Buttermilk Biscuits

November 3, 2014


Author Notes: A recipe that has gotten me through many lazy brunches and a dozen fried chicken dinners. Don't be scared off by the larger quantities, I tend to make biscuits for a crowd -- hello, Thanksgiving dinner. The recipe is very easily halved for weeknight baking.

[Editors' note: The quantity of flour is important here. If you don't have a scale, make sure you're using the spoon-and-sweep method (rather than scooping your measuring cup into the flour bag): Aerate your flour, then use a spoon to fill the measuring cup with a light hand, and finally, use the flat edge of a knife to push off the excess without packing in the cup. We also like these biscuits with a little more butter—15 tablespoons (7 1/2 ounces): They're more tender and buttery.]
Erin McDowell

Makes: 12 to 15 biscuits (depending on cut size)

Ingredients

  • 5 cups (22 ounces) all-purpose flour (White Lily flour is best, if you can get it)
  • 1 teaspoon (3 1/2 grams) kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) baking powder
  • 1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 2 cups (16 fluid ounces) buttermilk

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, sift the flour, salt, and baking powder together to combine. Add the cubed butter and toss to coat. Cut the butter into the flour until the mixture forms a shaggy mass, with pieces of butter similar in size to walnut halves. [Editors' note: Be careful not to overwork or over-mix your dough or it could turn out more shortbread-like.]
  3. Make a well in the center of the bowl and add the buttermilk. Toss gently to combine the ingredients, taking care not to overmix.
  4. When the dough is fully moistened and combined, turn it onto a lightly floured surface. Press the dough into a 1 inch-thick square. Lightly flour the surface of the dough.
  5. Use a floured circle cutter (1 1/2 to 3 inches wide) to cut biscuits. When you’ve used all of the dough, bring it together and knead it lightly a few times to bring it together. Repeat cutting biscuits from the dough until all of the dough is used up.
  6. Transfer the biscuits to the prepared baking sheets. Refrigerate the biscuits for 15 minutes to chill (or 5 minutes in the freezer). Brush the chilled biscuits with egg wash or melted butter and garnish with a sprinkling of flaky salt (optional).
  7. Bake until the biscuits are risen and golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. (Bonus points for brushing them with more butter after they come out of the oven, egg washed or not.) Cool slightly before serving.

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Reviews (26) Questions (3)

26 Reviews

olivia December 25, 2017
These are wonderful! I'm not entirely sure if the recipe I followed was altered. For me, they weren't too buttery and turned out perfectly flaky. We sifted unbleached flour and cut the butter in with a fork. Perhaps this in addition to mixing and kneading very lightly produces different results?
 
olivia December 25, 2017
I forgot to mention I used the broiler to brown the tops. They weren't brown after 12-15 minutes.
 
Margaret R. February 14, 2016
Made these this morning and they actually turned out nicely, if a little buttery. My one warning is that I baked them on a flat sheet vs. one with raised edges - all the butter runoff had smoke spewing out of my oven. I'm still airing out my kitchen 2 hours later! At least I have biscuits to enjoy.
 
margit January 2, 2016
Can only agree with everyone that shared their disappointment here earlier! <br />Such a waste of time and ingredients!
 
judy November 22, 2015
5 CUPS OF FLOUR!!? HUNH!
 
Kelli H. October 26, 2015
can this dough be frozen for later use?
 
Irish G. October 11, 2015
Crap, crap, crap! I should've also read the comments!!! Aren't these "community picks" tested!! Just wasted my ingredients on a bunch of butter flavored hockey pucks!!!
 
jenbeee October 4, 2015
I should have read the comments. Total failure! I got flat butter-soaked discs of sad.
 
Cannelloni&Cayenne September 27, 2015
"A culinary hate crime." Apt description for this heinous recipe. What a waste of flour.
 
dashick1 September 21, 2015
Worst. Recipe. Ever. Followed this exactly, including buying the specific flour and high-quality butter. They were not over-mixed, and they came out of the oven like stones. Whether you cut the butter into "walnut half" sized pieces (as this calls for) or just a bit smaller don't expect light flakey biscuits. Instead, enjoy the "thud" of these hitting the bottom of your trash can. What a disappointing waste of ingredients and effort.
 
karen June 12, 2015
I made these - they turned out fantastic! Wish I could say the same about the fried chicken recipe I tried.
 
