Here’s a hard-working southern biscuit recipe that’s a cinch to remember, uncommonly flaky and buttery, and easy to augment in order to create delicious variations. I’m a city girl, but I can slay country biscuits. When you see how easy these are to make, you’ll have Aunt Bessie Mae green with envy.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour and a bit more on the side for dusting
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons cold butter
- 1 cup whole milk (or half & half or cream)
- Preheat oven to 425. Of course, keep your particular oven in mind. My oven uses gas and runs a little hot, so I dropped it down to 400. Use butter or oil to lightly coat a cookie sheet or baking pan.
- Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl. Using a mandolin-type grater, grate the cold butter into the dry ingredients. Cut the butter into the flour mixture using a fork or a pastry cutter. It should look crumbly.
- Add milk and stir with a fork until it forms a rough ball.
- Remove the dough from the bowl (flour your hands to make this easier) and place on a floured surface (I used a cookie sheet with shallow sides). Don’t skimp on the flour at this step. It will keep your dough from sticking to you and the surface.
- Now here’s where the magic happens: Pat the dough down into a rough rectangle, about an inch thick. Fold it over – as if you’re folding a towel – and gently pat it down again. Repeat this a couple of times. This action creates your layers. Don’t over knead or over work, but don’t be afraid to get your knuckles in there.
- Cover the dough with a paper towel and let it to rest for 15 minutes. (Use this time to wash up the utensils from the previous steps!)
- After it rests, gently knead the dough some more, until you have a rectangle that is about 10 inches by 6 inches, or about 1/2 inch thick.
- Cut the dough into biscuits using a glass or biscuit cutter. DO NOT twist your glass or your cutter because this smashes the edges of the biscuit and keeps it from rising. Place biscuits with edges touching (this helps them help each other rise) on your pre-greased cookie sheet or baking pan. (Make a “drop” biscuit with your scraps, like the little one below!) I used three different sized biscuit cutters for the ones in the picture below, that’s why they are not a unified size.
- Bake until golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes depending on your oven. (See my ugly little “drop” biscuit?)
Just look at those layers!
Bring on the butter, jam, jelly, gravy, honey, syrup…whatever!
These are so versatile. You can add sugar to them. Or use buttermilk. Or add cheese and herbs and bacon – oh my! It’s a basic recipe that tastes buttery and light all by itself, but I know it would be great with some creative additions.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND: Today was my first stab at biscuits and it turned out fabulous. I have always been intimidated by baking, but I wasn’t gonna let biscuits punk me. And I was successful due to a bunch of wonderful bakers out there who helped me slay this dragon.
The grated cold butter tip came from Southern Living magazine and the “folding” of the dough came from Sam Sifton of NYTimes Cooking. I can’t take credit for those. I’m just glad I saw them! They worked!
And if you want a very good, all-around biscuit recipe, try Corinne Dunbar’s from Creole Feast: Fifty Master Chefs of New Orleans Reveal Their Secrets.
I researched about 20 different southern biscuit recipes from all over (from celebrity chefs to the most obscure cooks) and made a list of what I thought was good and what I thought wasn’t. Most were just variations on a theme: flour, fat, liquid. The easiest recipes with the fewest ingredients always caught my eye (because I was scared!), but I just couldn’t believe that a three-ingredient biscuit would turn out well. I could be wrong. Maybe all you really need is flour, a fat and a liquid, but baking powder made me feel like it was “real” baking, so I went with it.
I don’t like sugar in my biscuits (or cornbread), so that’s why it’s not there even though lots of recipes call for it. I do like a fairly buttery and salty biscuit, so I used salted butter and sea salt. The beauty of this recipe – and biscuits in general – is that you can “do what you wanna'” and still make something great. So change anything that doesn’t feel right to you.
But most of all, I hope you enjoy them!