Here's how to make the lightest, flakiest cut-out biscuits. You'll learn how to knead the dough and pat it out, and the best way cut it so the biscuits rise up as they bake.
Most biscuit recipes are variations on the same theme: flour, fat, milk or buttermilk, baking powder, and salt. It's how the ingredients are put together that really matters. The key to tender biscuits is to handle the dough as little as possible.
Watch the video and try this recipe for Basic Biscuits.
Top Tips for Making Biscuits
Cut in the Fat Until Crumbly
The recipe states, "Cut in shortening with fork or pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs." You want to have a fairly homogenous mixture, rather than having large flakes of butter visible in the flour. If you squeeze some of the flour-fat mixture in your hands, it'll form a ball. Unlike pie dough, you don't need to use ice-cold ingredients to make biscuits--another reason why they're quick to make.
Don't Overwork It
After adding the milk (or soured milk, or buttermilk, or half plain yogurt and half milk stirred together), mix the dough just until the dry ingredients are moistened. You don't want to overwork it or your biscuits will turn out tough.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and dust the dough with flour, too. At this point, you're going to do a little quick kneading--not enough to form a tough gluten structure, but enough to work some flour into the dough and help form layers in your flaky biscuits.
Fold and Fold Again
Pat the dough flat, sprinkle it with a little more flour, and fold it in half. Turn the dough 45 degrees, and give it another sprinkle of flour and a fold. Repeat once or twice more. All those folds turn into flaky layers.
Pat It Out
Don't bother with a rolling pin; just give the dough a couple of pats until it's about a half-inch thick.
Cut It Out
Now, here's the important step: You need to use a biscuit cutter, a sharp knife, or a pizza wheel to cut your biscuits. (A jelly jar or juice glass is just too dull.) Part of what makes biscuits puff up as they bake is the sharp, clean edges of the cut out dough.
Arrange the biscuits on a baking sheet. Gather up your scraps, gently squeeze them into a ball, and pat the dough flat again to cut out more biscuits until you use up all the dough.
Brush Before Baking
Brush the surface of the biscuits with milk or egg wash before baking, for a little deeper color. Bake the biscuits in a hot oven until the bottoms, not the tops, are a golden brown--if you rely on the color of the tops of the biscuits, they're likely to get too dark.
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