When it comes to bread in the South, biscuits are considered to be the house bread of choice. Savory or sweet, recipes are handed down for generations by the cooks who came before us, each one claiming that they knew the closely guarded “secret” to the perfect biscuit.
The truth of the matter is that perfecting the art of biscuit making takes practice. The most common biscuit served is savory with occasional add-ins such as cheese, chives, or bacon. Biscuit dough can also be transformed into a sweeter version by adding sugar and cinnamon or dried fruit, and then topping with a sweet glaze. Then there are the beloved “Angel Biscuits,” which are a cross between a buttermilk biscuit and a yeast roll.
Whatever your preference, a classic buttermilk biscuit recipe and a few simple technique tips will put you on the path for biscuit making success.
Southern Buttermilk Biscuits 101
- 3 cup all-purpose flour
- 5 tsp baking powder
- 1¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- 6 Tbsp cold butter, cubed and frozen
- 1¼ cup whole fat buttermilk
- 2 Tbsp butter, melted
Start by preheating the oven to the 450°F and gathering all of your equipment. A large bowl, pastry cutter or forks, measuring cups and spoons, a biscuit cutter and a clean uncluttered surface. Line a standard baking sheet with parchment paper. Sift together the dry ingredients, 3 cup all purpose flour, the leavening agents 5 tsp baking powder, ¼ tsp baking soda, and 1 ¼ tsp of salt for flavor.
Use the pastry cutter to cut 6 Tbsp of cubed and frozen butter into the sifted dry ingredients. Butter will lend a softer biscuit, adding more flavor. However, it has a different melting point when compared to solid shortening and it will cause the dough to spread more while baking. It's important to consider this when spacing the dough rounds on the baking sheet. When all of the butter has been cut into the flour, the mixture should resemble cornmeal.
Make a well in the center and add 1 ¼ cup cold buttermilk to the flour mixture. Mix in gently until the flour is fully moistened. Don't be tempted to over-mix which can make the dough tough and result in dry biscuits. If needed, add additional buttermilk 1 Tbsp at a time until all of the flour is moistened.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and give it 4-5 turns folding it over on itself to coat it lightly in flour. Pat with your hands to flatten or roll using a rolling pin to approximately 1 inch thick. If you roll the dough too flat, the biscuits will be thin.
Dip a 2 inch biscuit cutter into flour, then cut the dough into rounds using a firm downward and upward motion. Never twist the cutter. Reshape the dough until all has been used. Place onto the parchment lined baking sheet or into a buttered cast iron skillet. Brush the tops with 2 Tbsp melted butter.
Bake at 450°F for 15 minutes until puffy and golden. Biscuits are best served fresh and hot right out of the oven. Enjoy slathered with butter and preserves, stuffed with country ham or smothered in sausage gravy.
Makes 12 (2-inch) biscuits.
About the Author
Melissa Sperka is the creator, Publisher, recipe developer and photographer of the blog Melissa’s Southern Style Kitchen. After winning the National Flour Power! baking contest, she also gained national attention with her blue ribbon Nested Potato Skins, featured in Southern Living Magazine. To Melissa, “Southern style” isn’t just about regional food, but about serving homemade dishes with grace, charm, and a healthy dose of Southern hospitality. In Melissa’s kitchen, homemade family-style meals are always on the menu.