These ultra flaky homemade buttermilk biscuits are the perfect comfort food! Who can resist a crispy-on-the-outside, tender-in-the-middle, mile-high flaky buttermilk biscuit? Here’s how to make them. It’s not hard, just a few simple tricks! Keep reading! Originally posted August 30, 2017.

Ultra Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits

Charlotte, my 6 year old, has spent her entire summer reading voraciously. Sometimes she will have her nose in a book and I’ll say something like, “Charlotte, come help me fold laundry,” or even something less demanding like, “Charlotte, what do you want for breakfast?” And I get NO response. NOTHING. No glance, no “mm-hmm,” no “just a minute.” It’s like I don’t even exist.

It’s in moments like these that I know karma is real, because I’m pretty sure I do this to my kids every single day. “Mom…Mom. MOM!! Are you even listening??” (Me: huh? what? stop yelling.)

Flaky biscuit recipe shot from overhead

Tomorrow is the last day of summer for us! Charlotte is starting first grade and Truman will be in preschool a couple days a week this year. We made an epic bucket list and did a pretty good job getting through it. I love being at home with the kids. (Some days it makes me want to rip my hair out. But most days, it’s the best.) I will miss having no schedule and just being able to hang out with them all the time. (I will also love having a schedule and not having to hang out with them all the time. Ah, motherhood!)

Summer Bucket List - Buttermilk BIscuits

Buttermilk Biscuits from Scratch

Last week my mom was visiting from Manteca (the town where I grew up, about an hour away. It means lard in Spanish. Isn’t that so great?) I was on my 4th or 5th batch of testing these biscuits (which have zero lard in them, for the record) and she was SO excited to try them. “I’ve never made homemade biscuits before,” she said. And then my head exploded.

homemade Flaky Biscuits stacked on each other

“Really?? Like, NEVER, not once?”  No, I just always use Bisquick, she said.

Part of the reason this is so disturbing to me is knowing how much my mom loves anything baked. Guys, I’m not saying Bisquick is the worst thing ever. Canned Pillsbury biscuits have their place; sometimes you just gotta git er done. But NEVER? Put your hand on your heart right now, this moment, and promise me that one day you will try making homemade buttermilk biscuits. They are SO worth the time!

Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits Ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need for melt-in-your-mouth flaky goodness.

  • All purpose flour
  • Kosher salt
  • Sugar
  • Baking powder
  • Butter
  • Egg
  • Buttermilk. Cheater buttermilk is ok, see notes!
  • Ice water

How to Make Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits

I’ve included some step-by-step photos to make it easy on you! But here’s the gist:

  1. Combine dry ingredients.
  2. Cut butter into the mixture.
  3. Beat together the egg and buttermilk and add to the flour, then a little ice water as necessary.
  4. Knead together in just a few strokes.
  5. Flatten the dough into a THICK 1-inch layer.
  6. Cut into biscuits.
  7. Freeze or refrigerate for 15-20 minutes.
  8. Bake!
Butter chopped into cubers
Grating butter to show How to Make Ultra Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits from The Food Charlatan

Chop your butter, or use a cheese grater! Kind of fun!

a bowl of flower, adding buttermilk

Use a pastry cutter to work the butter into the flour. If you don’t have one, you can use a knife or a fork, or heck even your hands (make sure you chill it for a few minutes if you use your hands.) You want to end up with a soft crumbly mixture, with pea-size chunks of butter.

A hand kneading flaky biscuit dough
Flaky biscuit dough rolled out and ready to cut

Here’s the business letter fold. You CAN just roll out the dough without doing the business letter fold. But you won’t get those gorgeous layers, your biscuits won’t maintain their circular shape as well, and they won’t split apart perfectly when you open them up to slather them with butter and jam. I’d say it’s well worth the extra folding time.

At this point, turn it over so the seam of your “letter” is facing down.

homemade buttermilk biscuits from scratch, cutting the dough

Don’t twist your biscuit cutter when cutting biscuits. Just push straight down. Twisting seals the edges of the biscuit, making it harder for them to rise.

