Ok, people have asked and they shall receive! So far, I’m only thrilled with the crumbly biscuit, but maybe you’ll have better luck with the flaky version.
Since no two people gave me the same answer on what they consider the perfect biscuit, I will give the basics, and then detail how to tailor it to your preferences. For those of you science types, I will explain why things work by request, so that you, too, can fiddle with the recipe until its just like you want it.
Becca’s Basic Biscuit Batter (yeah, I know it’s a dough but that doesn’t start with B)
Makes appx 10 biscuits depending on how big you make them.
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cake flour
1 tablespoon (double acting) baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white granulated sugar (for sweeter biscuits use 2 tbsp)
1/3 cup unsalted butter (or shortening)
1 cup buttermilk or whole milk (see notes)
All versions use the same ingredients, it’s just how you put them together.
In a large bowl, whisk flours, baking powder, salt and sugar together. Lightly spray a cookie sheet (I use butter flavored Pam) and set aside. Fill an oven safe dish with water and place on the top rack of the oven. I do this with all of my baking now. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, 218 Celsius.
Using a food processor, or your hands, mix butter and shortening into flour mixture. For warm butter or shortening, mix until the flour resembles coarse breadcrumbs. This makes a middle of the road moisture biscuit. Good for soaking up lots of juice. For cold/slightly frozen butter, mix until all the butter pieces are fairly small (about pea sized) and a little flattened. It will look kind of chunky. Return the entire bowl to the fridge to chill the butter again. I use my fingers, so it gets pretty soft in the mixing process.
You can use either whole milk or buttermilk in the biscuits. I use a buttermilk substitute which I will explain afterwards in the notes. Add a little milk at a time, mixing it gently into the flour mixture. For flaky biscuits, stop when the dough is holding together. For crumbly biscuits, you want the resulting mixture to be wet. Not sopping, mind you, but it should look like cottage cheese.
This is where the technique varies wildly.
For flaky biscuits, knead dough two to three times. Not much. On a lightly floured surface, roll or flatten out and cut out your biscuits. I hate using the glass because the extra dough left over is either wasted, or heretically rerolled and makes tough, chewy biscuits. Use as little kneading as possible. I cut biscuits with a knife into squares so I don’t waste the dough.
For crumbly biscuits, have a more heavily floured surface. Using a spoon or ice cream scoop, scoop a couple of spoonfuls of dough onto your surface (as separate lumps, not all together). With well-floured hands, gently coat the outside of the wet dough with flour. This makes it so you can handle it. Do not knead at all, but just make it into the round shape of your biscuits. Be very careful to shake off excess flour. It’s not tasty on the final result.
This is when the directions converge again. Make sure that you place your biscuits tightly together. Smush them just a little. This helps keep inside moist and then they have no room except to go up!
Bake the biscuits on the middle of your oven at 425. For crumbly biscuits, bake for 13-15 minutes. For soft outsides, you want it to just barely start to turn golden on each biscuit. For crisper, wait until the top is golden (but not brown). Brown is bad mm’kay? The flaky ones seem to cook much faster, say 10-12 minutes.
Take them out, let cool for a minute or so, then enjoy!
For crumbly biscuits, you can use shortening or butter, or even half butter and half shortening. For flaky biscuits, it has to be cold butter. I chop my butter into pea-sized pieces before using. You can put the butter in the freezer for a few minutes after chopping so that it’s very cold when you mix it in. I like cold or cooler butter over room temperature. Why? Because as it baked in the oven, the butter melts and its like your biscuits came pre-buttered out of the oven!
Buttermilk substitute: I don’t usually keep buttermilk at the house, so I learned this trick. One tablespoon of lemon juice into a measuring cup. Add whole milk until it reaches the one cup line. Let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes, so that it curdles.
That’s what I can think of right now. Any questions?