I have LONG loved buttermilk biscuits. Seriously. I have, on multiple occasions, gone to Popeye’s just to get two or three of their biscuits, with a side of grape jelly to top ’em off. Yes, I was on the receiving end of many weird looks, but I didn’t care. As long as that biscuit was nice, hot, and flaky, I was happy.
Biscuit-eating, for me, has always been an enjoyable experience. Biscuit-making, on the other hand…not so much.
I’ve always used the classic recipe for self-rising flour biscuits. The taste has always been fine, light and fluffy like a biscuit is supposed to be. But the shape…let’s put it nicely and say that my first few biscuits looked like misshapen hockey pucks. They were nothing like the biscuits I can make now, which look like these…
See that height and those flaky layers? My first biscuit batches lacked those severely.
But I asked myself, constantly, what I was doing wrong. I used cold fat and cold buttermilk, I didn’t over-work my dough, so why on God’s green earth were my biscuits so f*#cking ugly? Well, I found the answer when I stumbled upon this YouTube video by Baker Bettie (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lygxye_ooV8&t=411s).
Not only was I completely forming the dough wrong, I was using way too much of a rough hand. And I’m sure many of you have probably been making the same mistakes.
Why do self-rising flour biscuits fail?
We need a recipe to start, right? And there are a LOT of them online.
The problem with a lot of biscuit recipes on the Internet is that, while the measurements are always correct, the directions are not always very clear, especially if you’re a beginner. They always say, “cut the butter into the flour, mix in the buttermilk gently, roll the dough flat, cut with a biscuit cutter and bake”. But that “rolling the dough” part was always where I got stuck. I’d flour my hands, pat the dough out, cut it with a biscuit cutter, and bake it on a sheet pan like I was baking cookies. The dough was always so sticky, flat, and misshapen. And I was always disappointed with the result of my biscuits.
Had I found a recipe that perfectly described Baker Bettie’s method, in detail, I could have saved myself so many biscuit-making catastrophes! But, as they say, don’t cry over ugly biscuits. Dust yourself off, and try again!
What do we need for self-rising flour biscuits?
As intimidating as biscuits may be, they really only require three simple ingredients:
- Self-rising flour: This is flour with baking powder and a small amount of salt already added. I use White Lily self-rising flour (https://www.whitelily.com/products/traditional-flour/enriched-bleached-self-rising-flour). It’s the cream of the crop, and you can find it pretty much everywhere.
- Cold, unsalted butter: Keyword here: COLD. Cold as f*#k. Seriously, seriously cold; even semi-frozen. I like to use the large holes of a cheese grater to shred my butter on a plate, cover it with plastic wrap, and place it in the freezer for at least two hours. We must use very cold butter because we want to prevent the butter from melting before it goes into the oven. If that happens, the biscuits will be flat and tough. I cannot stress this enough: use VERY COLD butter.
- Cold buttermilk: It ain’t buttermilk biscuits without buttermilk, right? We’re using it for tang, flavor, and moisture. I suggest letting your buttermilk sit in the freezer for about an hour. We want it to be cold, but not frozen.
How to handle buttermilk biscuit dough
Remember what I said before, about this part always being where I got stuck? Well, no more!
To create flaky layers and tall biscuits, remember this: fold and turn.
After you’ve gently combined your buttermilk with your flour, place the dough on a lightly-floured surface. Then, flour your hands, and pat the dough into one, cohesive shape. We use flour here because the dough is quite sticky.
Now, take that dough ball (more like a dough oval, really), and gently pat it out to about 1 inch thick. Fold the dough in half. Next, rotate the dough, pat it out again, and fold once more. And repeat.
Baker Bettie suggests doing this about six times. This gentle process creates layers in our self-rising flour biscuits. When you are finished, the dough should be less sticky, and you should be able to easily cut into it with a biscuit cutter.
If you’re a visual learner, I’ve included Baker Bettie’s video below. Pay close attention to how she works her biscuit dough.
Other Tips for Buttermilk Biscuits
- Keep everything cold: I not only chill the butter and buttermilk, but my mixing bowl, my pastry cutter, and my biscuit cutter. I even chilled my flour for about 30 minutes, a trick I learned from Sally over at Sally’s Baking Addiction.
- Don’t twist the biscuit cutter: Cut straight up and down into your biscuit dough with your cutter. Do not twist.
- Don’t treat them like cookies: When I first started baking biscuits, I would bake them on a sheet pan spaced apart from one another. Don’t do this. Now, I bake them in a square cake pan with them so close together that they are actually touching. This way, they rise more.
- Preheat your oven properly: The oven has got to be HOT (450 degrees Fahrenheit, to be exact). Let the oven heat up well enough.
Now, go forth and make your biscuits! I really hope you guys are feeling confident with a clear understanding of the process!
Self-Rising Flour Biscuits
- Pastry cutter
- 2 inch biscuit cutter
- 2 cups (240 grams) self-rising flour chilled in the freezer for 30 minutes
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter shredded with a cheese grater and chilled in the freezer for at least 2 hours
- 3/4 cup buttermilk chilled in the freezer for at least one hour
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9×9 inch square baking pan generously with butter.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine flour and shreds of cold, unsalted butter. Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour, until the mixture resembles small peas or coarse meal.
- Next, pour in the cold buttermilk. Use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to gently combine the ingredients. Do not overwork the dough. It may seem like there is not enough liquid, but the dough should be shaggy and sticky.
- Place the dough onto a lightly-floured surface. The dough should be very cold to the touch. Flour your hands, and pat the mixture into one, cohesive piece of dough. Then, press the dough down into a slab that is about 1 inch thick. Fold the dough in half, rotate it on the surface, and repeat the process. Baker Bettie recommends doing this process six times to create flaky and fluffy layers in the biscuits.
- Use a biscuit cutter to cut out about 4 biscuits. Place them in the prepared baking pan. Then, press the scraps together and cut out about 4 more biscuits; place those in the baking pan, as well. Don't spread them apart in the pan. They should be close enough that they are touching.
- Bake in the oven for about 12-15 minutes, or until lightly golden on top.
- Serve warm topped with butter, jam, or honey. Enjoy!
- A 1/4 cup unsalted butter is half of a stick.Â
- I learned to make biscuits this way by watching Baker Bettie’s YouTube video. Check out her other work when you have the chance!
- You will definitely need both a pastry cutter and a biscuit cutter for this recipe. You can find both at Walmart, Target, or on Amazon for a pretty reasonable price.
- If you make these biscuits, be sure to tag #samarafromscratch on Instagram so I can see your work!