Friday, April 23, 2010

Best Buttermilk Biscuits

I've updated my go-to buttermilk biscuit recipe, and I think it's just about perfect. This is a high-rising, flaky biscuit with a crisp, layered exterior and soft, light center. There's nothing fancy going on at all. You put this together in minutes, especially if you use a pastry blender, one of the most useful low-tech gadgets around.

I know a lot of you may not have a pastry blender, but at $10 or less, I definitely recommend it. I used to be all about making scones and tart dough in the food processor, but having one little bitty gadget to wash is so much better. Plus, you'll never over mix your delicate, buttery crusts and quick breads. A lot of recipes call for "two forks" if you don't have a pastry blender, but I don't see how this quite works. Possibly one fork. But, really, the second best tool for blending the butter and flour into a coarse, shaggy meal is your fingers.

The one thing I couldn't resist doing to dress up these biscuits was crowning them with a tiny sprinkle of sea salt. The dough already has plenty of salt (don't skimp--they'll taste flat!), but those few extra crystals are great little bursts of flavor when you bite into the buttery biscuits. It should go without saying that you may not want to eat these everyday. But when you do, slather 'em with butter and enjoy.

Best Buttermilk Biscuits
If you don't have a kitchen scale, use the spoon and sweep method to measure the flour. Although you should use good, unsalted butter, it's not the ingredients that make a great biscuit, but the technique. Use a light hand when mixing and rolling. The more practice you get, the more effortless it becomes to make perfect biscuits.

Makes 11 to 12 2-inch biscuits

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (250 g)
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup butter, cut into cubes and chilled
3/4 cup lowfat buttermilk, plus additional as needed
Sea salt for topping (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the cold butter and use a pastry blender or your fingers to work it into the flour until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add 3/4 cup buttermilk and stir just until flour is moistened. If flour mixture is still too dry, drizzle in additional buttermilk one tablespoon at a time.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough 3 or 4 times, just until it comes together. With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough 3/4 inch thick. Lightly flour a 2-inch biscuit cutter and stamp out as many biscuits as you can. Transfer to prepared baking sheet and quickly re-roll the remaining dough, handling it as little as possible. Continue making biscuits until you've used all the dough. Lightly sprinkle tops of biscuits with a few grains of sea salt if using. Bake for 11 to 14 minutes or until the bottoms of the biscuits are golden brown. Serve immediately.


Deborah Dowd said...

Drop biscuits be damned! These are the old fashioned biscuits that will make your tongue slap your brains out (my dad's favorite saying!)

lalaine said...

Will these biscuits take well to reheating? I'd like to bake a bunch and keep in the freezer for weekend breakfast. I love sausage, gravy and biscuits in the morning and Pillsbury just doesn't cut it!

Thanks for sharing.

Anna said...

I know what you mean about cutting in the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter. Since my food processor is packed away, I've been forced to use either a pastry cutter or my fingers. I think the results are better. Thanks for the recipe! I think the Gold Medal self-rising flour recipe is similar, but without the added baking powder and salt since those things are "built int" to the flour. Yours look a little higher, though. So I think the extra baking powder might be a good thing. I'll try these today or tomorrow. Thanks Julie!

Julie said...

Lalaine: I'm glad you asked! I freeze and reheat biscuits like this all the time. Let them cool,then freeze. I let mine defrost at room temp, then I loosely wrap in foil and heat them up in a 300 or 325F oven. That way the outsides get crisp, just like they were freshly made.
Anna: After your post, I'm itching to try self-rising flour in a biscuit or cake just because I'm curious about the texture. There must be some differences. This recipe has plenty of leavening, which has got to help the rise, but I also make sure not to roll the dough too thin. I like huge biscuits. Of course you could always use a smaller (2.25 in) cutter for more restraint:)

Anonymous said...

i was taught to use 2 knives before my mom gave me a pastry blender. i don't get the forks. can you use that powdered buttermilk for these? thanks

Julie said...

Anonymous: I do think powdered buttermilk would work fine here. However, I've never actually used it, so I can't give you a guarantee:)

Jackie at said...

I've learned something new! I've stored pancakes in the freezer. I did not know biscuits were freezable. I love using buttermilk for biscuits. Have you tried using sour cream. It's a little bit richer but soo good.

Chef Dennis said...

those are great looking biscuits!!
being a southern boy, I do love biscuits

2friends cooking said...

Ooh love your blog.I am going to experiment with these and try ricotta? ciao 2friends

Olivia said...

Hi Julid!

I tried your buttermilk biscuit recipe last weekend and was absolutely delighted by the result. I thought you might be interested in the Team Wholegrain recipe-making competition; the prize for the best recipe is a fabulous weekend trip for two to Lesley Waters' cooking school in Dorset.

The details of the competition are as follows:
1. Create a recipe including a whole grain cereal from Nestle. Options include Cheerios, Shredded Wheat, Shreddies and Oats & More. A full list can be found at the Team Whole Grain website at
2. Write up the recipe and email it to
3. The deadline for entering the competition is the 31st of July.

We really hope you enter! Feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions