A Brilliant Trick (Borrowed from Cornbread) for Crisp-Bottomed, Flaky Biscuits

August 21, 2016

People seem to find biscuit-baking intimidating. Perhaps they assume that getting flaky layers requires complicated techniques. Or they think it's time-consuming. Or theirs have been leaden and dense in the past.

But regardless of your stance on homemade biscuits, this recipe will win anyone over. It's foolproof—even if you've never baked before!

Photo by Posie Harwood

There's no futzing around with cold butter. No cutting of fat into flour. No need for delicate handling of your dough. Instead, you use a cornbread-like method:

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While you make the dough, you melt butter in your pan in the oven while it preheats. You whisk together the dry ingredients (I've added cheese and fresh basil, but you can do without or switch it up), then pour in some milk and stir it all together to create the dough.

What makes this recipe so fantastic is the butter method. Typically, biscuits get their loftiness and flakiness from cold bits of butter. You have to gently cut your very cold butter into your flour, taking care not to warm it up. Then there's the folding, kneading, and pressing of the dough. While the classic biscuit method is easy once you get the hang of it, having a quicker and simpler method in your back pocket is a wonderful thing for any baker.

Despite not using cold butter, these biscuits are still light and delicate. They aren't quite as flaky as traditional biscuits, but they sport a gorgeous crust of melted butter, thanks to the cornbread method described above. Cornbread has a crunchy exterior, and so do these.

I'd also go so far as to say that this is a perfect summer recipe. Hot kitchens and cold butter don't exactly go together nicely, and this recipe avoids the temperature problem altogether.

Photo by Posie Harwood

You press the dough gently into a rectangle, cut it into strips, and dip each strip into the melted butter. The strips get folded and nestled up in two neat rows in the buttery pan. As they bake, all that butter, along with the cheese, forms a gorgeous golden crust on the bottom of the biscuits. The strips pull apart easily; it's the perfect baked good for sharing (though these are so good, sharing might not be of interest).

Photo by Posie Harwood

A note on the tablespoon of sugar this recipe calls for: Don't panic at adding sugar to savory biscuits. I thought this was odd the first time I encountered it, too, but a touch of sugar is actually essential for keeping baking goods moist and tender. (This tip was passed along to me by Briana Holt, the baker behind the stellar pastries at Tandem Coffee in Portland, Maine, when she shared her excellent savory kale and cheese scone recipe with me.)

Posie Harwood is a writer, photographer, and food stylist based in New York. You can read more of her writing here.

Okay, biscuit aficionados. Are you a tender biscuit fan, or a flaky one? Make your case in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Austincook
  • lane
  • lpenney14
I like warm homemade bread slathered with fresh raw milk butter, ice cream in all seasons, the smell of garlic in olive oil, and sugar snap peas fresh off the vine.


Austincook August 7, 2022
Given the gentle folding technique, it seems this recipe would work well with a gluten-free flour blend. Has anyone tried that?

I made it yesterday with wheat flour, and it is a keeper. I found the dough stickier than the recipe suggests, but not a problem. The crust was crisp and the inside tender as promised. I don't use dried basil so I tried the same amount of freeze-dried chives, and basically couldn't taste them, so I'll omit next time. The fresh basil worked very well with the cheddar, IMO, and I'll certainly keep that!
lane August 21, 2016
bake at what temp... for how long... i can look it up!!
could one just put it in the baking dish and score the bars with a buttered knife and brush butter over the top?
lpenney14 August 22, 2016
The post contains a few links to the full recipe, which includes all the directions.