As we were indulging in a delivery meal from one of our local favorite restaurants, Southern Social, and devouring their craaazzyy good deviled eggs, the man of the farm said, “I don’t even like deviled eggs but these are the best ever.”
We started thinking of beloved comfort foods and reminiscing over favorite meals that would be fun to recreate. We already have a few that I would place firmly in the winner’s circle; meatballs, pancakes, massaman curry, a mean peanut butter chocolate chunk cookie…
And so an idea for a quest was born. I’m on a mission to find the BEST EVER recipes of classic dishes. Starting with the Best Ever Buttermilk Biscuits.
I grew up with biscuits as a household staple, made by my proud southern mama who never makes the same recipe twice. I’m attempting four different recipes in the hopes of finding a standout. Who will win? Will one of them come close to perfection?! The contenders:
- Buttermilk Biscuits, Meghan Splawn
- Southern Biscuits, Alton Brown
- Classic Buttermilk Biscuit, Carrie Morey
- Food.com’s Southern Buttermilk Biscuits (with alterations by my brother)
– SPOILER ALERT –
BUTTERMILK BISCUITS – MEGHAN SPLAWN
- 2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus 1/4 cup more for dusting
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, frozen
- 1 cup buttermilk
- Heat the oven: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 450°F.
- Mix the dry ingredients: Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.
- Grate the butter: Place a box grater over a small piece of parchment paper. Grate the frozen butter on the large holes of a box grater. When you get down to a small nub of butter, chop that nub into 5 to 6 small pieces.
- Add the butter to the dry ingredients: Use the piece of parchment paper to transfer the butter to the dry ingredients. Use your fingers to sift the butter into the flour and break up any clumps of grated butter.
- Mix in the buttermilk: Pour in the buttermilk and beat it in with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
- Fold the biscuits: Transfer the dough to a lightly floured cutting board. Pat the dough into a 1-inch-thick rough rectangle. Sprinkle the dough with a little more flour, if needed.
- Fold the dough in half from top to bottom, then pat it back down into its original shape.
- Repeat with the folding and patting, alternating folding from each side, the bottom, and the top until you have completed a total of 8 folds. At the end, the dough should be a little springy to the touch.
- Cut the biscuits: Pat the dough into a 1-inch thickness. Use a 3-inch round cutter to cut the dough into 6 biscuits. If you don’t get 6 the first time around, refold and pat down the excess dough and cut more as needed. Discard the scraps of leftover dough.
- Bake: Arrange the biscuits in a 10-inch cast iron skillet so that the biscuits touch each other, but not the sides of the pan. Put the skillet in the oven and increase the oven temperature to 500°F. Bake until the biscuits are golden-brown, 15 to 18 minutes.
- Serve: Remove the skillet from the oven and immediately remove the biscuits from the pan to a clean tea towel.
I think perhaps she overcomplicates this a bit but you won’t be sad eating these.
- The 8 folds seems to be my preferred way to biscuit. Don’t roll them, don’t fold 4 times or 6 times. Eight. She wins in that category.
- I didn’t hate the concept of frozen butter or grating it in, but I don’t think it’ll ruin your biscuits if you didn’t do either. The parchment paper is wholly unnecessary, as is a wooden spoon. (I prefer a spatula btw)
- I also don’t think you need to raise the oven to 500.
SOUTHERN BISCUITS – Alton Brown
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
- 2 tablespoons unflavored shortening, chilled
- 1 cup buttermilk, chilled
- Heat the oven to 450°F.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using your fingertips, rub butter and shortening into dry ingredients until mixture looks like crumbs. (The faster the better, you don’t want the fats to melt.) Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled buttermilk. Stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky.
- Turn dough onto floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold dough over on itself 5 or 6 times. Press into a 1-inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter, being sure to push straight down through the dough. Place biscuits on baking sheet so that they just touch. Reform scrap dough, working it as little as possible and continue cutting. (Biscuits from the second pass will not be quite as light as those from the first, but hey, that’s life.)
- Bake until biscuits are tall and light gold on top, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot.
My first impression upon first bite is that these were pretty close to ideal. I liked the height, I liked the fluffiness. They needed more flavor but like Carrie’s below, I think they’re just a little light in the pants in the butter department. The next time I made them I added 2tbs butter and butter brushed the tops of the biscuits two minutes prior to the end of baking. That definitely helped.
