biscuits with lots of layers that rise high (and that last part was very important to me). I’ll go ahead and share all the tips I’ve learned to achieve them in celebration of National Buttermilk Biscuit Day. Some of them are ones I’ve mentioned before in other biscuit recipes I’ve shared on the blog–others are new. Regardless, pay attention and bookmark/save/pin this post so that you can go back to it later.
The first is an oldie but an essential goodie: freeze your butter. PLEASE. If you don’t follow any other piece of advice I give you, make sure that you follow this one. The use of frozen butter changed my biscuit making baking life. Why? Because great biscuits start with VERY cold fats–the colder the fats, the better they will be. The butter won’t melt/dissolve if it’s frozen. Now, frozen butter IS kinda difficult to cut, especially into even pieces. This brings me to the second tip: use a box grater to cut the frozen butter. Why? You want to make sure the butter is evenly distributed into the dough so that all of the biscuits have layers and are evenly buttery. The large holes on a box grater will cut the butter into the pea sized pieces you want that will evenly distribute into the flour without you having to rub them with your fingers–which may cause them to melt.
This third one I only recently started applying myself and it too was a game changer for me: use cake flour. Why? Cake flour is just flour that has a lower protein content than all purpose flour. It’s also been sifted many times, which results in a product with a much finer crumb. Cake flour will make your biscuits SO MUCH MORE tender and fluffy on the inside. I had read about using cake flour to make biscuits a long time ago, but for a while I just resisted trying it because it’s more expensive than all purpose. However, there is a DIY method to ‘making’ it yourself without having to splurge the special stuff.
Measure out 1 cup of flour. Take out 2 tablespoons of the flour. Now add in 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Sift it together through a strainer about 5-6 times.
Boom. You have now made 1 cup of DIY, work in a pinch CF. Repeat the process for however many cups of CF you need for your recipe; I’ll usually do 4 at a time.
Fourth: place a shallow pan of water in the bottom of the oven while it preheats and keep it there while the biscuits bake. Why? Water and high heat create steam when they meet. Steam makes the layers in the biscuits expand and rise. Fifth: cut the edges off of your rectangle of dough before you cut the biscuits. I’ve found that the edges of the dough tend to be tough and compressed together after being rolled out and layered several times. The biscuits’ll rise higher if you get rid of them. Sixth: Don’t twist the biscuit cutter when you cut. Why? It collapses the edges, seals off the layers and the biscuits won’t rise. Cut straight down, then quickly lift it up and keep it moving.
Seventh: place the biscuits close together on the pan. Why? The closer they are together while baking, the more steam pockets that will form between them. Remember what I just said about steam? Mmhm. This is what will make them rise upwards and form tall biscuits rather than spreading outwards and cause them to be wide and flat. Eighth: Freeze them for 10 minutes before baking. Why? This is just to ensure that the butter in the biscuits is as cold as possible before it meets the very hot, steamy oven. The ‘shock’ of that cold-meets-hot ingredients will help the biscuits to rise higher and have more layers.
Aaaaand, that’s about it. It sounds like a lot of info, but in practice it’s not complicated. Just follow the recipe and apply the tips and you’ll be fine. Have a good weekend guys.
Mile High Biscuits
- 4 cups cake flour, spooned and level
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 cup frozen butter
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper.
Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the butter into the dry ingredients and stir a few times to combine. Make a well in the center of the bowl.
Pour the buttermilk into the well and use a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add additional buttermilk until it forms a shaggy dough.Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or wax paper with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)
Pat and roll the dough into a rectangle. Take the two opposite ends and fold them together like a business letter into thirds. Flip it upside down and pat & roll it into another rectangle, sprinkling the surface with flour if it gets too sticky. Repeat the folding process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle.
Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to trim the edges of the rectangle. Use a 2 1/2-inch round cutter to cut biscuits, pressing scraps together to make more no more than two additional times. Discard the rest of the dough. Place biscuits, slightly touching, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill 15 minutes in the freezer.
Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. (You may have to cover the biscuits with foil if they begin to brown too quickly.