Buttermilk Biscuits

I am a native of New York state who moved south to escape the horrible cold winters there. When I moved to Virginia I discovered many things that were different here other than the weather. People waved at each other all over the place. That took some getting used to, as I would look at them and think, ‘Do I know that person? Why are they waving at me?’ It took me a while to figure out what Nabs were. Restaurants all over the area served biscuits. Biscuits?

Back home biscuits were something you might have with dinner, like dinner rolls. They weren’t served in most restaurants. Breakfast sandwiches came on croissants or english muffins or bagels. But in Virginia they came with fried chicken on them, or steak, and for any meal of the day. I didn’t really think much of them until I was introduced to their legendary sidekick, sausage gravy. I think gravy and biscuits are now my favorite thing about Virginia, and my favorite breakfast. I had to learn to make this wonderful meal.

I researched lots of recipes online, on TV, and from various people who lived here. I finally found a recipe that I liked, but it was still missing something. Here we have a chain of restaurants called Hardees. In the west they’re known as Carls Jr. They serve the best biscuits I’ve had, and I wanted mine to be more like those. So I tweaked my recipe and baked a lot more biscuits until I was satisfied that I had the ones I wanted. Now I’m going to share them with you!

The first step is to preheat your oven. You need a hot oven to make biscuits, at least 400 degrees. I use 450, but some people even crank it all the way up to 500.

Preheat Oven
Preheat Oven

To make this recipe, it’s helpful to have some specialized tools. A bench scraper, a biscuit cutter, and a pastry cutter are all useful, as well as a whisk.

Tools
Tools

For baking the biscuits, any sort of sheet or baking pan will do, but I prefer these half-sheet pans similar to the ones bakeries use. You can get them online or at restaurant supply stores or some wholesale clubs like Sam’s.

Half Sheet Pan
Half Sheet Pan

While the oven is heating prepare your dry ingredients. You’ll need flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Use a large bowl to mix them together.

Dry Ingredients
Dry Ingredients

I use a whisk to mix them, as this aerates the mix and helps everything distribute more evenly.

Dry Mix
Dry Mix

Everything added after this needs to be cold. The fats and the buttermilk should be chilled, and not taken from the cold until they’re ready to be added into the mix. Some recipes even use frozen butter, grated into the mix with a grater. I tried that method, but it’s more of a pain than anything else, and the butter is just as well cold as it is frozen. Refrigerated butter is just fine.

Next add the fats – butter and shortening. I also keep my shortening in the refrigerator, so it’s cold. You can use all butter or all shortening here, but I think the biscuits have the best texture and flavor when you use both.

Fats
Fats

Toss the shortening into the flour mixture, and cut the butter into small pieces to toss in.

Add Fats To Dry
Add Fats To Dry

This is where a pastry cutter shines. You can use a fork or even your fingers to mix and crumble up the fats into the flour, but it’s easiest and you get better results using a pastry cutter. If you use your fingers work quickly, because you don’t want your body heat to melt the fats.

Cut Fat Into Dry
Cut Fat Into Dry

Mix them in until the fats are in small pea-size pieces and the mix is crumbly.

Pea Sized Crumble
Pea Sized Crumble

Now it’s time to add the buttermilk. It should be cold, so I usually measure it out into a measuring cup in advance and keep it in the fridge until I’m ready for it. Add it all at once and mix it in. You can use a spoon or spatula, but it gets hard to mix with a utensil quickly, so I use my hand. You could possibly use a mixer for this, but you only need to mix until the dough comes together, which doesn’t take long at all, so I don’t bother.

Cold Buttermilk
Cold Buttermilk

The dough will be sticky, but that’s fine. Scrape it out of the bowl onto a well-floured surface. For this part you can either use a rolling pin or your hands. I use my hands. If you use a rolling pin, keep it well-floured so the dough doesn’t stick to it. Dust the dough with a little flour and flatten it out into a rectangle shape. Then fold one-third of it over onto the top, then the other side. Press the dough down and turn it 90 degrees. Press into a rectangle and fold over again. Repeat this about 4 or 5 times. The bench scraper makes this part easy, especially if the dough is sticking to your surface.

Fold Over Dough
Fold Over Dough

Be careful not to overwork the dough, or it will get tough. Spread it out a final time to about an inch thick. Now use your biscuit cutter to cut out rounds. Do not twist the cutter when cutting, just press straight down and remove the biscuit. I use a 3-inch biscuit cutter, which I think makes the perfect size biscuits. Place each biscuit onto your baking pan. Most recipes will tell you to place the biscuits touching each other, so they hold each other up as they rise. They will come out good that way, but I don’t do that. I like mine to be a bit crispy on the outside edges, so I place them on the sheet not touching each other. Take the extra bits of dough left from cutting and mix back together and keep cutting until there is no dough left. The last bit of cuttings can probably be shaped into a biscuit without cutting. You should get 12 to 14 biscuits, depending on how large you cut them.

Biscuits Cut On Pan
Biscuits Cut On Pan

Press down on the top of each biscuit gently with your thumb to make a small impression. This will help the biscuits rise more evenly and not puff up too much. Then the part which helps make these more like Hardees biscuits. Placing them not touching on the pan was the first part. Now before they go into the oven, brush them all with melted salted butter. I only had unsalted butter on hand, so I just added a pinch of salt to my melted butter.

Brush With Butter Before Baking
Brush With Butter Before Baking

Now into the hot oven they go. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until they are light golden on top.

Biscuits Out Of Oven
Biscuits Out Of Oven

While they are still hot, brush them again with melted salted butter. Let them cool a bit before eating if you want to eat them still warm, or eat when cooled. You can place them into sealed bags and freeze them for later. They freeze well and when thawed taste just as good as when they came out of the oven. I had to have one still warm with butter on it. Yum!

Finished Biscuits
Finished Biscuits

If you like a more traditional fluffy biscuit that’s not so crispy on the outside, Place the biscuits touching on the pan, and brush with butter only after they’ve baked. Either way these biscuits are delicious. The recipe makes 12-14 biscuits, depending on how large you cut them, but you can make multiple batches to freeze if you like.

Buttermilk Biscuits

4 cups of flour
1 1/2 tablespoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons of coarse salt like kosher
1/2 stick of butter, cold
4 tablespoons of shortening, cold
2 cups of buttermilk, chilled
Additional butter melted for brushing biscuits
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

InĀ  large bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry cutter, fork, or your fingers, mix the fats into the flour mixture until the mixture is crumbly. If you use your fingers work quickly so the fats don’t melt.

Pour in the cold buttermilk and stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface , dust the top with flour, and gently press the dough out and fold over on top of itself 5 or 6 times. Press out to 1 inch thick and cut biscuits. Place on baking sheet just touching each other. Bake until tall and light gold on top, 15 to 20 minutes. Makes 12-14 biscuits.

(See description above for more tips and variations)