- Hubby said, ‘but there’s no difference between the top of the biscuit and the insides.’
- Needs more butter / flavor
- I probably made taller than recipe called for but loved the height
- A little too dense for me after they had cooled. When hot I didn’t notice as much
CLASSIC BUTTERMILK BISCUITS – Carrie Morey
- 2 cups (240 grams) White Lily Self-Rising Flour, plus more for dusting
- 4 tablespoons (56 grams) salted butter, room temperature
- ¼ cup (56 grams) cream cheese, softened, cut into cubes
- ¾ to 1 cup (180 to 240 grams) whole buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon (14 grams) salted butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 450°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
- In a large bowl, combine flour and room temperature butter, using your fingers to break up the butter. The result should resemble grated Parmesan.
- Add cream cheese, using your hands to mix it in, leaving a few larger pieces. Add buttermilk, and stir until dough is sticky and wet but not sloppy. (All flour should be incorporated.)
- Turn out dough on a lightly floured work surface. Dust the top of dough with flour, and roll to 1½-inch thickness. Using a 2-inch round cutter, cut dough. Arrange biscuits, with edges touching, on prepared pan. Brush with melted butter.
- Bake until tops are golden brown, 16 to 18 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Let cool on pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Serve warm.
There are a few things about this recipe that confuse me to my biscuit-loving core. Room temp butter?? Only 4tbs?? No folding? What the heck is happening. Those lapses aside, I’ve had her biscuits from Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit and was willing to give it a try in the name of science, I mean baking. My notes right after cooking:
- Definitely needs some baking soda and powder. I ignored instructions and added 2tbs baking soda and the 1/4 baking powder. Probably will do the full 4 of the soda next time, they did not rise as much as I’d like
- Also added a few cranks of salt
- I think melted butter should go on a few minutes before the end, not on raw dough
- Was the wettest of all my doughs
- Dense, has more the interior consistency of cheddar bay biscuits
- Is she crazy using room temp butter? Sacrilege. I couldn’t bring myself to do that and chopped my cold butter and mixed in with fingertips at the same time as cream cheese
- Baked full 18 min on 450
SOUTHERN BUTTERMILK BISCUITS – Food.com
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the board (if you can get White Lily flour, your biscuits will be even better)
- 1⁄4teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon baking powder (use one without aluminum)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt or 1 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold *BROTHER ALTERATION – Use 1 whole stick of butter, frozen
- 1 cup buttermilk (approx)
- BROTHER ALTERATION – add a smidge sugar
- Preheat your oven to 450°F.
- Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, or in the bowl of a food processor.
- Cut the butter into chunks and cut into the flour until it resembles course meal.
- If using a food processor, just pulse a few times until this consistency is achieved.
- Add the buttermilk and mix JUST until combined.
- If it appears on the dry side, add a bit more buttermilk. It should be very wet.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured board.
- Gently, gently PAT (do NOT roll with a rolling pin) the dough out until it’s about 1/2″ thick. Fold the dough about 5 times, gently press the dough down to a 1 inch thick.
- Use a round cutter to cut into rounds.
- You can gently knead the scraps together and make a few more, but they will not be anywhere near as good as the first ones.
- Place the biscuits on a cookie sheet- if you like soft sides, put them touching each other.
- If you like”crusty” sides, put them about 1 inch apart- these will not rise as high as the biscuits put close together.
- Bake for about 10-12 minutes- the biscuits will be a beautiful light golden brown on top and bottom.
- Do not overbake.
- Note: The key to real biscuits is not in the ingredients, but in the handling of the dough.
- The dough must be handled as little as possible or you will have tough biscuits.
- I have found that a food processor produces superior biscuits, because the ingredients stay colder and there’s less chance of overmixing.
- You also must pat the dough out with your hands, lightly.
- Rolling with a rolling pin is a guaranteed way to overstimulate the gluten, resulting in a tougher biscuit.
- Note 2: You can make these biscuits, cut them, put them on cookie sheets and freeze them for up to a month.
- When you want fresh biscuits, simply place them frozen on the cookie sheet and bake at 450°F for about 20 minutes.