Ultra Flaky Buttermilk Biscuit dough rising

Butter up that cast iron skillet. You don’t HAVE to bake them in a skillet, but you will feel more Southern if you do. Plus it makes the bottoms crispier, yes please. Oh and don’t forget to brush the tops with buttermilk!! Gimme that golden top!

Why are my biscuits not flaky?

Because you didn’t follow the instructions. Just kidding, just kidding, come baaaack! Here are the techniques that will make your biscuit ultra flaky and tender:

First, don’t over mix the dough! Mixing the dough creates gluten in the flour, which gluten is magical for bread and chewy pizza crust, but terrible for the light, tender, flaky biscuit we want. Work the dough as little as possible.

Second, you need to know that cold cold biscuits going into a hot hot oven is what makes flaky layers. Do not underestimate this!! We achieve this dramatic temperature change by:

  • Adding cold buttermilk, a cold egg, and ice cold water to the dough.
  • Freezing or refrigerating the completed biscuits before putting them in the oven.
  • Preheating your oven and making sure it is up to temperature before putting the biscuits in.

Here’s the skinny on biscuits: the dough is made up of moistened flour that has large pockets of butter (fat) sprinkled throughout. We want the fat to melt as slowly as possible in the oven so that the biscuit has time to rise and create its own structure. That way, when the butter is completely melted and absorbed into the biscuit, there is a little pocket of air left behind. These pockets of air, layered with the dough, are what we describe as “flaky.”

Flaky buttermilk biscuits with honey

If your butter is halfway melted when it hits the oven, there is no chance for the dough to rise up around the butter and create a structure for where the butter used to be. It will all just melt together into a hard, rocky mass. And you will get sad, dry, tough biscuits, and even your regretful tears will not change their texture.

The reason we bake biscuits at a high temperature is so that they rise quickly when they hit the oven, creating that structure before the butter melts.

So: do whatever you need to do to make sure 1) the fat in your dough is as cold as possible so that it melts slowly and 2) your oven is as hot as possible to encourage a fast rise, which builds the structure for those flaky pockets where your butter used to be.

While researching biscuits, I read that some restaurants make their biscuit dough a day in advance and freeze them, shaped. They put them in the oven frozen solid. I haven’t tried it yet, but I bake cookie dough from frozen all the time so I’m pretty confident. You may have to bake longer. This would be a great make ahead option!

fluffy buttermilk biscuits

What difference does buttermilk make in biscuits?

Close your eyes and imagine that first bite of hot-out-of-the-oven biscuit breaking into flaky morsels on your tongue. Can you taste the hint of sour? The tart twist creating savory richness? That’s buttermilk. Those acidic overtones are what make a biscuit taste biscuity.

In addition to flavor, buttermilk is important for helping the dough to rise in the oven. Baking powder only does it’s job of leavening when it has an acid to activate it. Buttermilk is our acid MVP.

If you don’t have any buttermilk, you can make homemade cheater buttermilk. Add 2 teaspoons vinegar or lemon juice to a measuring cup, then fill to the ¾ cup line with dairy, the thicker and fattier the better: heavy cream, half and half, or whole milk will do.

And that’s it! Please, don’t wait your entire life to make homemade biscuits like my mom did. ;) These come together SO fast. The time is now! Seize the day!!

P.S. You should make Cinnamon Honey Butter to go with these biscuits. Oh my!!

P.P.S. Come back later this week, we’re putting these biscuits on top of chicken pot pie. YES!

P.P.P.S. Want to guess how many times I’ve listened to Taylor Swift’s new song already? Whatever number you’re thinking, add 5. Fangirl in the hoooouuuse.

Other biscuity recipes you are going to love!

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How to Make Ultra Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits from The Food Charlatan
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How to Make Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits

 Who can resist a crispy-on-the-outside, tender-in-the-middle, mile-high flaky buttermilk biscuit? It’s the perfect comfort food! Here’s how to make them. It’s not hard, just a few simple tricks! 

