The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baking Powder Biscuits

chas6000's picture

Baking Powder Biscuits

 Sometimes, there is fun and challenge in things as simple as baking powder biscuits.  Still trying to perfect these things - easy to overwork the dough.  These are tender and have a great flavor, but I'm still trying to get them to be more flakey.  any hints?


 2 1/2  c AP flour

1 T sugar

4 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

1/2 c shortening

4 T butter

1 beaten egg and 2/3 c milk

mix dry ingred.  cut in shortening and butter until pea sized and some larger

add liquid and bring together as gently and simply as possible.  press flat on board, fold and turn 4 times pressing out each time.  cut and bake 14 min, first 10 at 450F, then lowered to 400F

apers's picture

are those teaspoons or tablespoons?

chas6000's picture

small t = teaspoon

big T = tablespoon

JeffO's picture


Maybe if you use your fingertips to rub in about half the butter they would turn out better?


JohnnyX's picture

I know it's not the healthiest choice, but I get very flaky biscuits if I use all butter, no shortening

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Lard makes the fluffiest Biscuits but somewhere one has to make a choice.
I do have a no lard biscuit recipe that includes yeast.  One that's kept in the fridge and taken out as needed.  Angel Biscuits.   :) Mini Oven

Aelric's picture

My first post here, but wanted to say how great those biscuits turned out. Went perfect with the Venison Salisbury Steak. Of course the smore's were just the perfect finish to the meal, at least as far ans the 5 yr/old was concerned. But it was the perfect meal for this -6 degree weather we're having.

KipperCat's picture

For flaky pie crusts, the butter has to be really cold.  I think I've seen Alton Brown even stash the cut pieces of butter in the freezer for a few minutes before use.  I've no idea if this would affect biscuits in the same way.

Atropine's picture

This is a neat thread!  It kinda hits home to me... 

Various members of my mother's side of the family have been working on making a really good biscuit for about the past year or so.  It is challenging in some respects, one of us is diabetic, but it has been so much fun!  My uncle has tweaked his recipe so that it has NO fat in it at ALL.

Mine is the COMPLETE and UTTER antithesis of that lolol

FWIW, here are my tips and pointers for a good, southern biscuit (I am in alaska, but we are from the south :-) ).

Basic recipe:

2 cups *WHITE LILY* self rising flour

1 stick COLD butter plus more for top

1/2 cup COLD buttermilk

sweet milk (regular milk for the non-southerners :-)...I use skim) to get correct dough consistency.

Ok, here are the tips:

First of all, white lily flour is KEY.  It is EXTREMELY soft, delicate, makes a perfect crumb and tolerates a lot of working of the dough (this will come into play later).  Can you use other flour?  Well yes, but NOT AT ALL with the same results.  White lily has become a bit of a "thing" in our family, and I came back from the south with 50 lbs of it in my luggage last fall!  My uncle just sent me another 20 lbs...and not a moment too soon...our family was going to have to go without biscuits until I got some more WL!  It is THAT vital!

Now, if you just cannot find it, nor can bring yourself to order it, then probably other VERY soft flour would do.  We just happened to find this and not been interested in experimenting.

Yes, this is a lot of butter....I never promised it would be fat free, just nummy! :D  I have used slightly less butter in the biscuits, maybe a tblspoon or two less, but I would not go too much less than that.

You want to work the butter into the flour.  However, you do NOT want "coarse meal".  You actually want slightly bigger than that, and flatter. I take VERY cold butter, slice it into manageable pats then I work it into the flour with my hand.   

Buttermilk:  I get a quart of buttermilk (low fat--see this is a healthy recipe! lol) and pour it in 1/2 cup measurements either into baggies or small tupperware containers and freeze those.  It freezes wonderfully and keeps me from wasting buttermilk.  Also, when I defrost (in the micro usually) I make sure that there is still "slush" bits in there when I can. If you do not freeze it, that is ok.  It will still work well.

Pour that into the flour mixture and work it through.

Now, at this point it will not be enough liquid.  This part is the only really picky part of the process:  add some regular milk into the dough, JUST until it comes together.  You do NOT want a wet dough!!!  You DO want a very soft dough, but NOT a wet dough, NOT a stiff dough.  If the dough gets too wet and you have to add more flour, the flavor will STILL be good, but the texture will be altered.  Better to go slow with liquids instead of being heavy handed and having to add more flour.

