Biscuit Techniques

 

Basic-Biscuits-FullLight, tender and flaky biscuits are the result of a few simple techniques. For some experienced bakers a great biscuit is easy to achieve but for novice bakers it could become a challenge. It really doesn’t have to be difficult and as a matter of fact, when making homemade biscuits (a quick bread), one key element in the process is to simply not to do too much. That’s right; too much mixing and your biscuits may not be light enough. Too much kneading and they could become tough little hockey pucks. Not to worry; we have a step by step guide for the perfect biscuit. As far as which recipe to use, if you don’t have one in mind we do! Our favorites are Old Fashioned Biscuits (on the back of the Clabber Girl can for many years), Baking Powder Biscuits (a little more flavor and with more ingredients) and Old Fashioned Buttermilk Biscuits (wonderful flavor, tender crumb).

To make your biscuits:

Assemble your ingredients: read your recipe, understand the directions and have all ingredients on hand right next to the mixing bowl. Make sure you start with fresh ingredients; check the shelf life. Remember, when measuring dry ingredients, especially baking powder, you should use only dry utensils when measuring and replace the lid immediately afterwards. Don’t sit the baking powder can next to the sink, or by moisture.

Mix dry ingredients thoroughly before cutting in shortening/fat/butter. This is to ensure that all ingredients are incorporated evenly. Remember that you shouldn’t do too much mixing after the wet ingredients are added. In order to ensure the baking powder is incorporated evenly, this is the time to mix well.

 

Cut in shortening – many bakers choose to refrigerate their fat prior to using in biscuits or pies. To cut the shortening or butter in, you can use two knives and cut crosswise to incorporate, others use a pastry blender (preferred) because it will do so more evenly in less time. The little pockets of shortening will melt in the oven, helping to make the biscuit tender.

 

Coarse crumbs are not all completely even, and depending on the amount of shortening/butter/fat you use, the result should be something like this, below:

 

Add liquid – mix just to incorporate. Remember not to mix too much, since over-mixing will break up the little shortening beads and cause the gluten in the flour to stretch, causing the biscuits to be less tender.

 

Knead the dough – at Clabber Girl we usually knead by folding over no more than four times. Place a cup or so of flour on the board, gently pat the dough on top and sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough with your fingers; fold over once, turn over and press down gently. Do this no more than four times so that you don’t over-handle the dough.

 

Pat out the dough for rolling. Dough should be rolled to about 1/2-inch in height.

 

Cut with a biscuit cutter – make cuts close together so that you don’t have to re-roll your dough very much. This hastens your prep time and also eliminates over-handling of the dough.

 

Place cut biscuits on prepared pan. Placing them close together helps each biscuit raise a teeny bit more, and also makes the sides a little softer.

Putting your biscuits farther apart on the baking pan helps make a crust on all sides. It’s all a matter of what you prefer.

 

Bake according to recipe directions. Sometimes you are asked to brush the tops with butter before baking, which helps the tops brown and adds a little more crispness as well as flavor.

 

17 comments

  1. I am from Southeast Tennessee and we use buttermilk instead of what is called sweet milk here. Years ago, everyone used lard. Along the way, my Great Grandmother made the switch to Crisco and everyone else followed. She was a true matriarch of the family and her example was absolute. We don’t use butter in our biscuits or brush it on top. The butter is added after you pull open the layers and spread it in the middle of the biscuit. I was also taught to pinch and shape my biscuits not cut. They are not perfectly round like cut biscuits, but the taste is not changed by this process. No family member ever allowed anything but White Lily flour to come into the house at least that they let anyone know about. I just mentioned trying something different one time and my grandmother gave me a stern look followed by silence and I knew better than to say anything else. Then, she explained that she would stop cooking if I tried to “push” anything else on her. My grandmother passed two and a half years ago and my mother and I were reminiscing one day and she let me in on a little secret. She had ventured out on a limb and tried the Gold Medal flour and liked it. We had a good laugh and shared the memory of how that might have only a few years earlier started a family scandal 🙂 Biscuits are a part of our culture here along with the technique of making them. It just isn’t food, but something passed generation to generation and part of the wonderful memories I have of my family. Jeff Knight

  2. I am sending a recipe for Rich Biscuits, my grandsons tell me they taste like pie crust.

    Rich Biscuits

    2 cups flour
    2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    1/2 tsp. salt
    2 T sugar
    1/2 cup shortening (I use crisco)
    1 egg, well beaten
    1/2 cup milk

    Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Stir flour, baking powder, salt & sugar. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles fine corn meal. Add egg & milk to dry ingredients & stir lightly until flour is blended in. Turn on lightly floured board, knead about 10 strokes. Roll 3/4″ thick, cut & place on lightly greased sheet. Bake 12 minutes. Makes 9-10 biscuits

    submitted by: Virginia Wass Bigfork, MN

  3. Hello!
    I really like the idea of using buttermilk, and would love to try the Old Fashioned Buttermilk Biscuits recipe.
    Could I please ask how flour is measured for your recipes, and how much 1 cup of flour should weigh?
    Thank you for posting all these great recipes!

  4. I recently made your whole wheat biscuit recipe and it was fabulous! They rose, were tender, and didn’t require the addition of regular flour. All the characteristics of a wonderful white flour buscuit with the nutty taste of whole wheat and it’s health benefits. I’m going to try the pie crust recipe with whole wheat pastry flour next. Please keep including whole wheat recipes in your collection.

    1. Thank you for sharing! Whole wheat pastry flour has been helpful to many bakers who want the health benefits of whole grains in their regular recipes. I hope you are following Mani Niall’s column on our website and in our newsletter, since he focuses on baking with whole grains and has a lot of useful tips for bakers!

  5. Thank you for this webpage. I have been experimenting with biscuit recipes a while now and still cannot quite master the technique. I get something edible but the lightness in the center is not there or my flavor is not right. It is amazing what good a little salt can do for a biscuit recipe. I found that the salt gives the browning and a touch of the flavor. I like trying to reduce my sodium intake so I would sometimes try to use less salt, not a good idea. It seems I get lost after the milk is added and how the dough looks before I start working it. I agree I have probably worked ny dough too much. Thanks again– The ‘joy of trying” continues…

    1. What about using sea salt. I was told that the sodium is less in it and we have been using it for a little while now. Good luck.

  6. 1) Do you have a recipe for biscuits that uses oil?

    2) If you use salted butter instead of shortening, would you need to decrease the salt?

  7. Thank God for Rumford. I started craving biscuits and decided it was time to learn how to make them but they kept turning out bitter. After much trial and error I figured out it was the Argo baking powder (aluminum free)I was using. Tried Rumford this morning and my biscuits were delicious.

  8. On mornings that I make homemade buttermilk biscuits and sausage or bacon I take the leftover biscuit and put the bacon or sausage in it and wrap it in some wax paper and toss these into a gallon ziploc bag and put in the fridge. On busy mornings I can take out a wrapped biscuit and microwave it for 25 seconds and slap some jelly on it! A quick but still hmmdoaee breakfast better than anything coming out the window at the drive-thru!

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