Flaky and buttery, the perfect biscuit will lend itself to both sweet and savory applications. And it never hurts to have some pro tips.
My friend Kevin lives in Atlanta, but his family hails from Tennessee. As a bona fide good old boy, this means that he has an old school family recipe for old-fashioned baking powder & buttermilk biscuits. Every time he made a batch with his little girl, he’d email me a picture of the high and flakey results. The problem is, that I could never get my biscuits to rise to such enviable heights, and thus his emails served as nothing more than taunting reminders of my failure.
That is, until I perfected my own recipe and finally nailed it (and went on to create a pretty amazing version of biscuits and gravy that uses smoked brisket…).
The perfect biscuits, I would come to find, are a delicate balance of recipe and technique. There are a few key tips I learned along the way:
Best Biscuit pro tip #1: You must have a pastry cutter.
This thing will make or break your biscuits. You use it to cut the fat into the flour, and it does so quickly without allowing the butter to get warm (cold butter is another golden rule of biscuit making!).
Best Biscuit pro tip #2: “sand texture” is not really a thing
When researching biscuit recipes, I read over and over that you should cut the fat in until ‘the mixture resembles sand’ or ‘wet sand’. So here’s the thing. It never actually ends up looking like sand. It just looks like, well, exactly as it appears in the picture above.
Best Biscuit pro tip #3: Your mix should be very dry.
My buddy Casey suggested this tip after seeing a pic of my mix on instagram, and I can’t thank him enough. See, I was adding too much liquid, which made the biscuits dense and heavy. If your consistency is right, when you pour your mix onto the board, it’ll look very crumbly (as above) but will come together as you knead it.
Best Biscuit pro tip #4: Don’t twist your cutter.
It’s a tiny detail that makes a big difference. Most people will be tempted to twist the cutter once it’s pushed into the dough, but don’t do it! Just cut straight down, and back up again. If you twist the cutter you seal the edges and prevent the biscuit from rising. This also holds true for with mini biscuits, which make for awesome appetizers, and that’s why I keep a bunch of different sized cutters on hand.
Best Biscuit pro tip #5: Stack your biscuits close.
Whether using a cast iron skillet or a baking tray, lay your biscuits so they are touching sides and all connected. This helps them rise higher, as they provide support for one another as they bake – kind of like a doughy shoulder to lean on!