How do I get my biscuits to be fluffy like I see in magazine pics? I've achieved flaky but not fluffy!
Typically for biscuits you get either flaky or fluffy, but not both. Here's a link to the CI recipe for fluffy biscuits: http://www.cooksillustrated...
handle the dough as little as possible.
One thing people over look is the baking powder--that powder you've had for a year probably isn't very good-- Even tho the expiration date is still good, if it's been opened don't depend on that date. I always keep small cans, one un-opened) on hand.
Also consider your flour, most Southern Flour is lighter. For example standard All Purpose is 125 grams/cup....while Gold Medal AP is 130/cup...I think White Lilly AP is 128/cup.
Tho most just go by feel---which is trickey until you get your hands on it.
Do you really want fluffy? I love a flaky biscuit, myself. Especially if it's a little bit crusty on the bottom.
Getting a flaky result depends on how much you cut in the butter. Try mixing using a stand mixer on the paddle. Only incorporate butter until the size of hazelnuts. When you add liquids, the density will further break down the butter. As for fluffy, try using half AP flour and half cake flour. The lower protein content of cake flour (7% vs 10% of AP) will give you a lighter, "fluffier" consistency. Also, after you've rolled and cut them, let them rest under refrigeration for 30 minutes before baking. That will let the flour proteins recover from the shock of being rolled and cut. Let us know how this works!
Shirley O'Corriher's Touch of Grace biscuits from her book Cookwise are magnificent. But, as boulangere mentions, the protein content of the flour is very important. I'd love to get my hands on some White Lily (a Southern low protein flour, very unique in this country), but just can't get myself to add another specialty flour to my cabinet. Now that I've mastered fluffy through O'Corriher, I'm dying for a good flaky recipe!
I learned how to make biscuits from the master of biscuits (he has 4 restaurants here in Brooklyn) and the key is definitely, as chefjune suggests, to handle dough as minimally as possible.
I remember that my biscuits were not coming out as good as his and so he spent an evening just showing me the basics. I remember there was a huge knob of butter poking out of his patted-out circle of dough, and I could not figure out how they would come out right but they were perfect!
Key points: Use hands only. No machinery. Cold butter. Cold buttermilk. Work butter into the flour with your fingers, kind of smoosh the cubed butter into the flour. Fold in the buttermilk from the sides: 1, 2, 3, 4. Once for each side, like a square, and no more. Then invert it onto the counter and pat out. There will be unincorporated flour on the top but that is okay.
Don't use a rolling pin. Just pat out a loose circle: use one hand to flatten the top from the center out and the other to tidy the sides. Keep it thick, minimum 2" high. Cut out biscuits and transfer them to baking sheet.
Here is the other very key step: brush tops VERY generously with buttermilk. Really SOP it on. The thick layer of buttermilk on top creates steam inside the biscuits that is KEY for fluffiness. The loose flour left on top helps to bind the buttermilk to the biscuits.
Bake in a super-hot 475 degree oven until golden.
Mix an egg into your milk or buttermilk before adding it to the flour/butter mixture. Treat the dough as you would for scones.
Bakewell Cream has been my staple. If you aren't going to make Southern-style biscuits, but want to make high-rising New England/Maine-style biscuits then I would try it. You can find it in some grocery stores and at the King Arthur Flour website. It's never failed me.