Flaky and buttery homemade biscuits hot from the oven! I guarantee these little guys will disappear fast from the dinner table. The key to creating tender and flaky layers is how small pieces of cold butter are incorporated into the dough, as well as the process of stacking the layers. Learn to master the technique and you’ll be a hero in your household.
Homemade biscuits with crunchy tops and flaky layers make any meal feel special. This quick bread recipe allows you to mix, shape, and bake in a short amount of time. This works out well when preparing a feast for the family. However, there are a few crucial techniques to be aware of before you get elbow deep in flour.
This country-style buttermilk biscuit recipe is one that I tested extensively for my cookbook, Easy Culinary Science for Better Cooking. After many experiments in the test kitchen, I finally nailed just the right contrast of texture and flavor. Although it seems simple and requires very few ingredients, that’s what makes the preparation and process even more important.
Use cold butter and layer the dough
To ensure separated layers when you pull the biscuit apart; first, chill the butter and then press the slices into large flat discs with your fingers. The small butter pockets melt into the dough during baking and leave holes for steam and gas to expand and make partitions in the layers.
Roll the dough, cut into 4 squares then stack them on top of each other. This adds extra layers that wouldn’t be there if you just cut the biscuits immediately after mixing and rolling out. Make straight down motions when using the biscuit cutter as any twisting motion makes them stick together on the edges and will ruin the layers.
Ingredients for homemade biscuits
All-purpose flour contains 10 to 12 percent protein to provide structure created by the gluten network formed during mixing. Leavening agents like baking soda and baking powder promotes browning and rise which also helps neutralize the acid in the buttermilk to reduce some natural tanginess.
A small amount of sugar helps accelerate golden color formation as the biscuits cook quickly in the oven. It also adds a bit of crunch. Chilled butter provides flavor and lots of mini layers in the bread. Buttermilk hydrates the flour proteins for gluten formation, keeps the biscuits moist, and adds extra flavor from the slight tanginess in the cultured milk.
Why you chill the dough
Briefly freeze the butter and flour mixture after breaking into smaller pieces, and then chill the cut out biscuits to ensure defined layers. This keeps the butter from melting into the protein network as it is mixed, rolled and shaped. The key is to create separate sheets of dough before it even goes into the oven.
Something unique about this recipe is that the dough may seem slightly dry initially. Rest assured that the lightly floured and rigid surface adds wonderful texture to the tops of the biscuits. After all your hard work, you’ll be rewarded with hot, fresh, and buttery biscuits to dip into homemade gravy or to use for eggs benedict.
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Rest the biscuits before baking
Once the biscuits are cut, rest and chill before baking. This allows the gluten network to relax after all of the kneading and rolling. It also keeps the butter cold for building flaky layers. Relaxing the dough also helps the biscuits rise evenly during baking so the heights are more symmetrical and not fallen over.
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- 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for topping
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons for brushing
- 1 cup buttermilk, plus 2 tablespoons, chilled
- Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position. Preheat to 450°F (232°C).
- In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar.
- Cut 1 cup of butter into 1⁄8-inch thick pieces. Add a few butter slices at a time into the flour mixture and toss to coat.
- Squeeze each slice of butter between a floured thumb and pointer finger, pressing and breaking the butter off into flat, nickel-sized pieces.
- Repeat the process with the remaining butter then toss to combine. Freeze the mixture in the bowl until chilled, 15 minutes.
- Gradually add 1 cup buttermilk into the chilled flour mixture, stirring with a fork until incorporated.
- Knead the biscuit mixture in the bowl a few times until a shaggy dough forms; it will look slightly dry. If needed, add an extra 1 to 2 tablespoons of buttermilk so that most of the flour is hydrated and can be kneaded into the dough.
- Lightly dust a working surface with the flour. Place the mixture onto the floured surface and shape and press with hands until combined into a 1-inch thick square, about 8 x 8 inches, the dough will not be sticky.
- Cut the dough into 4 even-shaped squares and stack them as evenly as possible on top of each other.
- Lightly flour a rolling pin and roll the dough out into a 1-inch thick square, 8 x 8 inches.
- Leave about a 1⁄4-inch border along the edges when cutting the biscuits to give even layers.
- Using a 2 1⁄2 -inch floured biscuit cutter, press straight down into the dough, without turning.
- Transfer to a parchment paper–lined sheet pan and repeat with the remaining dough.
- Refrigerate the biscuits for 30 minutes before baking.
- Transfer the biscuits to a new parchment paper–lined sheet pan.
- Make sure that the biscuits are at least 1 inch apart on the sheet pan.
- Melt 2 tablespoons butter then brush the tops of each biscuit and sprinkle with salt.
- Bake until golden brown, 10 to 11 minutes.
- Cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
- MAKE IT GLUTEN-FREE: Substitute gluten free flour for all-purpose wheat flour. I recommend Bob's Red Mill 1:1 Baking Flour.
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