Bake

Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits from Carla Hall

June  9, 2020
13 Ratings
Photo by Kristen Miglore
Author Notes

These are fluffy, flaky biscuits anyone can make—because Carla Hall is an endlessly gifted and patient teacher, with the most surprising and memorable tricks to welcome first-timers. No need for baker's intuition or fancy equipment—Carla will cheer you on to biscuits that are tall, proud, and effortlessly perfect.

As Carla writes in her cookbook Carla Hall's Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration, "I’m gonna come out and say it because you’re gonna think it: These taste like Popeye’s biscuits. (At least back-in-the-day-Popeye’s.) Why, thank you. They do. These are what biscuits should be. They’re flaky, with layers so fine they melt in your mouth. There’s just enough flour and leavening to rise them up so the fat doesn’t weigh them down into greasy pucks. And there’s plenty of buttermilk to keep them moist. That makes the dough sticky, so work fast and handle the dough as lightly as possible. Featherlight biscuits will be your reward."

A few notes on substitutions: If you don't have shortening, a neutral-flavored oil will work. And if you can't find thick, rich whole-milk buttermilk, you can mix regular milk (or low-fat buttermilk) with whole-milk sour cream or yogurt in roughly equal proportions. It should be a little thicker than heavy cream. Whole-milk kefir is also a great substitute. (The milk-plus-vinegar hack for replacing buttermilk won't work here—you need the fat for fluffy, flaky, perfect biscuits.)

Recipe adapted from Carla Hall's Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration (Harper Wave, October 2018).

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Watch This Recipe
Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits from Carla Hall
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 16 minutes
  • Makes about 16 biscuits
Ingredients
  • 8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, frozen, plus more, for the pan
  • 2 1/2 cups (310g) all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping the dough (if measuring by cups, be sure to stir the flour in the container first, scoop into the cup, then level off, without tapping the flour down)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups whole-milk buttermilk, cold
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Butter a half-sheet pan.
  2. To make the dough with a food processor: Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse a few times, until well mixed. Add the shortening and pulse until fine crumbs form. Switch to the grating disk attachment. With the machine running, push the frozen butter through the feed tube.
  3. To make the dough with a food processor (continued): Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and toss to make sure all the butter shreds are coated with the floury crumbs. Make a well in the center of the flour, add most of the buttermilk, and fold in using a rubber spatula, running the flat edge of it through the center of the mixture like a hash mark and then around the edge while you rotate the bowl. Keep at it, while being as gentle as possible, until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened—it will look wetter than you think it should. If there are still dry crumbly bits, stir in the rest of the buttermilk.
  4. To make the dough by hand: Mix the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl with an open hand, using your fingers to whisk. Add the shortening and use your fingertips to pinch and rub it completely into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, making sure you scrape around the bottom of the bowl to coat all the flour in shortening. If you feel any lumps of shortening, rub the flour through the palms of your hands to work it all in.
  5. To make the dough by hand (continued): Roll your frozen butter in the dry ingredients to make it easier to handle. Using a box grater, grate the frozen butter on the large holes into the flour. Anytime the butter warms up and gets slippery, roll it in the flour again. As you go, shake the grated butter into the flour once or twice and toss to coat it evenly. When you're done grating, make sure all pieces are coated with flour, then quickly and lightly pinch them into the flour. Make a well in the center of your flour, add most of the buttermilk to the flour mixture, and fold using a rubber spatula, running the flat edge of it through the center of the mixture like a hash mark and then around the edge while you rotate the bowl. Keep at it, while being as gentle as possible, until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened—it will look wetter than you think it should. If there are still dry crumbly bits, stir in the rest of the buttermilk.
  6. Lightly coat your work surface with neutral oil or nonstick cooking spray, then flour. (The spray keeps the flour in place.) Sprinkle a little more flour in the center of the board.
  7. Turn the dough out onto the prepared surface and gently toss it around like a cat playing with a ball of yarn, until the sticky ball of dough is covered in a thin layer of flour. Pat into a 1/2-inch-thick rectangle. Sprinkle the dough with flour, then fold it in thirds like a letter. Repeat the patting, sprinkling and folding twice, rotating the dough 90° each time. Pat the dough into 3/4-inch thickness. It should no longer be sticky.
  8. Flour a 2-inch-round biscuit cutter (or clean, hollowed out can) and press it straight down to cut the dough, then twist to remove the biscuit. Transfer the round to the buttered pan, placing the bottom side up. Repeat, cutting the rounds as close together as possible, and spacing them 1 inch apart on the pan. Gather the scraps, smoosh them between your palms to 3/4-inch thickness, lay the dough flat, and cut again. Refrigerate the rounds until cold, at least 15 minutes.
  9. In the meantime, heat the oven to 450°F.
  10. Bake the biscuits until the tops are golden brown and crisp, about 16 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes on the pan before serving hot.
  11. To make ahead: You can let the biscuits cool completely, then freeze them for up to 2 months. To serve, thaw them and then bake in a 350°F oven until toasted and warm.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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Recipe by: Genius Recipes

