Fool-Proof Buttermilk Biscuits from Scratch
When I think of classic homemade buttermilk biscuits I think buttery, flaky, and simple… but if you’re familiar with the process of making homemade biscuits you’ll know it’s not always quite so simple. Once you start looking for the perfect buttermilk biscuit recipe you’ll find yourself caught in the middle of many arguments: shortening vs. butter, self-rising flour vs. all-purpose, pastry cutter vs. food processor…
While on the search for the perfect fool-proof buttermilk biscuits from scratch, I studied more than 20 different recipes, watched more videos than I can remember, and thought way more about biscuits than any one person should. My goal was to develop a fool-proof recipe that was delicious, flaky, relatively simple, and made with ingredients you most likely already have on hand, and this recipe ended up being one of my new favorites.
Canned biscuits are easy and all over Pinterest, but if you’ve never made homemade biscuits before I dare you to make these and taste the difference. Don’t be nervous, I’m here to guide you step by step.
Buttermilk is (of course) the key ingredient in buttermilk biscuits, but I never have it on hand and when I do buy it, half the bottle ends up going bad before I can use it. I chose to use a buttermilk substitute instead of the real thing, adding a small amount of vinegar to milk and letting it sit for about 10 minutes.
Most biscuit recipes call for unsalted butter, but a recipe that calls for unsalted butter also calls for me to make an additional trip to the grocery store, which I’m not interested in. If you would prefer to use unsalted butter just add 1 teaspoon of table salt to the flour mixture.
I also chose to skip shortening in this recipe, which is really just a matter of personal preference. Of course biscuits aren’t a health food, but I generally try not to use shortening unless absolutely necessary.
The cardinal rule of buttermilk biscuit making is don’t overwork the dough, but it is possible to under-work it. Southern Living suggests that 15 stirs is the perfect number of times to stir your dough, but because the dough starts to really come together at the end and becomes a little difficult to stir, I say 15-18.
If rule #1 of making buttermilk biscuits is don’t overwork the dough then rule #2 is don’t twist the cutter. For some reason twisting the cutter just feels right, but when you do the edges of the dough are sealed, preventing maximum rise.
Most people use a pastry cutter to combine the butter with the dry ingredients in a buttermilk biscuit recipe; some people use a food processor. I say skip them both and use a cheese grater instead. It’s the easiest way to easily distribute the fat into the flour mixture and keep the butter cold at the same time. This recipe requires a whole stick of frozen butter, but only 6 out of 8 tablespoons go directly into the dough. The reason you don’t want to cut the 2 tablespoons off of the stick before grating is that the easiest way to grate the butter is to keep the stick whole, peel back the wrapping to the beginning of the 7 tablespoon mark and grate it down until there are only 2 tablepoons left. It keeps your hands clean and keeps you from slicing your fingers on the cheese grater.
Some argue that you must roll your buttermilk biscuit dough out with a rolling pin because the heat of your hands will warm up the butter, and your biscuits won’t be flaky. Others say you must use your hands because using a rolling pin will activate too much gluten and your biscuits will be tough. I personally prefer to use my hands to press out and shape the dough. It’s much easier to manipulate the dough and I think freezing the dry ingredients and butter makes up for any added heat from your hands.
The baking time on this recipe can vary depending on what size cutter you choose to use. Today I chose to use my 2.25 inch diameter biscuit cutter from my Norpro 3490 Scallop Biscuit and Cookie Cutter set. But I’ve always had good luck using my favorite all-purpose round cutters from the Ateco 5357 11 piece round cutting set. You can choose to make your biscuits larger or smaller in diameter, based on the cutter you use. Just adjust the baking time as needed, remembering that the most important indicator is if the biscuits are lightly browned on top.
I love to serve these with homemade jam, or as a side dish for a roasted chicken or turkey with gravy. Honestly, they’re so delicious you can serve them however you want!
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, + additional for rolling, etc
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup milk, cold
- 4 teaspoons white vinegar
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) of salted butter, frozen
- In a mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
- Using a box cheese grater placed over a piece of parchment paper, grate 6 of the 8 tablespoons of frozen butter, reserve the remaining 2 tablespoons for later (no need to keep it cold).
- Add the grated butter to the flour mixture and gently combine using your hands. Place the bowl of flour mixture in the freezer.
- Measure 1 cup of milk into a bowl and add the vinegar. Let it sit for 10 minutes.
- After the 10 minutes, remove the bowl from the freezer, make a well in the butter and flour mixture and pour the milk mixture into the well. Gently stir the mixture with a wooden spoon about 15-18 times until the dough is fully combined, but still slightly sticky and lumpy.
- Place dough on a lightly floured surface and sprinkle a little additional flour on top of the dough.
- With floured hands, gently pat the dough into a rectangle about 5.5 inches by 11.5 inches and ½ inch thick.
- Fold the dough over onto itself, then pat out that rectangle to its previous size. Repeat this process 4 more times (5 folds total). Cut biscuit shapes using a 2.25 inch diameter cutter, dipped in flour. Reshape leftover scraps to cut out more biscuits.
- Place the biscuits almost touching on a jelly roll pan lined with parchment paper and bake at 475 degrees on the center rack of the oven for about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned on top. While biscuits are cooking, melt remaining butter in the microwave. When biscuits are done remove from the oven, brush with melted butter, and serve.