If you’re looking for clues to a winning homemade biscuit recipe, you won’t find them in the ingredients list. That should always be simple. The real secret for making biscuits with crispy, golden brown tops, tender pastry, and too many flaky layers to count lies in the technique. And this easy biscuit recipe from former BA staffer Claire Saffitz is all about technique. (Catch Claire making the biscuits.)
It all hinges on keeping your prep time short and fast so your dairy stays as chilly as possible. This allows for “little shelves” of butter, as Claire calls them, to sit between the dry ingredients so those coveted layers can form as the biscuits bake. Using a food processor speeds things up—and keeps your warm hands out of the way—helping your cold butter from reaching room temperature. Next, there’s the swift addition of buttermilk (which is tangier and more acidic than whole milk) to the flour mixture, aiding in tenderness, browning, and lift. Claire suggests using a fork over a pastry cutter to prevent overmixing, followed by a brief kneading of the shaggy dough right in the mixing bowl. The final step is a form of low-key lamination wherein the dough is cut into four squares, stacked, and then rolled out again on lightly floured surface to achieve even more flaky layers.
Many recipes call for a biscuit cutter (essentially a large cookie cutter) to create rounds, but Claire prefers to do something “a little controversial.” She cuts the slab of biscuit dough into squares with a knife (almost like a scone), which means no extra equipment—and fewer scraps. Finally, she likes to place biscuits on a prepared baking sheet lined with parchment paper in the freezer for a few minutes before baking to make sure the butter is extra cold before baking.
These biscuits can lean sweet with a bit of sugar sprinkled on top or savory when paired up with pepper and salted butter. Or take them from side dish to main course by serving them with sausage gravy, curry gravy, or fried chicken for a full-on sandwich vibe. They’re best the day they’re baked, but you can store them for up to two days in an airtight container if you somehow manage to have leftovers.
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