10 Secrets to Buttery, Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits

When I told my husband that I was making some biscuits, he didn't say anything.

Then he mumbled something.

What did you say?
"I really don't like biscuits."
How come?
"They are dry and crumbly."

I assured him that THIS time, the biscuits are NOT coming from a box, can or whatever.
They are going to be homemade...

I searched high and low over the Internet and settled on Food Wishes Buttermilk Biscuit recipe.   Chef John has an excellent three minute video that is worth watching ~

You can use cold buttermilk, whey from homemade yogurt or sour milk. How do you make sour milk?

Kitchen Tip:  You make sour milk by putting in 1 T. of lemon juice or vinegar in a measuring cup. Fill the cup with enough milk to reach 3/4 cup.  Let the milk sit for 5 minutes and ta-da!  You have sour milk!

For this recipe, I opted to use SaCo powdered buttermilk.  It keeps well in the fridge and I always have it on hand.

All purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and powdered buttermilk are mixed in a large bowl.

The recipe calls for UNsalted butter, thinly sliced and then frozen.
If you only have salted butter, reduce the salt in the recipe to 1/4 teaspoon. 

I had a cube of frozen salted butter, which sliced up nicely.

TIP: Use a cold, refrigerated stick of butter and coarsely grate it. Stick it in the freezer while you are preparing the rest of the ingredients.

A pastry blender works great.  If you don't have one, use a fork or two knives to cut the butter into pea sized pieces.

Add a cup of cold water, (or the cup of cold buttermilk, sour milk or yogurt whey)...

Mix it with a spatula until all the pieces come together.

Crumbly is o.k. ~ do not overmix the dough.

Handle the dough as lightly as you can.

Roll into a 12"x6" rectangle.

Fold it into thirds, like a letter.

Does anyone send letters anymore?

Roll into a rectangle.

Turn the dough 90°.

Roll and fold it into thirds again.

Turn the dough 90°. Fold into thirds again, for the last and 3rd time.

Flour your hands if you need to.

Roll to 3/4" layer (or pat with hands). This is more like 1/2".

Use a 2 1/2" biscuit cutter or drinking glass.

Put biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet or Silpat baking mat.

Push straight down....do not twist.

Why?  You get a biscuit with straight sides.

Put a thumbprint in the middle.

Why?  Helps 'em rise straight.

I put thumbprints in all of them....should've left some alone to test out the theory...

Brush with buttermilk, or milk. This will create a crispy, brown top.

These puffed up high and light....

The verdict?

Light, fluffy, flaky....

So you want the secrets?

1.  COLD Buttermilk.  Tenderizes the dough.
2.  Fresh baking soda and baking powder.
3.  COLD UNsalted butter. Reduce the salt if using salted butter.
4.  Gently handle dough.  Overworking = hockey pucks.
5.  Folding the dough = flaky layers.
6.  Push straight down with cutter; do not twist!
7.  Thumbprint in middle.
8.  Brush with buttermilk, prior to baking...

Chef John from Food Wishes suggests making these biscuits about a dozen times.  I have made these biscuits several times, getting better each time.  It is a recipe worth perfecting and enjoying.  Thanks, Chef John!

print recipe

Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits
Discover the secrets to tall, flaky, buttery biscuits that will melt in your mouth!
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 7 Tablespoons cold butter, coarsely grated or cut into thin slices
  • 3/4 cup cold buttermilk, soured milk, yogurt whey
1. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.2. Using a fork or pastry blender, cut the cold butter in the flour mixture until fine and crumbly.3. Make a well in the middle of the flour/butter mixture. Pour the buttermilk and stir with a spatula until moistened. Do not over mix!4. Dough will look shaggy. Shape into a rough rectangle.5. Fold into thirds, like a letter.6. Rotate dough 90°, fold into thirds again.7. Rotate dough 90°again, and fold into thirds for the last time.8. Roll out onto a lightly floured surface, 3/4" thick.9. Using a 2.5" round cutter, push straight down; don't twist.10. Push together dough scraps, re-roll, and cut.11. Put cut biscuits on a silicone baking mat, parchment paper, or ungreased baking sheet.12. Press the middle of each biscuit with thumb to help rise straight. 13. Brush tops with buttermilk.14. Bake in a 425° preheated oven for 12-15 minutes.NOTE: to make soured milk, put a tablespoon of lemon juice into a measuring cup. Add enough milk to equal 3/4 cup. Let sit for 5 minutes.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 9-12

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