I’ve written about biscuits in the past, and I’ve had occasional successes on this front, but the reality is that I’ve never hit them consistently until recently. Over time, though, I’ve stolen various hints — and I realize that these pretty much work with almost any decent recipe. Try these out:
1. Don’t worry so much. I long ago discovered that worrying makes the beer sour and the barbecue tougher. It does the same thing to biscuit dough. The stuff is easier to make than you’ve been taught to think.
2. Sift your dry ingredients. I wish I could say why this makes a difference, because modern flour is presifted, but it always has to me. Certainly, everything in the bowl seems fluffier before I mix it all together.
3. Use cold fats. Some people go so far as to freeze their butter or shortening and then grate it into their dry mix. I just use very cold butter, cut it into very small pieces, then use my fingertips (not my whole hands) to quickly incorporate it into the dry mix and make those little pea-sized flour that are the beginning point for good biscuits. I tried a pastry cutter and two forks to do the same thing, but found using my fingertips worked better and faster. If you do it quickly, the butter doesn’t get warm before you finish.
4. Make a ‘reservoir’ in the middle of your dry mix and pour in your liquid. Milk, buttermilk, whatever…and then use a fork to fold the dry mix into the wet until you get a very rough dough.
5. Don’t overwork the dough and keep the rolling pin out of things. You just want to get the dough together, and then you can work it out with your hands. It’s easy with a little practice.
6. If you can’t get cake flour or southern-style biscuit flour that’s low in gluten, let your dough rest half an hour. It’s a tip I saw in several recipes and it definitely works. Of course, it also means you have to wait half an hour.
7. Use a biscuit cutter (they’re cheap) and never twist it — push it up and down. Almost anything else, including a drink glass that’s used in the same way, can pinch the edges of the biscuit and inhibit rising.
8. Brush the top of the biscuit with something to help it look golden brown. Some people use buttermilk before baking; I brush them immediately out of the oven with melted butter. It works great.
*Thank you for a great line, Kacey Musgraves.