I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “You have to start somewhere.” If I were teaching you to cook, that “starting somewhere” would be a quick bread. There is something amazing about a bread that is ready to go into the oven in less than five minutes. Not to mention that quick breads bake up light and fluffy on the inside and crispy brown on the outside.
For me, there is no better quick bread—no better anything—than a Southern buttermilk biscuit. With just a few ingredients, you’ll be able to make the dough quicker than the oven can preheat and—bonus—the biscuits cook in less than 20 minutes. You can tweak the recipe to yield the kind of biscuit you want and/or make only as many as you need. Biscuits don’t require special equipment. You can even bake them in a toaster oven!
Growing up with my Southern mama, biscuits were on the table all the time unless the meal was better suited to cornbread or hush puppies. I didn’t grow up with buttermilk biscuits like a lot of Southern kids. Instead of buttermilk, Mama makes her biscuits with sweet milk (it’s a Georgia thing to call whole milk “sweet”) and I love them. But over the years, I’ve changed the recipe and now, when I make biscuits, they’re almost always made with buttermilk.
Mastering biscuit making is an essential skill for any cook. First and foremost, it teaches you the skill of not overworking a dough. This skill will come in handy for making pastry, rolling sugar cookies and an endless array of other heavenly bread type things. You want to make a cobbler? A slightly wetter dough than our biscuit dough can be placed atop sweetened fruit and baked for a dessert that isn’t only a pleasure to eat—it’s simple to make!
To work the salted butter into the flour mixture, I use my food processor. It’s not necessary, but makes the job so much easier. A pastry blender or two knives or your hands and fingers can do the same job, just not in 10 seconds. I add the buttermilk in a different bowl for a lazy reason. If you add the milk to the food processor bowl it’ll makes it harder to clean. That fact inspires me to use a separate bowl.
I find that salted butter makes my biscuits taste best, but feel free to use unsalted. If you use unsalted butter, however, you will need to add a good pinch of salt to the recipe or you’ll end up with a bland and unappealing biscuit. I also use self-rising flour because it’s perfectly blended for biscuits. Having to add baking powder and salt to plain flour won’t make you a better cook anymore than using white eggs instead of brown will make your soufflé rise higher. These things are simply a matter of choice.
Because it bears repeating: Resist the temptation to overwork the dough. If you over do it, your biscuits will turn out tough. A few good folds and a patting out to the thickness you want is all the dough requires. If you have biscuit cutters, go ahead and use them. If not, the mouth of a thin-rimmed glass dipped in flour will work just as well. After you’ve cut the dough, you can brush the tops of the biscuits with a little milk and a sprinkling of sugar if you like your biscuits to have a little added sweetness.
Biscuits are best eaten within a day or two and are perfect right out of the oven! Once they get cold, I suggest splitting them open, slathering them with butter and running them under the broiler for a treat that’s beyond delicious!
- 1 1/4 cups self rising flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 4 tablespoons cold butter, plus more for brushing
- 1/2 cup buttermilk (or whole milk with 1 teaspoon white vinegar added)
- In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour and baking soda and pulse to combine.
- Add the butter and pulse until the butter is worked in and the flour is the texture like tiny peas.
- Add the buttermilk and stir just until a loose dough forms, do not over stir.
- Lightly flour your counter and pour the dough on to it, taking care not to dump the sandy looking crumbs at the bottom of the bowl, these should be thrown away and not mixed into the biscuits.
- Sprinkle some flour on top and press the dough into a mass. Then fold it over on itself 4 to 6 times. The less you work the dough, the more tender the biscuits. Press the dough into a rectangle about an ½ inch thick and cut with either a glass or biscuit cutter that has been dipped in flour. I usually get 3 biscuits out of the dough and place on a greased cookie sheet.
- Twirl the remaining scraps into a biscuit shape and lightly work it into the 4th biscuit. Do not over work the last biscuit or it will be tough
- Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 15 to 17 minutes. At 14 minutes, brush some salted butter over the tops and then finish baking them.
- Remove the biscuits from the oven and brush with butter again.
Happy biscuit making, y’all. This will be the easiest and most delicious lesson you will ever learn!