Every cook has their own favorite biscuit—slightly sweet or fully savory, tender or flaky, butter or lard or both, rolled or kneaded, the variations as vast as they are furiously defended. But perhaps one things is consistent: the obsession—the necessity!—with keeping the dough cold.
Why? It’s the same reason pie dough is made with cold butter, chilled, rolled and shaped, and chilled again: Cold fat creates steam when it hits the hot oven, and that steam is responsible for the flaky layers beloved in pie, croissants, and biscuits. And keeping it cold usually means keeping your hot little hands off the dough as much as possible; as an added bonus, handling the dough this way prevents you from over-developing the gluten in the flour, which equals tenderness. So, no touching. That’s what I thought, and that’s what Samin Nosrat, author of cookbook Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, thought too—until she saw a friend make biscuits:
“He completely incorporated half of the butter into the dough to make it tender, and then rolled and folded the finished dough a few times to create flaky layers. It was so counterintuitive, in fact, that if the moistest, flakiest biscuit I’d ever seen weren’t sitting right in front of me, I wouldn’t have believed him.”
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Me either! Which is why Samin shows us exactly what she means in the video above.