Kathryn G. April 11, 2015
I used AP flour. Weighed it and the butter. As for the butter, Maybe I cut it too small.I would have to question how large to cube if you cut to half walnut size. Seems really large. The outcome was heavy, kinda flaky, very bland biscuits. Def needed more salt. I will not use this recipe again.
 
Alison S. April 2, 2015
Wish I had read the comments before I made these for friends. Truly embarrassing. They were awful. Told a friend about them the next day and she said she should have warned me, she tried them too and deemed the recipe a total failure.
 
dcole March 31, 2015
The point of a recipe is, that when a person comes upon that person should not have to guess what goes in it, what kind of flour, what measurements are needed. They should just be able to read and add what is in front of them. The original creator of this got it wrong from the start. The recipe didn't call for self rising flour or the addition of baking powder, it called for what was written. This recipe as it was originally posted is a culinary hate crime.
 
Angella March 31, 2015
Just finished making these biscuits and I am feeling very pleased with myself! They are delicious..light and fluffy and so pretty with the egg wash. I used Gold Medal self rising flour along with the baking powder. Had to make my own buttermilk i.e.the milk with the vinegar and wasn't particularly precise with the measurements. The cons I had were that the mixture was very sticky and the second batch didn't rise as high. That being said I will definitely make these again. Ate two straight from the oven!
 
dcole March 26, 2015
From a scientific perspective?? Are you a food scientist?? This is the worst biscuit recipe.....ever, it should be removed . I've been in restaurants and catering for 30 years. Always looking for something new to add to my collection, always looking for something that I hope is better. This recipe is an embarrassment. Who at Food52.com is proofing these? Take this recipe down.
 
Easyed March 23, 2015
I tried this recipe yesterday and had good results. After reading the comments I made the following adjustments: 1. decrease the flour from 5 cups to 4 cups (I used Gold Medal unbleached flour) 2. double the baking powder from 1 to 2 tablespoons. <br /><br />Erin: I noticed "White Lily" in another recipe which specified self rising flour. Are you using self rising flour? That would explain the different results by others.
 
Author Comment
Erin M. February 4, 2015
So sorry some folks have had trouble with these! This has been my go-to biscuit recipe for years, but let me shed some light on the recipe from my end. From a scientific perspective, the answer to many of these concerns is this: if you make the cut in the butter properly, leaving large (walnut half sized) pieces of butter in the dough, there is a significant amount of natural leavening from the steam created when the butter melts inside the biscuits (the article attached to this recipe goes into greater detail). Because of this, there is a "medium" amount of added chemical leavener, which is then activated by the acid in the buttermilk to create the total leavening. <br /><br />That being said, if people aren't mixing properly or are having trouble, more baking powder could be an answer. Adding more baking powder will make taller biscuits, but it won't create flaky layers like the handling of the butter does - which is what I'm looking for when I make biscuits. I've tested the recipe again with some of AntoniaJames suggestions, and doubling the baking powder to 2 tablespoons produces a taller, lighter (fluffier) biscuit. It's not as flaky, but it's light and pretty darn good! Hope this helps some of those biscuit trouble-shooters out there!
 
AntoniaJames February 3, 2015
There was a question on the Hotline about these, and the specification of 24 ounces of flour for the 5 cups. The author checked it and confirmed that the weight should be less -- 22 ounces. I see that the recipe has not been changed. This is just FYI, for those of you who want to try this recipe (despite the difficulties and lack of success noted in the comments here and elsewhere on Food52). <br />Over the December holidays, I was determined to make these, so I did, using the standard conversion to grams. I followed the instructions in the accompanying article to the letter. The results were "meh." No one took seconds, and I ended up throwing what we didn't eat into the garbage - a rare occurrence here. ;o)
 
DeAngelo L. December 2, 2014
First time around, I didn't have a pastry blender, so I figured the disk like turn out was my fault. Second time around, I purchased a pastry blender and they turned out with nearly the same results (slightly fluffier and not a dense). Only after putting them in the oven did I discover that there's an error in the recipe. :-(
 
Lydia November 27, 2014
Very disappointed in the bland flat biscuits this recipe produced! I should have read the comments first and increased the baking powder to 2 tablespoons and decreased the flour to 4 cups. Had to throw them out, what a waste!