Homemade buttermilk biscuits are a staple in a Southern kitchen. They use simple ingredients, but if those ingredients aren’t handled correctly, they can come out poorly.
The magic of homemade buttermilk biscuits is truly in their technique.
There are really only two things you need to focus on to make your buttermilk biscuits come out just right.
- Don’t melt the butter.
- Don’t overwork the dough.
To accomplish these two simple tasks, you need to apply some simple techniques.
Handling the Butter
First, you want to handle the butter as little as possible. The heat from your hands can melt it.
To start, take a stick of butter and cut it in half longways. Roll it over, then cut it in half longways again. You should end up with four long sticks of butter.
Now, cut it into a dice across the short side.
Toss it into a bowl and stick it into the freezer to firm up for about fifteen minutes.
While it’s in the freezer, put all of your dry ingredients into a non-reactive bowl. Use a wire whisk to thoroughly mix it (using a wire whisk ensures that everything is thoroughly mixed).
Now, take out your butter and add it to the flour. To mix it in, use a pastry cutter. This isn’t completely necessary, but it ensures you don’t heat up the butter with your hands.
You want to chop it into the dough until it resembles peas dispersed throughout the flour.
Don’t Overwork Your Biscuit Dough
If you overwork your dough, you’ll end up with dense biscuits that resemble hockey pucks.
To get started, pour all of the cold buttermilk into your flour at once. Using a spoon, mix only well enough that all of the flour is moistened and it starts to come together into a ball.
Dump your dough out onto a lightly floured surface, then, using a floured rolling pin, gently roll it out until it’s about 3/4-inch thick.
You can cut your biscuits out now if you want, but I prefer to make layers.
To make layers, fold your dough in half, like a giant taco, then gently roll it out to 3/4-inch thick again. You can do this a couple of more times. Just be careful that you’re gentle with the dough.
Now you’re ready to cut out some biscuits.
When cutting them, just press straight down. Don’t turn and twist the biscuit cutter. It will pinch the sides closed and prevent them from rising properly.
Drop them onto a buttered cookie sheet, then pop them onto the middle rack in the oven and cook until done.
A Final Note on Flour
You’ll notice, with this recipe, that it includes cake flour.
I’ve added cake flour to reduce the protein content in the dough.
Gold Medal All-Purpose Flour generally has a protein content of around 10.5 percent and cake flour usually has a protein content of around 7 percent.
Using a blend of half of each, you should have a final protein content of around 8.75%.
This will result in a lighter, fluffier biscuit.
I do this to approximate the protein content of White Lily All-Purpose Flour, which is a soft red winter wheat flour popular in the South, but unavailable to me here in West Texas.
If you can get White Lily All-Purpose Flour at your local grocery store, you can use it rather than doing the half and half blend in the recipe.
Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits
- Preheat oven to 350
- Sift all of the dry ingredients into a large bowl and whisk thoroughly.
- Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until it's pea-sized. Add the buttermilk all at once. Lightly mix it until the dough just starts to hold together.
- Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Very gently roll it to about 3/4-inch thick, then fold it over and roll it out again. You can do this once or twice more if you want more layers. Just don't overwork it.
- Cut the biscuits out with a 2 1/2-inch cutter. Just press down. Don't twist. Place them with a couple of inches between each on a large cookie sheet that has been greased with butter.
- Cook in the oven 15-20 minutes on the middle rack, until the tops are just starting to turn brown.