Biscuits Are on the Rise
Rolling the perfect recipe
Crisp on the outside and moist and flaky inside, the biscuit is a culinary icon that has gained the esteem of bread lovers far beyond Southern borders. The rustic wooden pedestal, Juliska Country Estate "Reindeer Games" party plates, the horn and silver spreader, the French bread board and the Juliska berry embroidered ruby napkin are available at Cottage and Vine.
Photography by Jeff Amberg
When fresh-baked biscuits are passed at the Southern dinner table, guests are cordially invited to “take two and butter them while they’re hot.”
The popular cliché hints at the South’s partiality for hot breads — a cornerstone of the region’s superb cuisine. Crisp on the outside and moist and flaky inside, the biscuit is the best known of the genre. It’s a culinary icon that has gained the esteem of bread lovers far beyond Southern borders.
In the “hot bread belt,” biscuits were once a symbol of plenty, particularly for colonial families who could afford to serve laborious, time-consuming beaten biscuits — the forerunner of the modern biscuit.
By the late 1800s, “risen biscuits” had become the holy grail of bread making. Southern, water-powered stone mills were producing bolted white flour (sifted through cloth) from soft, red winter wheat — the kind best suited for biscuits. With the introduction of chemical leavenings and a plentiful supply of lard and clabber (soured milk), homemade biscuits graced every table. They could be mixed and baked quickly — an advantage in the sultry South.
An article in the 19th century American Miller noted, “One of our best-known Southern statesman says, ‘The difference in Yankee Doodle and Dixie is cold bread and a hot biscuit.”
It continued, “ … according to medical authorities of the past, the South ought to be depopulated by this time, killed by its hot bread.” Later it was admitted that Southerners were flourishing.
Northern social workers reported in the early 1900s that in several Southern states, 90 out of every 100 barrels of flour sold was self-rising — an indication of the biscuit’s importance. A wooden biscuit bowl, a rolling pin and a well-seasoned cast iron skillet were standard equipment in nearly every kitchen.
The Ideal Biscuit
Biscuits come in all manner of sizes, shapes and personalities. Most people favor the kind made by their mother or a grandmother. The ideal biscuit is a matter of personal choice. Some folks like mile-high biscuits; others want more spread. Should the dough be rolled and cut; pinched and hand-shaped; or dropped from an ice-cream scoop? Do you prefer the flavor of butter or lard? Elegant appetizer-size biscuits are popular in South Carolina, but oversized biscuits have plenty of fans too.
Traveling the Biscuit Trail
The soft Southern biscuit is a direct lineal descendant of Latin panis biscoctus (“bread twice baked”) from the Middle Ages; a bread that tracks back to ancient Rome. The dry, unleavened bread — similar to hardtack — was a military staple during sea voyages and long campaigns.
The indestructible, keep-forever flatbread evolved into many variations. Some remained rustic; others became more refined. In France and Britannia, it was raised to culinary respectability in the form of small, sweet or unsweetened, portable cakes.
Many were collectively called biscuits, the equivalent of our modern cookies. The colonists initially used the British word “biscuit” for the small, handheld treats and also for crackers. It was phased out during the struggle for independence for the Dutch word koekje (“little cake”), which was Anglicized into “cookie.” The word “biscuit” was reassigned to the small, unsweetened quick bread we cherish today.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and for a while, the British meaning for “biscuit” persisted. In 1898, America’s National Biscuit Company, renamed Nabisco, produced Uneeda Biscuits — the first packaged cracker not purchased loose from a cracker barrel.
Use of the words biscuit and cracker seem muddled at times, but that's the way the cookie crumbled! To confuse matters further, in Northeast Scotland and Guernsey, buns made with butter and sugar are referred to as “soft biscuits.” Some culinary historians hypothesize that the Scottish bun is the name-origin of America’s biscuit-bread.
Biscuits That Can’t Be Beat!
In British-influenced colonial cookbooks, biscuits still resembled thick crackers. The crumbly trail to America’s fluffy hot baking powder biscuit began with the beaten biscuit—the aristocrat of the bread family and pride of the colonial table. Harriott Pinckney Horry of Hampton Plantation near Charleston wrote about the unleavened biscuit in her personal receipt book of 1770. The University of South Carolina Press published the journal as A Colonial Plantation Cookbook in 1984. Author Sarah Elliot writes in Mrs. Elliot’s Housewife (1870), “In Carolina, few tables for supper or breakfast are set, without these biscuits.” Mary Middleton Rutledge Fogg’s favorite cookbook, The Cook’s Own Book (1832), includes a recipe too.