51 Reviews

fearlessem March 12, 2021
Just like everyone here says -- these are exceptional! By far the best I've ever made. Wish I could upload a picture of the perfectly moist but still flaky inside of one of these. The recipe seemed fussy with the instructions but I followed it to the letter and am glad I did!
 
travellingthisworld March 3, 2021
I'm very fortunate to have Food52 on my TV as an app (I'm addicted to it) and I caught this video the other night. I highly recommend watching the video prior to making the biscuits - you'll have better insight into the method. These are the best biscuits I've ever made - after years of experimenting with many, many recipes. Thanks to the OP about square biscuits. Great idea! This recipe is a keeper! I had 2 with my homemade turkey noodle soup (roast the carcass people, it makes the BEST broth) and 1 for dessert with jam. Tomorrow's breakfast is a egg, bacon and cheese biscuit. I can't stop. I won't stop. So good. Thank you Carla and Kristen.
 
Oralia A. February 20, 2021
I have tried A BUNCH of biscuit recipes and not a single one hit the perfect pitch that these do. I used the hand made method. The prep took me longer than 30 minutes but I expect after making these a few times I will get quicker. These are crisp in the outside and the inside has this flaky tender (not crumbly) crumb. The flavor is a nice balance of buttery, a little salty and able to yield to savory or sweet accompaniments. Enjoy!
 
Shruchek January 31, 2021
These biscuits are EXACTLY what I wanted. Flaky, buttery, velvety GOODNESS. The instructions were so easy to follow. Thank you Carla Hall and Food52!
 
LD1973 January 21, 2021
I rarely read food blogs and even more rarely comment on a recipe but I just have to say that making these biscuits tonight was a thrill for me. They were PERFECT. Everyone has a favorite kind of biscuit and this is mine. Thank you for posting this and thank you so much for making the how-to video with Carla. It helped so much. My family thought these biscuits were delicious!! Thank you, Carla!!
 
Cary R. November 25, 2020
These biscuits were perfect! The best I have ever made! My family loved them. I can not make them often enough for them.
 
Andra S. October 22, 2020
These are by far the best homemade biscuits. My family would eat them every weekend if I made them. Delicious!
 
Sharmy July 25, 2020
I greatly appreciate the video and Carla’s recipe. The biscuits turned out perfect and delicious. Thank you!!
 
Terry N. July 7, 2020
I watched the video, used the milk/sour cream buttermilk substitute and prepared using the food processor version. Perfect biscuits! One tip for next time -- add an extra Tbs to the frozen butter that will be grated because my processor leaves a bit of butter on the blade that won't push through.
 
