Maureen Fraîche

Mixing Business and Pleasure in the Kitchen

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

The Husband: "These are good."

The Husband: “These are good.”

Good news–I got a new camera for Christmas.  Better news?  Biscuits.  Who doesn’t love a good biscuit?  For many of us, perfect biscuits are a bit like the Holy Grail; we dream of light, buttery goodness and yet are haunted by memories of hockey pucks past.  Well, my friends, your search is over.  Not only are these biscuits tender and delicious, but they will rise to such heights as to shame that boxed Bisquick forever to the recesses of your pantry.

This recipe is an adaptation of Alton Brown’s Southern Biscuits and it’s been my go-to biscuit recipe for years.  Perhaps the most unique ingredient is cake flour, but that’s not so surprising, is it?  Good biscuits are light, so the cake flour makes sense here.

Before you get started, here are a few tips to keep those biscuits from turning into dreaded hardtack.

  • Make sure your fats and buttermilk are cold before adding.
  • When you rub in the fats, try this trick I learned from a pastry chef: As you rub the fat and flour between your fingers, imagine yourself making the universal sign for money.  You know, rub that thumb back and forth across your fingers and, using your best mobster impersonation, say, “You got the dough?”  When you work the fats in this way, you won’t just be creating ‘coarse sand’, ‘peas’, or ‘tiny pebbles’ like some recipes suggest.  Oh no.  You’ll be creating in flakey biscuits.  ‘Nuff said.  (This same technique is also great for pie pastry, by the way.)
  • Once I’ve rubbed the fats in, I like to pop the flour mixture back in the fridge for a bit just to ensure those fats are nice and chilled.  In fact, I often do this part earlier in the day just to cut down on busy work around dinner time.  Then all I have to do is add the buttermilk and get on with the rest of the recipe.
  • Once you’ve added the buttermilk, don’t overwork the dough.  Nobody likes tough biscuits.  Stir in the buttermilk until combined, turn the whole mess out onto a floured surface, give it a light kneading for half a dozen turns, and then go easy.  Really you’re not even going to truly knead the dough.  Just fold it over onto itself, press down, rotate a quarter turn, and repeat a few more times.
  • If you have issues with the bottoms burning before the biscuits are otherwise done, try switching to a lighter colored baking sheet; darker sheets tend to speed up browning.

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits
Makes 8 biscuits


1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cake flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons cold shortening (e.g. Crisco), cut into small pieces
1 cup low-fat buttermilk, cold

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Using your fingers, rub in the fats as described above, creating small flakes of fat and flour.  (At this point, you can either refrigerate the flour mixture or carry on with the recipe.)

Stir in the buttermilk until incorporated.  Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, flour  your hands, and lightly knead for half a dozen turns.  To do this, simply fold the dough over in half on itself, press down, rotate a quarter of a turn, and then repeat a few more times.

Roll the dough out to 1″ thickness and cut with a 2 1/2″ biscuit cutter (press straight down and twist at the last second).  Pile up the scraps, knead once or twice (you don’t want to overwork it!), and cut the rest of the biscuits.  Place the biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet and arrange so that they are just barely touching each other.  Use two fingers to slightly press down the center of each biscuit.

Pop the biscuits in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, cool for a few minutes, and then serve warm!  Excellent with butter and honey, or–my favorite–homemade raspberry freezer jam.

Nutrition information per serving (1 biscuit): 175 calories, 6 g total fat, 3 g saturated fat, 25 g carbohydrate, <1 g fiber, 4 g protein

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