December 27, 2010

Homemade Biscuits

I first attempted homemade biscuits in junior high school.  We must have been given an assignment to make biscuits at home, because I remember pulling the hard, dense discs from the oven & my dad teasing me about how horrible they were.

That episode was so scarring that I didn't try to make biscuits again until last January. While those biscuits were crispy & buttery, they were still pretty dense. I wanted something flakier and fluffier.

Last week, I decided to finally try homemade biscuits again. I figured that since I've mastered pie crust and am more confident with doughs in general, biscuits would be no big deal. I was wrong. I rolled out the dough too thin (though, the recipe I was following said to roll it out to 1/4 inch thick), and the biscuits didn't really rise. They were flat and crispy, like biscuit cookies.

A complete failure. I was so embarrassed. Thankfully, my Twitter friends were more than helpful with their biscuit tips & recipe links. On Thursday, I mentioned my biscuit disaster while I was working at Kitchen Conservatory, and Anne showed me how it's done (her recipe is below).

Here's what I learned:

  • Make sure your baking powder is fresh. Just to be safe, I bought new powder before I tried biscuit-making again.
  • Use White Lily flour, which is made with soft winter wheat and has less protein than all-purpose flour.
  • Don't knead the dough smooth or roll it out. Instead, mix the dough until just blended & pat it out before cutting. It should be scraggly looking.
  • Cut the biscuits out with an actual biscuit-cutter, not the rim of a drinking glass. A glass is too thick and will seal the edges of the biscuits so that they won't rise properly.
  • Chill the dough before cutting & baking. Cold dough + hot oven = flaky biscuits.

Flaky, Buttery Biscuits

makes 8-10 biscuits

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 eggs
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Mix together the flour, baking powder, & salt in a large bowl. 
  • Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour until the butter is the size of dimes. 
  • Whisk together the cream & eggs in a small bowl (reserve this bowl when emptied) and stir into the dough with a wooden spoon until just combined. 
  • Pat the dough out to one-inch thick on a lightly-floured surface.
  • Using a floured biscuit cutter, cut the dough into rounds and place on a lined sheet pan. 
  • Brush the tops of the biscuits with the cream/egg mixture that's left in the bowl. 
  • Bake until risen & browned, about 10 minutes. 
Next time, I'll try the Cook's Illustrated recipe for tall, fluffy biscuits...which I think would go better with sausage gravy. 


Every Little Thing said...

Great tips! I haven't attempted biscuits yet but any breads are kind of scary to me so it might be a while :)

Jonathan said...

Where do you buy your flour locally? Schnucks has some stuff depending on location but I've never seen White Lily flour around here.

I have yet to master biscuits yet either, although the tip about the glass sealing the edges is quite interesting. I guess I have to pony up for a real biscuit cutter ...

Kelly @ Barbaric Gulp! said...


I bought White Lily flour at Schnucks. I live in Alton, IL, so if they have it here, I'd assume they'd have it at some of the Schnucks in S. Louis.