A while back, I mentioned that I had never had good luck with biscuits. They never rose correctly and always came out tasting a little flat. Well, I’ve finally managed to live up to my name as a Southern woman, because I mastered the biscuit. But I needed to invest in a pastry cutter and take a cooking class first.
The class taught me a few important things: 1, your ingredients can never be too cold, 2, the more you handle your dough, the tougher your biscuits will be, and 3, getting the oven to the right temperature is crucial.
I’m really glad I worked my biscuit issues out. Now I can enjoy fresh biscuits with homemade jam whenever I want!
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2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, ice cold
3/4 cup very cold buttermilk
Melted butter, for brushing
Cut the butter into small cubes and place them in the freezer. Pour the buttermilk into the measuring cup and put it back in the refrigerator. Line a baking sheet with parchment or lightly grease.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Using a pastry cutter, a fork, or two knives (but not your hands!), cut the butter into the dry ingredients. Keep cutting until no large pieces remain and the dough looks a little like wet sand. Quickly stir in the buttermilk just until things look mostly moist, and dump the dough out onto a floured surface.
Trying to work the dough as little as possible, bring the dough together and then pat it out until it’s about 3/4 inch thick. Cut out 8-10 biscuits with a cutter or glass. Arrange the biscuits on the baking sheet and put the whole thing in the freezer; preheat the oven to 475°. Remove biscuits from the freezer and put them straight in the oven. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until they look golden brown. Immediately brush the tops with melted butter. Serve warm.
-Adapted from The Neelys
Notes: Dip a biscuit cutter or a glass into some flour and quickly push it straight down and bring it straight back up. Do not twist the cutter; this will keep the biscuits from rising to their full potential. After I cut about 5 or 6 biscuits, I lightly pat the dough back together to cut out a few more. Handling the dough too much not only makes for a tougher biscuit, the heat from your hands melts the butter that you worked so hard to keep cold. Make sure your oven is actually 475°. I use an oven thermometer and wait until it says the oven has reached the desired temperature, not when the oven thinks it has. You want to put very cold biscuits into a screaming hot oven. That will cause all the those little bits of butter to melt and form nice flaky layers.