In contrast to today’s alleged perils of over-kneading biscuit dough, in the olden days, stiff, unleavened dough was beaten and folded 30 minutes — longer if company was coming. It required elbow grease, patience and a heavy rolling pin, or flat-end hammer, or the back of ax to produce a smooth, sufficiently blistered dough. “The old fashioned rule is to ‘hit it 500 licks,’” explained one Southern housekeeper.
At a seminar I attended, the late food historian John Egerton manipulated a batch of dough with a beaten biscuit break — a vintage machine popularized over a century ago. The baked biscuits had crackly exteriors and dense, tender interiors that paired perfectly with salt-cured ham. Southern cooking authority Nathalie Dupree mastered beaten biscuits with a food processor, although she says the first time she tried it, she burned up her machine.
Practice Makes Perfect
Biscuit making isn’t a task most of us do daily, but it’s not difficult. It helps to practice as often you can, and the most important factors may be cool hands and a soft, gentle touch. The remaining portion of this article is dedicated to ingredients — from baking powder to flour. Biscuits contain so few ingredients that it’s essential to understand them for best results. The Ten Commandments of Biscuits will also guide you to success.
Biscuits Rise to New Heights
A major advancement in creating fluffy biscuits was the development of modern chemical leavenings. Precursors were hartshorn (baker’s ammonia) also in smelling salts, and pearl ash (potassium carbonate) refined from the wood ash of hardwood trees. Pearl ash appeared in Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery (1796) — the first published cookbook written by an American.
Difficult to work with, pearl ash was greatly improved with carbonic acid (archaic name for carbon dioxide), which changed it from potassium carbonate to potassium bicarbonate, or saleratus (“aerated salt”). “Sal-soda” biscuits had characteristic small yellow lumps and streaks. Like pearl ash, it left a pronounced, soapy aftertaste and aroma.
In 1846, John Dwight and Company began production of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), a superior type of saleratus similar to one developed in France. The company evolved into Arm & Hammer.
A Milestone in American Baking
British chemist Alfred Bird created the first modern version of baking powder in 1843. In 1856, Harvard Professor Eben Horsford received a Unite States patent for a leavening formula that evolved into Rumford Baking Powder. It was a milestone in American baking. Key ingredients — alkali baking soda and acidic cream of tartar — formed a single-acting baking powder activated by liquid. It was reformulated into double-acting baking powder, which included a second rise in the oven.
Most commercial baking powder is double acting, used in recipes with neutral-tasting ingredients like milk. Rumford Baking Powder is sodium aluminum sulfate-free and reacts at 70 percent in the mixing bowl and 30 percent in the oven. Discard open containers after six months.
The character of Southern flour is key to light, tender biscuits. Southeastern farmers have long preferred the soft red kernels of winter wheat, which they called “biscuit wheat,” according to grain historian Glenn Roberts at Columbia’s Anson Mills. It is low-protein flour that develops less gluten, which is essential for tender biscuits.
Soft wheat flour brands available locally include White Lily, Southern Biscuit and Martha White Flours. Red Band, a regional favorite, disappeared from the scene. National all-purpose brands like Gold Medal or King Arthur are useful when “amended” with lower-protein flour.
Adluh Flour Mill’s soft wheat flour was declared the “South Carolina state flour” by the South Carolina Department of Agriculture. Purchase their plain and self-rising flours locally. Adluh Biscuit Mix with Yellow Flakes is available from the mill with a foolproof recipe for flaky biscuits.
The importance of Glenn Roberts’ work in spearheading the resurrection of grains that once were the source of treasured, old, Southern heritage flours shouldn’t be underestimated. He is working to restore plants that are on the verge of extinction. Unrecognized by landowners, they are being discovered in abandoned fields and back gardens. Two rescued flours are exceptionally fine for Southern biscuits: Artisan Fine Cloth-Bolted White Lammas Cake Flour, once highly esteemed in England, and Colonial-Style, Fine Cloth-Bolted Pastry Flour produced from Red May wheat. The latter is an exact reproduction of the Colonial South’s pastry flour, which has been out of production since the 1850s. For more information, visit AnsonMills.com
It Takes Butter and Patience
Shortening — as its name implies — is an edible fat used to shorten (tenderize) gluten, the stretchy proteins in flour that make biscuits tough. Choices include butter, lard, solid vegetable shortening, vegetable oil and even rendered bear grease — lauded by its fans.