These are actually my brother’s notes:
He says, “Its all about the technique, cold butter. Minimal handling. The secret is that it you have to use food processor, frozen butter, not too moist, hand knead and pat into a flat round for cutting biscuits. Use biscuit cutter. The food processor is so much better, cuts butter into flour really well and then a few pulses with buttermilk in it and dump onto board and kneed/fold with hands to finish mixing dry bits at bottom.”
He’s not wrong. Minimal handling and keeping the butter cold does help produce a fluffier biscuit. This was my standard recipe… until now.
COPPER LIGHT FARM’S BEST EVER BUTTERMILK BISCUIT
And we have a winner!
If you made it through all of this, you may not be surprised to learn that our best biscuit winner is made from a combination of these stellar recipes. Not that I’m a food blogger by any stretch, but generally when developing recipes I wouldn’t think to show you all the previous iterations – just get to the good stuff. That’s what we’re all here for. But I thought some of you, like myself, might be on a similar journey to biscuit-dom. Everyone has different preferences for biscuits; slightly crunchy sides, tall and light, dense and small. So I wanted to let you benefit from my trials and comparisons in the event your idea of ‘best ever’ varies from my own.
To me, the Best Biscuit Ever has a light and fluffy interior, a crispier top, a good heaping of butter and a touch of saltiness. I want to be able to eat it with sausage gravy but also to want to enjoy it solo. It should be the star, not an afterthought. This winning recipe I couldn’t take a photo of the whole batch because I was eating them so ravenously. BINGO!
- 2 cups All Purpose Flour, plus more for dusting
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt (by preference)
- 5 tablespoons salted butter, cold
- 3 tablespoons cream cheese, cold
- 1 cup whole buttermilk, cold
- 1 tablespoon salted butter, melted to brush on tops
- Crisco or butter to grease skillet, dusting with flour is acceptable too
- Cast iron skillet
- 3” biscuit cutter
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and lightly butter/grease/flour dust a cast iron skillet. Lightly flour a large cutting board.
2. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Touching and handling the butter as little as possible, cut cold (or frozen) 5 tbs butter into small pieces and add to dry ingredients.
4. If using stick cream cheese, chop as you did the butter. If using softened cream cheese, simply scoop out 3tbs, and add to dry ingredients.
5. Mix all ingredients with the tips of your fingers, breaking up the cream cheese and butter into small bits. The mixture will look like coarse sand.
6. Make a well in the center of your mixture and add 1 cup cold buttermilk. Mix with spatula until just combined. Mixture will be fairly wet and sticky.
7. Form your dough into a ball and scoop up any remaining bits of batter from the bowl.
8. Turn your dough out onto the floured cutting board. Lightly flour your hands and proceed to pat the dough into a long 1/2” thick rectangle.
9. Fold the dough over on itself 6 times. Pat down slightly between folds. I like to let the folded dough rest just a few minutes.
10. Pat dough out gently into a 1” thick rectangle or circle (your preference) and use your biscuit cutter straight up and down cut biscuits (I usually get five and then reform dough for one leftover soldier). Place biscuits touching but not cramped in cast iron skillet.
11. Cook at 450° for 18 minutes, turning the pan halfway through.
12. Brush tops with melted butter with three minutes left to cook.
13. Remove from oven and place in tea towel lined dish, cover until ready to serve.
- Use a good butter. BUTTER MATTERS. Use a high quality salted butter. These are a few of my favorites.
- Salt to your taste. Some days I want a little less salt, some days I want more. If you are not brushing the tops with salted butter, be sure to use full 3/4 tsp.
- Handle the butter efficiently. If you want to freeze your butter and grate it, it won’t hurt! If you want to use a stand mixer, go for it! Handling the butter efficiently helps to not break down the fats and gives you a good fluffy biscuit, but I don’t know that any of the tricks make an absolute world of difference. Just don’t be a ninny when handling the butter. Get the job done as quick as you can.
- Use a cast iron skillet. That’s all.
- Do NOT use a rolling pin. Rolling the dough will compress it beyond fluffy repair. Gently, quickly pat your dough out to desired shape or thickness. No beating required.
- Use a biscuit cutter. I use an old 3” biscuit cutter but if you prefer a smaller biscuit or need to make your batch feed more than six people, a 2” will do just fine. Be sure to cut and remove the biscuit directly straight up and down.