If you’ve spent any time in the US, you’ll know that biscuits are a way of life. Not to be confused with scones which are typically made with eggs, or biscuits in Great Britain which would be called a cookie in North America, the Buttermilk Biscuit is a quick bread that’s soft and fluffy or flaky. I’m not a fan of the white gravy that’s sometimes served along side but I’m a huge fan of any variation of a Buttermilk Biscuit served warm with butter.
I’ve tried a number of biscuit recipes from some of the obvious choices, Martha, Paula, you know who I mean. Many of the recipes include sugar but I don’t like any in my biscuits. I have a hand written recipe from many years ago that’s my favourite but I’m not sure where it came from. It’s probably pretty similar to everyone’s Buttermilk Biscuit recipe since there are only a handful of ingredients.Jump to Recipe
Buttermilk Biscuits are typically round and are cut with a sharp biscuit cutter. You could also use a cookie cutter if it’s deep enough. The trick is to cut shapes without having too much leftover dough because every time you reshape the dough you risk getting tougher, flatter biscuits because of over handling. A wide drinking glass doesn’t work very well because the edge isn’t sharp enough to cut through the dough, instead it presses the dough and almost seals it, thus preventing proper rising.
If you don’t have a biscuit cutter you can simply cut them into squares or wedges. This method means you use up all the dough in the first cutting so there are no leftover scraps. Just use a really sharp knife and dust it with a bit of flour to prevent the dough from sticking.
No matter what shape you choose, they should be baked in a pan that matches their shape and they should be placed close together but not touching. They will expand while baking and gently nudge each other but you can still pull them apart.
Making the biscuit dough takes no time at all. If you’ve got a food processor it will be ready in about 5 minutes. No kidding. Your oven won’t even be preheated. But be careful not to over process, you just want to pulse the dry ingredients with the butter a few times until it’s like course crumbs, then add the buttermilk all at once and pulse a few more times until it’s almost mixed in. If you don’t have a food processor, a handy trick is to grate the butter with a cheese grater.
Use cold unsalted butter cut into chunks so it’s not processed too long and keep the buttermilk in the fridge until you add it. If you don’t have buttermilk you can substitute regular milk with a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice. Just reduce the milk amount to 1 tablespoon less and let the mixture sit for a few minutes before adding it to the dough. But I strongly recommend buying the buttermilk because it comes in a 1 litre container and since this recipe uses 250 ml (1 cup) you’ll have a good excuse to make FOUR batches! This way you can try different variations and come up with your own favourite. And don’t think that buttermilk has a lot of fat. It’s usually only 1 or 2% milk fat!
When the dough is barely mixed together dump it out onto a clean floured surface with a bit of extra flour for your hands. Press it into a ball to make sure everything is sticking together, then press into a disk or square depending on how you plan to cut them. You can roll it gently with a rolling pin but I like to use my hands. If the dough isn’t coming together it’s ok to give it a few kneads but that’s it. Otherwise just press it into a shape. The top might look a bit shabby but that’s perfectly alright.
If you’re making round biscuits, press the dough to about one inch and cut as many as you can in the first batch. If you’re cutting squares, try to shape the dough into a square (which isn’t that easy but again, the less handling the better) and if you’re making wedges, shape the dough into a circle a little smaller than your baking pan.
Gently move the cut biscuits into the pan and bake them on the middle rack of a hot oven. Depending on the size, the Buttermilk Biscuits will be ready in 10-14 minutes. Just until they’re barely browning on top.
Now that you know your options for shaping and cutting Buttermilk Biscuits, here are three versions of the recipe:
Plain Buttermilk Biscuits. Yup, plain old biscuits. They’re perfect eaten on their own, warm with butter of course, but they’re also great with jam or other spreads. Or white gravy if that’s your thing.
Olive Buttermilk Biscuits. If you love the salty briny flavour of olives, you’ll love these. You need to reduce the salt in the biscuit dough because the olives add enough. Try a mixture of ripe olives (black olives), kalamata and pimento stuffed green olives and make sure they’re well drained.
Herb and Cheese Buttermilk Biscuits. These have more colour and flavour than plain biscuits but they usually aren’t as light and fluffy because the cheese adds some weight. Use a strong cheese like old cheddar so you actually taste cheese but don’t use so much that they overpower the dough and weigh it down. Use any soft leafy herb combination. I like parsley and chives.
What’s your favourite?
Here’s the recipe:
Buttermilk Biscuits Three Ways
Plain Buttermilk Biscuits
- 2 cups all purpose flour plus extra for dusting counter
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- ¾ tsp salt
- ⅓ cup cold unsalted butter
- 1 cup buttermilk or regular milk reduced by 1 Tbsp with 1 Tbsp vinegar or lemon juice
Herb and Cheese Biscuits
- increase flour by 2 Tbsp
- reduce salt to ½ tsp
- ¼ cup chopped fresh herbs ie parsley and chives
- ⅔ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- reduce salt to ¼ tsp
- ¼ cup chopped mixed olives, well drained
- Sift together flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder.
- Add to food processor along with cold butter chopped into pieces. Pulse a few times until mixture forms course crumbs.
- Add buttermilk all at once. Pulse a few times until almost incorporated.
- Dump onto a clean lightly floured surface. Gently press into a ball and flatten into desired shape approximately 1 inch thick. Use extra flour to prevent sticking to surface and hands.
- Cut into desired shape. Re-shape and cut if making round biscuits with leftover dough.
- Arrange biscuits close together in baking pan. Use round or square depending on desired biscuit shapes.
- Bake on middle rack at 450° for 11 - 14 minutes depending on biscuit size. Smaller shaped biscuits will take 11-12 minutes while larger wedges will take 13-14 minutes. Tops should be only very slightly browned.
Herb and Cheese Biscuits
- In addition to above instructions, chop herbs and shred cheese. Add to dough after pulsing in butter and pulse a few more times before adding buttermilk.
- Chop olives and drain very well. Add to biscuit dough after adding butter and pulse a few more times before adding buttermilk.