How to Make a Perfect Biscuit

by Jimmie

Making homemade biscuits is a mix of art and science. Here are tips, tricks, and tools for making fluffy biscuits from scratch.

Anytime you make something from scratch, you are choosing a healthier option than processed foods. So if you love restaurant biscuits (which are normally prepared from frozen biscuits) or canned biscuits, try making your own. They are very inexpensive and truly worth the extra time and mess involved.

Even if you have failed at making homemade biscuits before, try again with these tips handed down from my mom.

Think Making Homemade Biscuits is Too Hard?

With the Right Tools and a Few Techniques, Biscuits are Easy
Perfect Biscuits
Perfect Biscuits

Ingredients Matter

For Fluffy Biscuits

Your biscuit ingredients really matter. Here are three areas that I find are most important when making biscuits.

1. Baking Powder

One of the most important parts of a fluffy biscuit is the baking powder. Make sure your baking powder has not expired. If it is "dead" your biscuits will not rise. Instead, they will be flat and hard. 

HOW TO TEST BAKING POWDER

Add ½ cup of hot water to 1 teaspoon of baking powder. Does it bubble? Then your baking powder is still active. If there is no reaction, your baking powder is useless. Throw it away.

2. The Fat

Originally biscuits were made with lard, or rendered pig fat. That is still a great way to make fluffy, flaky biscuits. Another healthy alternative is to use real butter. (Contrary to much nutritional advice, natural animal fats are not bad for you.)

3. The Milk

Use whole milk or buttermilk for the best results with homemade biscuits. Buttermilk not only adds a wonderful flavor to your biscuits, it also adds a delicate texture. If you don't normally keep buttermilk on hand, a great alternative is buttermilk powder. Mix it with the amount of water called for in your recipe. I normally mix it with milk for even more flavor and tenderness.

However, you can simply add the buttermilk powder in with your dry ingredients and proceed with the recipe as normal. 

Buttermilk Powder

Store in the Refrigerator
Saco Cultured Buttermilk Blend, 16-Ounce Canister (Pack of 3)

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Buttermilk Biscuits

Baking Powder Biscuit
Baking Powder Biscuit

Dough Blender

Also Called a Pastry Cutter
Cuisinart CTG-00-DB Dough Blender
$18.00  $9.99

Mixing Your Biscuit Dough

A Critically Important Step

How you mix up your biscuit dough is very important for the texture of your biscuits and is the reason for most biscuit failures.

Rule #1 Use a dough blender.

Using a dough blender tool helps with the mixing. It is faster than using any other tool ensures that the fat is mixed into the flour in a uniform way. Some people call the dough blender a pastry cutter which seems to be the wrong name. You are not cutting the pastry but cutting fat into the flour.

Rule #2 Do not over mix the dough.

Once you have added your milk, there is a danger of over mixing. (Don't worry about this when you are cutting in the fat. There is no danger until you add the milk.)

Mix only until the milk is mostly incorporated into the flour. Do not try to mix out all the lumps or beat the dough. (Horrors! A gentle hand is necessary.)

Remember that you are going to gently knead the dough a few turns on a floured counter top, so leave some mixing to do during that process. Once most of the dough has formed a large ball, turn it out onto the counter top. There may be bits that have not mixed in. That is fine. Dump them on top of your ball, and gently work them in.

Rule #3 Briefly knead the dough.

Knead the biscuit dough for only about three to four turns -- 1. push & fold, turn. 2. push and fold, turn. Do this only enough to make the dough a solid mass with no dry spots. 

Pastry Blender/ Pastry Cutter
Pastry Blender/ Pastry Cutter

What Characteristic Makes a Perfect Biscuit?

What is Most Important to You in a Biscuit

Rolling and Cutting the Biscuit Dough

Once your dough has been cut, mixed, and kneaded, you are ready to cut out the biscuits. More warnings are necessary here.

Leave Your Dough Thick

Do not pat out your dough too thin. This is a huge biscuit blunder and results in wimpy, flat biscuits. If you like tall and fluffy biscuits, leave your dough thick on the counter top -- 1 inch thick!

There is no need to literally roll the dough. Just press it with your hands until it is the right thickness.

I find that most recipes are geared towards thinner biscuits. In other words, if a recipe says it makes eight biscuits, I can only make five of my thick ones, so I normally double any recipe.

If you really want harder biscuits with more crust and less of a fluffy inside, then pat your dough down to ½ inch. 

Use a Biscuit Cutter

Of course a drinking glass will work, but a special biscuit cutter is easier to use and easier to clean as well.

How to Cut Out Biscuits
How to Cut Out Biscuits

Practice Makes Perfect

Keep Trying

Once you learn how to make perfect biscuits, you have a good sense for how wet the dough needs to be, how much to mix it, how thick to pat it out, etc. It takes many batches of biscuits to get to that point. so keep trying! A basket of piping hot, fresh, homemade buttermilk biscuits is worth the effort!

Buttermilk Biscuit Sandwich
Buttermilk Biscuit Sandwich
Updated: on 02/24/2012, Jimmie
 
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Mira on 08/19/2012

Now pinned to my Favorite Recipes Board at Pinterest :-)

Mira on 08/14/2012

Hi Jimmie, I loved your article, but where is the actual recipe, with the ingredients and their amounts? :-)

nightbear on 01/27/2012

Beautiful job, Homemade biscuits are worth the effort and you make it look easy.

BrendaReeves on 01/24/2012

I knew all of this except for the dead baking powder. I guess that's why my last biscuits didn't turn out good. Thanks for the tip.

Dustytoes on 01/24/2012

I've never heard of buttermilk powder but I am adding it to my grocery list. I seldom make biscuits because good breads are my dieting downfall, but your advice is sound and your photos make my tummy grumble!

kinworm on 01/24/2012

I voted for buttery flavor because the taste matters more than how it looks to me. Your biscuits look exactly like what I would call scones. I make these plain, chocolate flavored with cocoa powder and also with raisins and sultanas. Yummy on all counts.



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