Butter is 80 to 82 percent fat with slightly less shortening power than lard or vegetable shortening. Most bakers favor it for its incomparable taste. European-style butter has up to 85 percent butterfat and, for many, offers the best flavor and texture. Pea-size cubes of ice-cold butter make excellent biscuits if not overly cut into the flour. For flakier biscuits, cut larger cubes and flatten with your fingertips to resemble oats; don’t reduce to meal.
With the lack of standards for salt amounts in butter, it varies widely from brand-to-brand. Salted butter may sit on the grocery shelf a while since salt is a preservative. For these reasons, use unsalted butter and add fine sea salt as directed in each recipe.
Lard is 100 percent rendered pork fat and makes exceptionally flaky pastry and biscuits. Hydrogenated lard from the grocery shelf may contain trans fats and can turn stale, so check sell-by dates. Local butchers, Whole Foods and ethnic markets sell quality leaf lard; keep refrigerated.
Crisco, introduced in 1911, is a solid shortening that is 100 percent fat. For decades, it was the biscuit and pastry fat of choice. Biscuit bakers still like working a little shortening into the dough (for tenderness) and butter (for flakiness). Cook’s Illustrated notes that shortening is about 10 percent gas and lightens dough. Whichever fat you use, it should be very cold, and don’t overwork it in the flour.
Like bees and honey, buttermilk and biscuits just belong together. Buttermilk is the baker’s friend. It imparts a special tang, natural lightness and richness to biscuits. Our forebears used real buttermilk — a byproduct from churning cream into butter. Modern cultured buttermilk is skim milk converted with lactic acid. There’s no butter in the buttermilk; it is low in calories, vitamin-rich, and high in calcium.
Purchase full-flavored, organic buttermilk at farmers’ markets, farm stands and small, local dairy farms (especially those that make butter). Resources include Wil-Moore Farms (Lugoff), Rosewood Market (Columbia) and stores like Whole Foods. Tip: Out of buttermilk? Mix 1/4 cup whole milk with 3/4 cup natural, plain yogurt. Milk soured with a little lemon juice is an acceptable substitute but lacks depth in body and flavor.
Nutritional Facts to Chew On
Enjoy your traditional biscuit recipes in moderation, as part of a balanced diet, and on special occasions. Biscuits can be made with heart-healthy oils, whole-wheat pastry flour and low-calorie dairy products like buttermilk, yogurt and sour cream. Herbs, spices and grated hard cheese contribute extra flavor. If you like lard, it may be healthier than you think. It is 50 percent monounsaturated fat (mostly heart-healthy oleic acid). Some nutritionists say one tablespoon lard from a pasture-raised pig has about 1,000 IU of vitamin D. Vegetable shortening is partly hydrogenated, but newer trans-fat-free versions are available. It also comes in butter flavor. Recent findings on the benefits of eating fat likely need further research, but until then, pass me a biscuit, please!
Lively B. Willoughby created refrigerator biscuits in Louisville, Kentucky in 1931. Packed in pressurized foil sleeves, “Old Kentuckie Buttermilk Biscuits” were good for one week. During development, Willoughby’s biscuit tubes exploded when removed from the icebox. It was the job of his young son, Sterling, to scrape dough off the kitchen ceiling with a putty knife. Modern refrigerator/freezer-to-oven biscuits have become an invaluable culinary convenience. Traditional, old school, Southern home bakers use them from time-to-time, even if they won’t admit it.
Classic Baking Powder Biscuits
Hot biscuits, a staple of the Southern breakfast table, are delicious with toppings of honey, sorghum, orange marmalade, bacon jam and country ham. Baking powder biscuits often call for milk, but buttermilk makes them even tastier. If you prefer to use the milk, omit the baking soda. Also, to increase the tangy taste of the buttermilk in the recipe, omit the baking soda.
2 1/4 cups all-purpose, soft wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut in 1/4-inch cubes, or lard
3/4 cup buttermilk, with 2 tablespoons extra, if needed
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda 1 minute to blend. Use your fingertips or a pastry blender to work in butter no smaller than pea-size. Make a well then pour in buttermilk. Stir with a wooden spoon to form rugged dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently pat out soft dough then with a pastry scraper, fold it over on itself 2 or 3 times. Roll out to about 3/4-inch thick. Cut biscuits closely together using a 2 1/2-inch metal cutter; avoid a twisting motion. Place on pan, 1/4-inch apart. Layer and cut remaining dough pieces. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Serve at once. Yield: 8 biscuits.
