Buttermilk Biscuits are a variety of biscuits using cultured buttermilk as the primary liquid. Other biscuits use milk, or a combination of milk and cream, or powdered milk and water as the liquid. Since buttermilk is an acidic ingredient, typically an increased amount of baking soda is used, and baking powder is reduced or eliminated. This recipe is for one variety of Southern-style (U.S.) hand-rolled biscuits, which are formed in the hands as opposed to being rolled and cut, but the shaping style is optional. These biscuits are incredibly light and fluffy.
- 2c Self-raising flour, sifted, preferably low-protein biscuit flour
- 1/4t baking soda
- 1/4t salt
- 1T sugar (optional)
- 1/3c shortening
- 1c plus 2T cultured buttermilk
- 1/2c All-purpose flour
- 1/4c butter, melted (optional)
Makes 12 biscuits (2 inch diameter before baking, 2.5-3 inch diameter after baking.)
- Move oven rack to highest position, and pre-heat to 450 degrees F.
- Grease the bottom of a biscuit or cookie sheet with a shortening or butter.
- Mix sifted flour, soda, salt, and sugar (if using) in a medium or large bowl.
- Using a pastry blender or fork, cut in shortening until evenly distributed, with no flakes of shortening bigger than a green pea remaining. It will look like cornmeal, only coarser.
- Using a large spoon, fold in 1/2 c buttermilk, then another 1/2 c to moisten the flour evenly. Stir only long enough to moisten the mixture sufficiently. If flour remains after a few stirs, add the remaining 2T buttermilk.
- Let mixture rest and rise 3-5 minutes. The mixture should be quite moist, but not pourable. If the mixture seems dry, add more buttermilk.
- Shape biscuits by hand using the method described in the Notes.
- Place on greased biscuit sheet with sides touching
- Delicately brush generously with melted butter.
- Bake for 12-16 minutes, depending on the biscuit size, until tops and bottoms are nicely browned.
- Serve immediately with softened butter. See Notes for additional ideas.
Notes, tips and variations
- To hand-roll biscuits:
- Pour one half cup all-purpose flour in a plate. - Assuming you are right-handed, grab a teaspoon or so of the all-purpose flour in your left hand, and make sure your inner palm is mostly covered. - With your right hand, using a soup spoon, scoop about about 3 T of the biscuit mixture in your left hand. - Working over the flour plate, Grab some flour with your right hand and sprinkle on top of the scoop of biscuit mixture. (The wet mixture will not stick to your hands if enough flour is used.) - Begin gently tossing the biscuit back and forth between your floured hands until the outside of the biscuit is coated lightly with flour. The excess flour will fall off your hands back into the plate. - Gently shape the dough into a fairly smooth ball, place on biscuit sheet with sides touching, and press to flatten slightly - about 1" high. Grab a little more flour and continue with the next biscuit.
- If your hands become sticky when rolling biscuits, wash and dry your hands and use more flour.
- If the dough isn't moist enough to stick to your unfloured hands, the mixture isn't moist enough for this style of biscuit. The biscuits will taste fine, but will not be as fluffy.
- Use all-purpose flour for rolling to avoid tasting chemicals from self-rising flour. Those chemicals would not have been sufficiently moistened on the outside of a biscuit.
- If cultured buttermilk is not available, similar results can be obtained by mixing 2T lemon juice with enough milk to make a cup, and letting stand 10 minutes.
- Biscuits do not need to be kneaded. In fact, if you knead the biscuits, you will likely incorporate too much flour to get a high, fluffy biscuit.
- Lard or butter may be used instead of shortening.
- If self-rising flour is not available, substitute all-purpose flour and add baking powder and salt. An alternative is to add baking soda and cream of tarter. If desired, use only baking soda as leavening. This is acceptable since the buttermilk is acidic.
- The preferred flour is Southern "biscuit" flour, a soft wheat flour with a protein content of 2g per 1/4 cup. Non-Southern flours, at 3g protein per 1/4 cup, are acceptable.
- Low protein flours require less buttermilk than higher protein flours. You will have to adjust the liquid in the recipe according to the protein content of the flour, the type of fat used (butter is part liquid), the humidity of the flour, and the desired texture of the final biscuit. In general, the mixture you roll should be quite moist, but not pourable.
- Do not skip the resting step, as the flour needs a brief period to accept the moisture.
- The sugar and salt may be dissolved into the buttermilk if desired. The sugar may be omitted altogether.
- Cream may be substituted for 1/4c of the buttermilk.
- For a traditional Southern topping, mix equal parts softened butter and molasses.
- Butter biscuits immediately so the butter melts. Always used softened or melted butter as refrigerated butter is too hard and will tear the biscuit. Softened butter is best.
- If you are unsure if a biscuit is done, use an instant read thermometer and remove when internal temperature reaches 205-210 degrees F.
- If using a convection oven with the fan on, the oven rack may be in the center position.
Other mixing / shaping methods
- Some cooks prefer this method of mixing:
- Mix dry ingredients and place in a large bowl. Make a well in the center. - Put all the shortening in the center of the flour. - Add 3/4 c buttermilk, and using one hand, cream the buttermilk and shortening until mostly smooth. - Gradually pull in flour from the sides, until the appropriate the flour has been incorporated. - Add more buttermilk and flour as needed. - Shape by hand or roll out on floured surface and cut with biscuit cutter, dipping cutter in all-purpose flour when cutting each biscuit.
- Thin biscuits can be made with the same recipe, except you will use less buttermilk and roll out to 1/2" on a floured board. Cut with a floured biscuit cutter.
- To save time, using a spatula, spread out all the biscuit mixture onto the pan, and with floured hands, pat the "cake" to an even 1" height. Bake as usual.
- Instead of brushing the butter on the biscuits before baking, you can pour the butter slowly over each biscuit, letting the excess drip between the biscuits. Use your fingers to evenly coat each biscuit top with butter.
- Biscuits are best consumed immediately. However, left-over biscuits can be heated or toasted. Buttering immediately helps for a better-tasting left-over biscuit.
- Do not use bread flour (protein content 4g per 1/4 cup) as the biscuits will not be light and fluffy.