Erika Council’s bomb buttermilk biscuits are layered with thick, buttery flavor and ready to be topped with your favorite jam, marmalade, or a fried egg. This recipe is from her recently released cookbook, Still We Rise, and acts as a building block for many other biscuit recipes.
2½ cups flour, plus extra for folding and cutting
1 tablespoon baking powder
1½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cold, cut into ½-inch chunks
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold
1½ cups full-fat buttermilk, cold
- Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 450°F. This rack position is ideal for baking since it situates the buttermilk biscuits in the middle of the oven, allowing the hot air to circulate around the pan, resulting in even baking.
- Place the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl and whisk to Whisking the dry ingredients ensures they’re evenly distributed. No one wants to bite into a warm biscuit only to find a bitter pocket of baking soda. Whisking also helps to bring air into the flour, making it fluffier and easier to mix with the wet ingredients.
- Using your fingers, a pastry cutter, or a fork, work the shortening into the flour mixture until only pea-sized pieces Using the slicing side of a box grater, slice the butter into the flour mixture. Toss the sheets of butter in the flour and then lightly work the butter pieces between your fingers or use a pastry cutter to break them up and coat them with flour. Stop when the dough resembles coarse sand and there are still some small visible pieces of butter. Once these pieces of butter melt in the oven, steam will be released and will lift the biscuit, forming tender, flaky layers.
- Place the biscuit mixture into the freezer for 15 minutes. This helps ensure the butter doesn’t soften too much and that it melts only in the oven to create the layer effect.
- Add the buttermilk to the chilled flour mixture and stir with a spatula until the dough forms into a ball and no dry bits of flour are visible. The dough will be shaggy and sticky.
- To avoid adding too much liquid to your biscuit mix, start with half of what the recipe calls for and gradually add in the remaining amount until the dough is almost the consistency of Silly Putty.
- If you do add too much liquid to the dry ingredients, don’t just “add more flour” as some recipes call for because your biscuits will not rise as they should, since you’ve added more flour but not additional leavening ingredients (baking powder and baking soda). Instead of trying to roll them out the traditional way, grab an ice cream scoop or spoon and make them into drop biscuits.
- Before turning your biscuit dough out onto your work surface, sprinkle the surface with 2 to 3 tablespoons of bench flour. (“Bench flour” is a baker’s term for the flour you sprinkle to keep your dough from sticking to the surface as you work with ) Then lightly dust the top of the dough with flour. Flouring your hands before working the dough also helps to keep it from sticking to you. I like to keep an additional ½ cup of flour off to the side in case I’m in need of some more bench flour. This also keeps the bag or container you store your flour in free from the debris that comes from double-dipping your dough-covered hands into your flour.
- With floured hands, pat the dough into a ¼-inch-thick rectangle. Fold the ends of the rectangle toward the center, one end on top of the other, to create a trifold. Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour and repeat the process of patting the dough into an 11 × 6 inch ¼-inch-thick rectangle and fold in thirds again. Repeat this step for a third time. Then, pat the dough to a ½-inch thickness. (You can also use a rolling pin for this process.)
- Cut out the buttermilk biscuits using a 3½-inch biscuit cutter dipped in flour. It’s helpful to dip the cutter in flour before pressing it into the dough to keep the cutter from sticking. Flouring the cutter also helps prevent you from sealing the edges of the cut, which will hinder the biscuits’ rise. Be careful to press straight down and do not twist the cutter.
- Place the biscuit rounds 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking Gather the scraps, reshape them, and pat out the dough to a ½-inch thickness. Cut out as above.
- Discard any remaining scrap or roll them into a “snake” to bake alongside the cut biscuits.
- Bake the buttermilk biscuits 15 to 17 minutes, rotating the pan once halfway through, until the tops are golden brown. Serve immediately.
Recipe ByReprinted with permission from Still We Rise by Erika Council, copyright © 2023. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.