What to CookBiscuit

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

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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:

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.)

Cheddar-Basil Pan Biscuits

Cheddar-Basil Pan Biscuits

Posie (Harwood) Brien Posie (Harwood) Brien
Makes 12 biscuits
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (or another mild melting cheese)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil (use less if you don't want so much herb flavor)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
Go to Recipe

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.

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Tags: Bread, Cheese, Bake, Tips & Techniques