Why not use all buttermilk instead of using some sweet milk?  I find that all buttermilk makes the biscuit sort of....I dunno...soggy seeming.  It has an unpleasant mouth the dough is never quite cooked through and is almost unbearably rich (not in a good way, but in that "ugh...too much!" way).  Plus it tastes too bread soaked in buttermilk lol. 

Now the next part of this will help with flakiness.  Do not worry too much about "overworking" the dough.  Like I said, with white lily we have not found that that was a problem at all.  You are going to put this on a floured surface, flour the TOP lightly as well, and FOLD it over on itself.  Turn it a quarter turn, then flour the top again and FOLD it.  Do this a few more times.  This, along with COLD butter, COLD buttermilk will help with flakiness.  You are physically adding flakiness.  I usually do this about five to ten times. 

Now while you cannot really overwork the dough, you still want to work it the least amount possible.  That is why a nice soft dough will be better than a stiff one. Do NOT knead, just fold and press.

Roll or press the dough to the depth of your liking.  My uncle makes the dough SO thick that it comes to the top rim of the biscuit cutter.  I make mine thinner (I like to eat "many" smaller biscuits instead of "only getting one" (albeit big!) biscuit :D).  Mine probably are about half the thickness of the cutter.

Cut the biscuits with a biscuit cutter (or a knife if you want square biscuits), NOT the rim of a glass.  You need the sharpness of the cutter to keep from pressing the edges of the biscuit together. This will help it rise more if the edges are cut, not squished.

Place the biscuits in a pan with the sides well-touching.  Feel free to crowd them.  This is also key so that they go TALL not wide.

Bake in a 425 oven for about....oh....well until the tops are a nice golden brown.  About 12 minutes or so, depending on the oven.  Do not overcook--you want light golden not dark brown.

The last thing you do is take the biscuits out of the oven and place thin slices of butter on top of EACH biscuit.  This is also key to a really good biscuit :D  Yes this step is vital.  Let the biscuits soak up the butter and serve (the parts on the edges where the butter flowed down the sides are the best parts!)

Hope this helps!

KipperCat's picture

atropine, thanks for the great how-to lesson.  I've long heard the value of White Lily flour for biscuits, but knowing all these details should also make a big difference.  Do you have any idea what the protein content of White Lily flour is?  It's not sold around here either, and so far I haven't tried any.  I have some Italian-style flour on the way from King Arthur which is only 8.5% protein, but I suspect that the White Lily is even lower.  I looked at their website the other day, but it didn't give specific numbers, just said it was a low protein flour.

mkelly27's picture


Cake flour has a 6-8% protein content and is made from soft wheat flour. It is chlorinated to further break down the strength of the gluten and is smooth and velvety in texture. Good for making cakes (especially white cakes and biscuits) and cookies where a tender and delicate texture is desired. To substitute cake flour for all-purpose flour use 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour for every cup of all-purpose flour. Make your own - one cup sifted cake flour can be substituted with 3/4 cup (84 grams) sifted bleached all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons (15 grams) cornstarch. 


Two wrongs don't make a right. Three lefts make a right

micki's picture

. . . and another bless you!  Long ago I gave up on Bisquick for a good biscuit,  then on whop biscuits (you know, 'whop' the can against the counter to open?) and began using Pillsbury's Frozen.   We have biscuits for breakfast every weekend.  They were the closest I could get to Hardee's.  Occasionally, I'd try my hand at homemade, but was only able to produce something that crumbled when you looked at it and tasted 'okay' with sausage gravy.  Then I found your recipe a couple months ago and gave 'em a whirl.  They weren't great but earned a respectable comment from my husband who was raised in South Georgia!  Been improving each time I make them until he says the homemade are better than Pillsbury!  (Hey, WE think those frozen ones are good.) 

Those are great instructions that helped me get a feel for how they should be.  Since there are just the two of us, I usually make a half batch.  Perfect for the weekend.  Also, I keep powdered buttermilk on hand (keep in the fridge once its opened) that works great.  Blend it in with the flour, cut in the butter and just add refrigerated water.  I've also frozen a full recipe and they came out just as good as the fresh ones.  (I bake 30 minutes at 350 in a cold oven to give a chance to thaw and get cooked in the middle - even the Pillsbury ones.)