Savory Sausage Gravy
Classic Baking Power Biscuits are sublime for sopping up Chocolate Gravy, Red Eye Gravy and this Savory Sausage Gravy. The base — a Southern white milk or cream gravy — is sometimes called “sawmill gravy.” Use a cast iron skillet to capture the crusty, browned, sausage bits that add rich flavor. For a company version of this down-home dish, toss in a small amount of sautéed wild mushrooms and diced red bell pepper.
3/4 pound spicy or plain bulk sausage, like Jimmy Dean
2 tablespoons reserved drippings
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 to 3 cups milk, as needed
Salt and coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons crumbled sage leaves
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook sausage, breaking it into chunks. When no longer pink, remove with a slotted spoon to drain off extra fat. Reserve 2 tablespoons drippings in skillet; add butter. (If there isn’t enough of the drippings, substitute butter). On medium heat, whisk flour into fat 2 or 3 minutes to form a light roux. Don’t allow it to darken or gravy will be brown. Continue whisking as you add 2 1/2 cups milk. Cook a few minutes until thick and bubbly; thin further, if necessary. Stir in sausage, salt, pepper and sage. Adjust seasonings, to taste. Spoon the hot gravy over warm biscuits. Serves 4.
Honey Butter Spread
For your favorite biscuits!
1 (4-ounce) stick unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup orange blossom honey, or other honey
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
Pinch of salt
In a medium bowl, use a small whisk or fork to blend the butter and honey together until light and well blended. Stir in the orange zest and salt. Scoop mixture into a small serving dish. Cover and refrigerate until serving time. Serve with hot biscuits.
Sour Cream Biscuits
You can make tender biscuits using almost any flour … with a little adjustment. If using a national brand of all-purpose flour, mix it with a little low-protein flour. I have had excellent results combining King Arthur 100 Percent Organic Flour and cake flour. Although the dough is slightly firmer than soft-wheat flour dough, sour cream helps tenderize it and adds amazing flavor. The biscuits are even tasty cold.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup plain cake flour (total: 2 cups)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut in 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup sour cream (not reduced fat) or plain, natural Greek yogurt, mixed with 1/2 cup milk
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk the flours, baking powder, sugar, salt and baking soda 1 minute to blend. Use your fingertips or a pastry blender to work in butter no smaller than pea-size. Make a well; pour in sour cream mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to form a rugged dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently roll or pat out dough then using a pastry scraper, fold it over on itself 3 or 4 times. Roll out to about 3/4-inch thick. Cut biscuits closely together using a 2 1/2-inch metal cutter; avoid a twisting motion. Place on pan, 1/4-inch apart. Layer and cut remaining dough pieces. (For smaller biscuits, use a 2-inch cutter for about 20 biscuits.) Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Serve at once. Yield: 10 biscuits.
Admittedly indulgent, serve these divine biscuits for breakfast or brunch when company comes to help eat them. Personalize the recipe with one or two optional ingredients: a sprinkle of coarsely ground black pepper, chives, chopped green onion, pimento or olives. All ingredients must be at hand before starting the recipe. Cream of tartar and baking soda are a single-acting baking powder that immediately react and bubble when liquid is added. Cut out and bake the biscuits quickly after the dough is mixed to take advantage of this rise. The biscuits are equally delicious without the sausage.
1 3/4 cups all-purpose, soft wheat flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut in ¼-inch cubes
1 packed cup shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup cooked, crumbled, spicy bulk sausage, or plain sausage
1/2 cup buttermilk, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons extra, if needed
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt briskly 1 minute to blend. Use your fingertips or a pastry blender to work in the butter no smaller than pea-size. Mix in cheese and sausage. Make a well in the flour; pour in buttermilk then stir with a wooden spoon to form a rugged dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Gently pat out then with a pastry scraper, fold dough over on itself 2 or 3 times. Roll out to about 3/4-inch thick. Cut biscuits with a 2 1/2-inch metal cutter, without twisting the cutter. Place on prepared pan, 1/2-inch apart. Layer and cut remaining dough pieces. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Serve at once or freeze. Yield: 7 to 8 biscuits.
