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.