Biscuits. Flaky biscuits. Nothing better!
There are three things that guarentee you will have tender, flaky biscuits every time. Flour, Fat and Folding. The type of flour you use will take your biscuits from tough to tender. I use a combination of cake flour and all-purpose flour, so that I have enough structure in my biscuits to create the flaky layers, but are tender when I break into them. I’ll talk more about flour in a minute. Then there is fat. You want it cold. It should be blended into the flour, but you also want some pieces to stay in tact to create the flakiness. This is just like making pie dough. Lastly there is folding. By folding the dough, you create even more layers and the biscuits are guaranteed to be flaky.
1 1/2 cups (215g) all-purpose flour*
2/3 cup (80g) cake flour*
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
Scant 1 cup buttermilk
* Flour 101
There are essentially 3 kinds of white wheat flours that are most common in baking recipes. But, beyond those there are some flours you may run into. Here is a very brief description of what makes the flours different and how you usually use them. There are always exceptions, so be sure to use the flour called for in the recipe.
Most common flours:
- bread flour – this has a high amount of protein (13-16%). The protein is what creates gluten when you mix flour and liquid together. Gluten gives dough the stretch and structure you need to rise, particularly in breads. This flour has too much protein to be used well in cakes, cookies, biscuits and pie doughs.
- all-purpose flour – this flour has plenty of gluten developing protein (10-12%), but not as much as bread flour, which makes it more suitable for many cakes, cookies, biscuits and pie dough. You will find bleached and unbleached versions. I tend to use unbleached, because I prefer the flavor and it has a nice creamy color to it. If you are going for a pure white color in your cake, then bleached is the way to go.
- cake flour – this is the lowest protein (7-8%) of them all and so it is perfect for delicate cakes and in combination with all-purpose flour makes for a really tender biscuit. You can’t use this flour for bread, because it has so little gluten development that the bread wouldn’t have the structure to trap the gases developed by the yeast. Almost always bleached, although King Arthur Cake Flour came out with an unbleached version.
Less common, but still useful:
white lily all-purpose flour or southern flours – these are traditionally made with soft winter wheat and are lower in protein (9%), so they are traditionally used in biscuits in the south. It is what I was trying to recreate by combining the all-purpose and cake flours.
self-rising flour – this is typically a soft wheat flour that has leavening agents added to it. If you use this flour, you no longer need to add the baking powder or salt. (Protein content around 9-10%)
pastry flour – is a combination of all-purpose and cake flour with protein content between the two (8-9%). You will rarely find this flour outside of a professional pastry kitchen.
gluten-free flour – there are now many products you can find to replace wheat flour for those who have celiac disease or are intolerant to gluten or wheat. I’ve used these g-f products from Cup4Cup and Bob’s Red Mill and King Arthur Flour with great success in pastries, but haven’t had as good results in bread recipes. These flours obviously have no gluten forming proteins and generally use xanthan, guar gum or psyllium to create the structure in the dough.
Check out my free Craftsy video on making flaky biscuits:
Making flaky biscuits:
Preheat oven to 425°F
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry dough blender and cutter or by using your hands. If you use your hands, just be sure not to over work the butter or you may make it soft. If this happens, refrigerate the flour/butter mixture until the butter solidifies again. You should have very small pea sized pieces of butter still in tact.
Add the buttermilk and stir together. The dough will look a bit shaggy, but should no longer have dry powdery flour and it shouldn’t be too wet either. If you need a few more drops of liquid, add it sparingly, you don’t want the dough to be too soft.
Pour the shaggy dough onto the work surface and fold the dough over on itself a few times using a pastry scraper. This will form a more cohesive dough, but won’t melt the butter.
Lightly flour the surface and roll the dough out to 1/4-inch rectangle. Try to keep it as clean a rectangle as possible, but don’t worry if the edges are a bit scruffy.
Now fold the dough into thirds using your pastry scraper.
And again, so it is like a letter.
Now use a biscuit cutter to cut out the dough.
Gently press together any scraps and use them to make more biscuits. Be careful not to over work these scraps or they will end up tough.
Place the biscuits on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
Make sure they have enough space to expand slightly in the oven. They will grow up more than out, so they can be placed fairly close.
Bake at 425°F for about 15 minutes or until they are golden brown on top.
Your biscuits should have great rise and be super flaky.
Serve your flaky biscuits with jam or with sausage and gravy.