Lemon Cream Biscuits
The art of biscuit making rose to a new level when English baker Henry Jones invented self-raising flour around 1844. His goal was to make softer, fresher bread for the British Navy. He received an American patent in 1849; Southern cooks immediately appreciated the convenience of pre-blended flour. Heavy cream with 36 percent butterfat makes an exceptionally tender biscuit. Serve these luscious mouthfuls with clotted cream and homemade lemon curd or raspberry jam. Tip: After zesting the lemons, squeeze out the juice for lemon curd.
2 cups self-rising, soft-wheat flour
Grated zest of 2 medium lemons
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream, plus extra, if needed (no substitute)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a sturdy 9-inch-round cake pan, or a baking sheet with parchment. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, lemon zest, sugar, sugar and salt 1 minute to blend. Make a well; pour in cream and stir with a wooden spoon to form a rugged dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently roll or pat out dough then using a pastry scraper, fold it over on itself 2 or 3 times. Roll out to about 3/4-inch thick. Cut biscuits closely together using a 2-inch metal cutter; avoid a twisting motion. Place on prepared pan, nearly touching. Layer and cut remaining dough pieces. (For dinner biscuits, use a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter for 7 or 8 biscuits.) Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Yield: about 24 biscuits.
Scratch Sweet Potato Biscuits
Some of South Carolina’s earliest mills date to the 1740s and were located in Saxe-Gotha Township on the Congaree River (Lexington and Richland counties). In 1942, there were 42 operating mills in South Carolina; only one remains — Adluh Flour Mills. Brush these fragrant biscuits with melted butter after coming from the oven; embellish with a sprinkle of blended cinnamon sugar. Adluh also carries yellow-flake biscuit mix, which makes exceptional flaky biscuits.
2 cups Adluh Self-Rising Flour
1 to 2 tablespoons light brown or granulated sugar
Pinch of ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut in 1/4-inch cubes, or other shortening
1 cup sweet potatoes, cooked, mashed, strained
Whole milk (2 to 3 tablespoons, or as needed to form a soft dough)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (350 degrees F for a convection oven.) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Sift and measure flour. Resift with sugar and nutmeg. Use your fingertips or a pastry blender to work in the butter and then stir in the sweet potatoes. Add enough milk to make soft dough. Roll the dough ½-inch thick; cut with a 2 1/2-inch round cutter. Place biscuits on the prepared pan then bake 12 to 15 minutes. Brush with extra butter or margarine; serve while hot. Makes 10 to 12 biscuits. This recipe has been slightly adapted from Adluh Flour Mills.
The scone, Scottish in origin but beloved throughout the United Kingdom, is first cousin to the Southern biscuit. Both are leavened quick breads, yet they’re not quite the same. American scones are rich in butter, but they are less so in England and not overly sweet. For scones across the pond, it’s really about the luxurious toppings of homemade berry jam and thick, clotted cream. This recipe is for the rich, rustic American style, which can be made with a variety of tempting stir-ins. Before baking, brush scones with an egg or cream wash and sprinkle with sliced almonds or sanding sugar. However you prefer your scones, serve them with a big pot of fresh-brewed coffee or tea.
1 cup all-purpose flour (King Arthur or Gold Medal) and 1 cup plain cake flour (total: 2 cups)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
Grated zest from 1 rinsed, dried navel orange
6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut in 1/4-inch cubes
3/4 to 1 cup fresh cranberries, picked over, whole or halved
1/2 cup heavy cream or buttermilk, or a blend (2 or 3 tablespoons more, if needed)
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, soda, salt, sugar and orange zest 1 minute to blend. Use your fingertips or a pastry blender to work in butter no smaller than pea-size. Toss in cranberries. Whisk together cream, egg and almond extract. Make a well in the flour; pour in liquid and stir with a wooden spoon to form a rugged dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently roll or pat out dough. Using a pastry scraper, fold dough over on itself 2 or 3 times. Pat into a 5- to 6-inch circle then cut in 6 to 8 wedges. Place scones on baking sheet, 1-inch apart. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 6 to 8 scones.
Variation: To make a cake similar to a Scottish bannock, shape dough into a round on the baking sheet; cut in wedges but leave in place. Embellish the top, as desired, and bake. Cut cake into wedges following the score marks.