Phyllis June 28, 2020
This is a fabulous recipe/video that I reviewed a few weeks ago. I don't see my review. Does the website eliminate earlier reviews? I have made this recipe five times. Although the biscuits are perfectly cooked and just delicious, the bottoms get almost burned. I had to remove the biscuit bottoms in my first two batches. I've tried light pans and dark pans. I've tried using oil, butter, or a dry pan. Nothing works. My last batch, I reduced the oven temp to 425 and cooked the biscuits at 13 minutes. It was better but if I hadn't removed the biscuits at that point (they were done but I would have preferred a slightly browner biscuit), the bottoms would have been overly dark. I need advice. I checked my oven temperature with an oven thermometer and it is accurate. Has anyone else had this issue? Any ideas?
 
Elizabeth S. June 28, 2020
The second time I made these, I used an insulated cookie sheet, and it eliminated the burned bottom problem.
 
Elizabeth S. June 25, 2020
I adore this recipe. I bake a ton of cakes and cookies, but I felt out of my depth here. The dough definitely felt too wet, and was nearly impossible to work with - I felt sure the biscuits would be shapeless and tough. But they were delicious! Next time I'll reduce the liquid by a bit - but this recipe gave me perfect biscuits on my first try.

FYI - the recipe mentions baking and then freezing them - but I tried freezing them unbaked, and then adding a minute or two to the baking time, and it worked great. I'll be making these once every couple weeks and storing them in the freezer for quick, delicious breakfasts.
 
Andra S. June 21, 2020
These were AMAZING! I’m so glad she gave the recommendation of using self rising flour if the mixture is to wet. I could’ve used a bit more than half of what called for in the recipe. I probably had to use another 1/2 cup of the self rising flour. They still turned out super light and flakey.
 
DuttiFree June 20, 2020
I want Carla to look into my bowl!
 
Julieta F. June 20, 2020
Really crispy and delicious on the outside, tender on the inside. I’d use a slightly scant teaspoon of salt next time. But definitely will make these again.
 
sandra June 17, 2020
These taste awesome! The video is super helpful too :)
Instead of round biscuits, I just used a bench scraper to make large triangle biscuits (as seems to be the trend with scones). I think I will flavour them next time but just wanted to see how good they were plain. Amazing!!!
 
RavensFeast June 16, 2020
What a fantastic recipe! So easy to follow (thanks to the video) and resulting in a dream dough that's simple to work with and produces delicious results. Grating frozen butter into biscuit dough, short dough, etc. is one of my favorite tricks. We used to employ that method making scones in a commercial bakery I worked at. I love how these biscuits are crisp on the bottoms and light are airy in between.. Thanks, Carla and Kristen!
 
RavensFeast June 16, 2020
What a fantastic recipe! So easy to follow (thanks to the video) and resulting in a dream dough that's simple to work with and produces delicious results. Grating frozen butter into biscuit dough, short dough, etc. is one of my favorite tricks. We used to employ that method making scones in a commercial bakery I worked at. I love how these biscuits are crisp on the bottoms and light are airy in between.. Thanks, Carla!
 
Angela R. June 15, 2020
These look great. I just watched the video. Think they will be great for strawberry shortcakes. Can you freeze the extras before baking? If yes, can you then bake frozen?
 
Kristen M. June 15, 2020
Thanks Angela! I would instead follow Carla's make-ahead instructions in step 11.
 
Angela R. June 15, 2020
Thanks for the response. The video was so helpful in terms of learning how to fold and turn dough.
 
Oma June 13, 2020
I've been cooking biscuits for my Georgia born and raised husband for over 50 years and have never gotten the reaction this recipe elicited, he could not stop complementing these biscuits! "Taste just like Grannies biscuits!"
 
Oma June 13, 2020
I've been cooking biscuits for my Georgia born and raised husband for over 50 years and have never gotten the reaction this recipe elicited, he could not stop complementing these biscuits! "Tast
 
Kristen M. June 15, 2020
Yay! Thanks for sharing, Oma.