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Perfect Buttermilk Biscuits

There’s nothing like it! A warm buttery biscuit is the perfect addition to just about any meal, from breakfast to dinner, and they even make a great snack. Soft, warm, and flaky, they’re great with butter or jam and a good biscuit is a hit with all ages, even little ones.

Of course, if you want to include biscuits with your meal, you can purchase the canned variety of buttermilk biscuit, which are pretty good and ideal for when you’re in a hurry, but the homemade kind are much better and not too hard to make. Seasoned bakers will tell you that – like pie crust – there are some tricks to making a great buttermilk biscuit but that a little practice will make perfect….every time.

Choosing the Right Flour

The main ingredient in biscuits is – of course – flour, and seasoned biscuit bakers will argue that what kind of flour you use in your buttermilk biscuits will make all the difference as to how they turn out in the end.

The secret, say these experts, is to use a type of flour that is low in protein. Bakers understand that this flour is the best kind available for making quick breads or biscuits of any kind. In contrast, yeast breads fare best when you use a flour with a high protein content.

Finding out how much protein is in the flour in your pantry may demand more than looking at the bag. The bag generally lists proteins by grams and not by overall percentage. However, most all-purpose flours contain about 10-12 percent protein, as a rule. That’s fairly high. Therefore, there are better flour choices for biscuit recipes.

Cake flours can work well with biscuits. You’ll find these in your store bearing names like Swans Down or Softasilk. (Brands may vary according to your location.) These contain about 7.5 to 8.5 percent protein. Bleached all-purpose flour is also a consideration. These brands include While Lily, Martha White, or Red Band. If you can purchase these “southern” varieties listed here, you’ll find they work best because they contain soft winter wheat, which has less protein than northern wheat.

Tips for Baking the Best Biscuits

Fresh, fresh, fresh! – If your baking powder has been in the cupboard for 2 years, throw it away and get a new can. All the ingredients in your biscuits – including the flour and other dry ingredients – need to be fresh.

Work quickly – One of the secrets to good buttermilk biscuits is working efficiently so that the ingredients remain at the correct temperature. So, have pans, tools, and ingredients ready before you start mixing. And don’t forget to preheat the oven!

Cold butter is essential – As with pie crusts, you’ll want the butter to be as cold as possible. So, if you cut it into small pieces beforehand, keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to add it. Cold butter makes for flaky biscuits!

Don’t overmix – When it’s time to add the buttermilk, mix until it is just incorporated. The dough for biscuits should not be smooth but actually rather clumpy and lumpy. And when you’re ready to get your hands in there and finish the mixing, don’t treat your biscuit dough like bread dough. Kneading isn’t necessary. Merely use your hands to finish working the liquid through the dough. Once that’s accomplished, you’re done!

Cut, don’t twist! – When it’s time to cut your biscuits, dust the working surface with all-purpose flour and pat the dough down to about ¾ inch thick. (Don’t roll!) Take your biscuit cutter and merely press in a downward motion to cut. Twisting will “seal” the sides and interfere with rising and your biscuits will be flatter than they should be.

Keep them together – Your biscuits will be softer if you let the sides touch during the baking process, just like the canned variety instructs you to do.