Senator Hollings’ Flaky Appetizer Cream Cheese Biscuits (Carolina Biscuits)
This special biscuit is a favorite of United States Senator “Fritz” Hollings. My friend Nathalie Dupree, aka the biscuit queen, found this recipe on his website and slightly adapted it saying, “Without doubt the flakiest and richest of all the biscuits we’ve made, these tiny bites melt in the mouth … ” She recommends a food processor for a stress-free experience and says the biscuits may be frozen, unbaked or baked, and reheated. As a tasty variation, press a small spoon into the center of each dough round and insert a 1/4 teaspoon of Hot Pepper Jelly before or after baking.
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup butter, softened, plus extra for brushing on baked biscuits
1 cup commercial or homemade self-rising flour (recipe included), plus extra flour for rolling
Softened butter, for brushing
Pulse together cream cheese, butter, and 1 cup flour two or three times in a food processor fitted with the knife or dough blade. Turn dough out onto waxed paper and divide into two rounds. Wrap in waxed paper, plastic wrap, or a sealable plastic bag; refrigerate at least 30 minutes. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Lightly sprinkle a board or other clean surface using some of the reserved flour. Sprinkle the dough top lightly with flour. With floured hands and a floured rolling pin, roll out one portion of the dough at a time to approximately 1/2-inch thick. For each biscuit, dip a 1- to 1-1/4-inch biscuit cutter into the extra flour and cut out the biscuits, starting at the outside edge. Cut very close together, being careful not to twist the cutter. The scraps may be combined to make additional biscuits, although these scraps make tougher biscuits.
Using a metal spatula if necessary, move biscuits to an ungreased baking sheet, placing them 1-inch apart. Bake on the top oven rack 10 to 12 minutes until light golden brown. After 6 minutes, rotate the pan in the oven so the front of the pan is turned to the back. Check to see if the bottoms are browning too quickly. If so, slide another baking pan underneath to add insulation. Continue baking another 4 to 6 minutes until biscuits are light golden brown. When biscuits are done, lightly brush tops with melted butter. Turn biscuits out upside down on a plate to cool slightly. Serve hot, right side up. Makes 20 (1-inch) biscuits
Sift together 1 cup all-purpose flour (or 1/2 cup cake flour with 1/2 cup all-purpose flour), 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt, and 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder.
Biscuit recipe from Southern Biscuits by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart. Reprinted with permission.
Reheat and Freeze Biscuits
- Refrigerate leftover biscuits two days in a sealed zip-top bag; wrap in foil and heat in a 375 degree F oven 10 minutes or until hot. You can microwave individual, larger biscuits on high about 30 seconds; less for small biscuits.
- Fresh, baked biscuits freeze well. Heat as described above; allow a little more heating time. Or microwave one frozen biscuit on high about 45 seconds. Ovens will vary.
- Unbaked biscuits can be frozen then stacked and stored in an airtight container. Bake in a 400 degree F oven 12 to 14 minutes.
Ten Commandments of Biscuit Making
- Keep ingredients ice cold; chill crumbly flour/butter mixture if necessary. Dough made with double-acting baking powder can be chilled before cutting.
- Work dough on marble, wood, a pastry cloth or a flexible pastry mat. Keep some PLAIN flour handy for dusting the rolling surface, hands, dough and biscuit cutter as needed.
- Rolling pins are good for firm dough. Gently pat out soft dough if the rolling pin sticks. Slightly sticky dough makes a better biscuit.
- Use a metal or flexible, plastic pastry scraper to lift, fold and cut dough. A clean, shiny, new paint scraper works too. (This replaces kneading for most soft dough.) The scraper is useful for cleanup.
- In the mixing bowl, dough may need more liquid or flour; add by the tablespoonful. Don’t add excess flour to a wet dough; make drop biscuits instead.
- Use a pastry brush to coat biscuit tops with melted butter, egg wash or cream glaze before baking.
- For soft exteriors and a good rise, snuggle biscuits together, touching for support. For crispy exteriors, place them further apart on a baking sheet and allow air to circulate. Adjust oven temperature, as necessary.
- For best results, use a heavy-duty, shiny, baking sheet of the appropriate size for the amount of biscuits. Line with parchment or a silicone mat for best results.
- Watch the biscuit bottoms during baking as an indication of doneness. If biscuits are done and tops need browning, run under the broiler quickly; watch carefully.
- Don’t eat raw biscuit dough; there’s potential for contamination of wheat grown in open fields; eliminate toxins through baking or frying.