Southern Bakers

I made my first attempt at homemade buttermilk biscuits this morning. On the one hand, super easy b/c there’s almost nothing to them. On the other hand… I did not grow up making these so I am absolutely a novice! And it showed.
Maybe the swearing helped b/c they tasted fantastic, but they definitely did not turn out as expected. Let me tell you what I did, so maybe someone can tell me where I went wrong.

I used:
Southern Biscuit Self Rise Flour (2 cups)
1/3 cup Salted butter (cold, used my fingers ( also cold) to ‘tear’ into pieces into the flour)
A bit of sugar
About 3/4 cup cold buttermilk. Very thick, maybe it needed stirred a bit? IDK

I tossed the flour and butter just a bit w/ my fingers then used the pastry cutter maybe 3 or 4 times to break up a few of the bigger pieces of butter. Made a quick well and poured in the milk. I used a rubber spoon to stir. It didn’t want to mix though! I had very dry parts and very wet parts. I didn’t want to mess w/ it too much though.
So I turned it out onto lightly floured cold counter and very lightly floured the very top of the dough b/c it was super sticky… but again very dry too in some parts.

The roller was a mistake. It just stuck to it so I used my hands. Just a few pats & then I used a 2 in cutter. I placed them touching onto a parchment lined sheet. Touching as little as possible, I patted the dough together enough to use it up & ended up w/ about 14 small biscuits. Perfect size for breakfast, but way too small for making sandwiches.

They didn’t rise much which was a surprise considering how little I worked the dough. And they never got that super golden butter color that I was expecting. Very nice crispy bits though! And a lovely fluffy center.

DH loved them!! He stood at the counter and ate the whole lot w/ honey or Trader Joe’s apple cider fruit spread. I only had 2 of them!! LOL

So where do I need improvement?! Please help.

Sounds like you did a great job, especially for your first try! You were right to keep everything cold and handle as little as possible. An easy trick is to freeze the butter and grate it into the flour. Then you just toss it together quickly. You can even put that mixture back in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to make sure it’s really cold.

About the rising - a couple things come to mind. Was the flour fresh? Self rising flour already has the leavening so I don’t use old flour. And you may have twisted the biscuit cutter on the way down. Lightly flour the cutter and press straight down into the dough and then release onto the pan. I’ve heard that twisting kind of seals the cut sides of the biscuits and can hinder the rise. What temperature did you use? Hotter helps them rise.

I use my hands to pat the dough out but I’ve heard others say a roller is better because it doesn’t add heat. It’s ok to add flour to the top of the dough or your hands if the dough is too sticky. The buttermilk should be evenly distributed so maybe it still needed a bit more working together. You can gently pat it out and then fold it over on itself and pat out again to help bring it together.

Oh, and as a finishing touch, brush the tops with melted butter when they come out of the oven. Yum.

This discussion is making my mouth water!

I was going to ask about twisting the cutter as that will inhibit rising.

And also say make sure everything is folded (not stirred) through evenly.

So, I basically have nothing to add to what @GRITS80 wrote - ha ha!

Oooooh… yeah, I may have twisted. I assume the flour was new, I just bought it. I baked at 400*
I baked for 5 min then turned the sheet and baked for another 5. They didn’t look quite done (recipe called for 10-15 min) so I did another 2 min. They were quite pale except for the very edges which were a nice brown crispy color. They were definitely done though… I used the toothpick method since they were so pale.
I will also definitely try folding next time. I think that may also help giving it layers.

+1 to not twisting when cutting.

Did you chill before you baked them?

Not a Southerner by the way but don’t discriminate. :sunglasses: :grin:

@ChaosParent23
You did a terrific job for your first try! I agree with the other posters!

Do not turn the cutter, press straight down. My grandma also chilled the butter/ flour mixture before she cut them.

I applaud you. This is a southern tradition that not many people care to try these days!

@doschicos
Props to you for the biscuit knowledge as a Californian!

Not from California. Wrong coast!

Biscuits/shortcake/scones - all pretty much the same technique. After you cut, chill before baking. Can be a short time in the freezer, longer time in the fridge.

For any dough where the butter layered in is used as an agent for rising (croissants, puff pastry, pie dough, etc.) the butter needs to be cold to create the best flakiness. When the dough is baked, the butter melts which creates steam. The steam is trapped in the dough and creates air pockets and a rise and flakiness.

I’d also say 400 degrees is too low. Look at a lot of recipes and you’ll see 450, even 475. It’s all about that reaction with the cold butter and hot oven creating steam.

@doschicos
My bad! Did not mean to offend!

I went to a Pampered Chef party many years ago and a woman who made southern biscuits every day (every day!) loved the pampered chef baking pan. It comes in several sizes and shapes but I think she used the 9x13 one, or maybe a round one. It was the kind you don’t wash but just scrape the crusty bits off, rinse with water and reuse.

Ok, so doing more research… there’s a difference b/w flaky and tender. What I did is fine for tender, but not going to cut it for flaky. And yeah, I see alot of recipes calling for 450*

I just came across the recipe for Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen here in Chapel Hill! It calls for alot more butter than the recipe I used. Other than that and using a bigger cutter, it’s the same.

I agree that 400 degrees is too low. I would try 450 or 475.

I also think 5 minutes at the high heat may not be enough. You opened the oven door, which immediately lowers oven temp. (And room temp affects that temp drop.)

Those initial minutes are when the crazy rising can happen. You watch it like a hawk at this point. Not too big or they can fall into themselves. Not too small or the air hasn’t expanded. Same as with fancy cakes. Just short of the height you want.

You do need to mix thoroughly or the chemical reactions can’t work evenly throughout. Thank you, Alton Brown, lol.

You can flour the roller.

Now the good news. Baking and retrying biscuits and breads at home is part of the custom, too. A quest. On that note, personally, I would NOT use a box mix.

Good going!

This is non-traditional, but I gently pat the dough into a square or rectangle, and then use a very sharp knife to cut it into squares. Yes, you end up with square biscuits, but you don’t have any scraps. This avoids having to re-roll the scraps, which tend to end up tough because of the extra handling. Also, cutting with a very sharp knife avoids compressing the edges, so the biscuits rise nicely. You aren’t limited by the size of biscuit cutter you have, so you can easily change the size of the biscuits.

Squares would certainly make breakfast sandwiches alot easier!
I opened b/c this oven is brand spanking new and I’m still getting used to it. I made some cookies recently and the ones toward the back cooked faster than the ones toward the front. I wonder if setting it to convection would help?? But then I have no idea what temperature to set it to.

Cookies may be different. I personally would wait to open the door and be very quick about turning the tray. 400 might mean they don’t brown too fast versus 450. It depends on what you’re seeing.

Alton B has some explanation about the butter being super cold, for it to do its thing with the rest of the ingredients. I think, as it melts in baking, air pockets form which is the flakiness. ? Minimal contact with warm hands before. You want the butter not to soften during this. Grated does sound easier.

Btw, I don’t think the old time bakers were all this precise.

@lookingforward That reminds me of an Amazon Kitchen show I was watching. The baker was making pie and said something along the lines of “you made pie! You’re a rockstar! No one is going to care if it’s not perfect.”

I’ll try out these tips and keep practicing. Thanks all!! :blush:

Generally with convection, you would set the oven 25 degrees lower than the temperature stated in the recipe, but check your oven manual first as newer ovens will auto-correct 25 degrees lower when set to convection. At first I couldn’t figure out why my oven would not set to the temp I punched in until I realized that it was auto-setting for convection.