I was raised in Minnesota with plenty of great food but have been in Alabama for 35 years now.  I'm talkin' about myself when I say; Folks from 'up North' don't understand about biscuits and cornbread.  Thanks again.  Micki

Jeffrey's picture

You might say, biscuits run in my family, my Mom's from Arkansas, it's a given.  All purpose flour was invented for biscuits, or is it biscuits were invented for all porpoise flour.  In the General Store, in Summers AR (where my Great Grandma lived, she died at ninety eight, and made her biscuits to the end, with shortening), there were old adds.  If they had anything to do with flour it was about how fluffy your biscuits would be.


Ok, to make them fluffy, you mix the baking soda with flour, and salt (if you use it):

Then mix in the COLD shortening, butter, or lard, Thoroughly:

Now, mix in the COLD milk,  quickly.

Don't knead it like bread, the more you handle it, the less fluffy it gets. 


Bread flour makes them tough, i never tried cake flour, 100% Whole wheat or rye, makes them crumbly.


Hope this helps.


Bad Cook's picture
Bad Cook

A few months ago, BH&G (Feb. 09) and Country Living (March 09) both ran articles on biscuit making.  I took the two and combined ideas from them, and made some slap-yo-mama biscuits for the first time in my almost 50 years!  Some things I learned (and some I already knew):

White Lily flour, sifted twice before measuring.

Cut the (real) butter into cubes (article said 3/4 inch, but I do about 1/2 inch) and put in the freezer for 15 minutes.  Work half of it into the flour with your fingers, just rubbing and squeezing it flat, leaving the other half in cubes.

Cold buttermilk, of course.  The recipe in the magazine called for strictly buttermilk, no sweet milk, and I haven't found that it makes them too sour or anything. 

One of the articles said to pierce the dough completely through with a fork at 1/2-inch intervals after you roll out and before you cut them out....something about it letting steam escape and making them rise more evenly.  I did it the first time, but found that baking them snugged up to each other in an iron skillet makes them rise just fine.  That instruction was for if you were going to bake them on a sheet, a few inches apart.  I like my biscuits to have some soft sides!

One article said brush with melted butter before baking, the other said after.  I do it before, because I feel like it gives the tops a better crunch, and they look better, too.  I also melt some butter in the skillet before adding the biscuits.

Of course, you all probably already know not to twist the cutter when you're cutting them out....can make them not rise in spots because....well, something about sealing off the edges.  Cut straight down, pull straight up.  My MIL always just pinched off some dough, patted it into a sorta round shape, put it in the pan, and patted it down slightly.  I did this tonight, no kneading, no cutting, no messy counter top....worked just fine.  Like I said before, though, I cook them in an iron skillet, close together.  They look so rustic like Granny used to make!

I'm so excited that I could contribute to a biscuit discussion!!

Green Tea's picture
Green Tea

One thing you might want to try is grating the butter (make sure its cold though, so it doesn't just mush and clog the grater) into the flour, and then rubbing it in. 

Got that hint from Michael Smith on Chef at Home ;)

The Cats Other Mother's picture
The Cats Other ...

This was my third try at making biscuits, all with slightly different recipes, and they all came out flat.  The first try was with self-rising flour, and I used a brand new can of baking powder for the second two attempts, so I don't think it's that.  I suspected overworking on the first try, as I might have been having too much fun with the rolling pin, but I barely worked this batch at all.  What am I doing wrong?

Bad Cook's picture
Bad Cook

Are you using a really hot oven?  I've read that the rise occurs in the first few minutes because of the ingredients hitting that sudden high heat, so, not enough heat = not enough rise.

That's all I can think of, because I'm sure no expert.  :(

The Cats Other Mother's picture
The Cats Other ...

I've been following the instructions on each of the given recipes. It is a new oven and it seems to be heating well enough when I cook other things, including bread.  I really didn't expect biscuits to be harder than yeast bread.

Gourmand2go's picture

I'm enjoying this thread, and that inspiring photo!  Got to dig out my old cast iron skillet . . .

Lately I've been grating frozen butter with my food processor.  I freeze the butter in sticks that will fit through the feed tube and use the grater attachment.  It grates so quickly that the butter is still frozen when I stir it into the dry mixture; by hand I find that the butter warms up too quickly.

Today I made ricotta ravioli and found that my round cutters weren't sharp enough for the dough--I tried two different ones--I have quite a collection of cookie cutters.  A pizza wheel works much better with that type of dough.