Ingredients

  • 3 cups flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup butter, COLD or frozen (1 and 1/2 sticks)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup cold buttermilk*
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons ice water
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened (for greasing pan)
  • more buttermilk, for brushing
  • honey and butter, for serving, or this Cinnamon Honey Butter ∞

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  • In a large bowl combine flour, kosher salt, sugar, and baking powder.
  • Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour. You can also use a fork, a butter knife, or your hands to work the butter into the dough. It should be crumbly with pea-size chunks. Stick the bowl in the fridge if you have any delays.
  • Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour. You can also use a fork, a butter knife, or your hands to work the butter into the dough. It should be crumbly with pea-size chunks. Stick the bowl in the fridge if you have any delays.
  • In a small bowl combine the egg and buttermilk. Beat with a fork. Add ice and water to a small bowl, and set a tablespoon nearby so it’s ready to go.
  • Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Use a fork to hydrate the flour. Do NOT over work the dough.
  • Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time. You don’t need much, this is just to help the flour absorb into the wet ingredients. 
  • Make as few strokes as possible to get your result: a very thick, slightly sticky dough. Switch to using flour-dusted hands for the last few kneads. 
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface (a pastry cloth works great, if you have one.) Use your hands to pat the dough into a rectangle, then use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a roughly 12×8 inch rectangle. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
  • Fold the short sides of the dough into the middle, like a business letter. See photos. 
  • Turn the dough over (flouring your surface again if necessary) so that the seam of your business letter is down. 
  • Use your hands or the rolling pin to flatten the dough. This is the last step before cutting. Don’t roll it too thin! You want THICK biscuits. Think like at least an inch if not more. Flatten the dough enough to where you will be able to cut at least 6-8 biscuits on the first go. 
  • Use a 3-inch biscuit cutter (<these are the ones I wish I had!) to cut the dough. Do NOT twist the cutter. Firmly push it straight down, then pull up. Use your fingers to gently loosen the dough from the cutter.
  • Continue with the rest of the dough until there are only scraps. Gather the scraps in your hands, gently press them together, then roll out again, remembering to keep the dough thick. Continue until the dough is gone.
  • Prepare a 12-inch cast iron skillet** with 1 tablespoon softened butter (or melted.) Make sure to grease the sides. 
  • Place the biscuits in the pan. They should be touching each other, as this helps them rise in the oven.
  • At this point, if you have time and space, I highly recommend freezing or at least refrigerating the pan of biscuit dough for 15-20 minutes. The butter in the dough has warmed up from your hands, and you want it hitting the oven as cold as possible to achieve Ultimate Flakiness Levels.***
  • Just before you put it in the oven, brush the top of each biscuit with buttermilk. This helps it to get that pretty brown topping. 
  • Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden. If the tops are brown but you suspect they are not done, lift the edge of one biscuit to check the bottom. They are done when the bottoms are brown. 
  • If desired, brush the biscuits with melted butter. Or you could just eat them immediately, serving with soft butter, honey, jam, and/or this Cinnamon Honey Butter (<< I’m telling you guys, this stuff is legendary.)

Notes

*You can make cheater buttermilk! Add 2 teaspoons vinegar or lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup, then fill to the 3/4 line with dairy, the thicker the better. Whole milk, half and half, or straight up heavy cream will do fine. Real buttermilk is best of course.
**You don’t have to buy a cast iron skillet to make these biscuits! It just makes for a super crispy biscuit bottom, so I recommend it. You can bake these on a regular baking sheet. Make sure you grease the pan with the tablespoon of butter. I’ve also used a silicone baking mat with success (without butter. It was less crispy.)
***While researching biscuits, I read that some restaurants make their biscuit dough a day in advance and freeze them, shaped. They put them in the oven frozen solid. I haven’t tried it yet, but I bake cookie dough from frozen all the time so I’m pretty confident. You may have to bake longer. This would be a great make ahead option!

Nutrition

Serving: 1 biscuit, Calories: 324 kcal, Carbohydrates: 35 g, Protein: 6 g, Fat: 18 g, Saturated Fat: 11 g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5 g, Trans Fat: 1 g, Cholesterol: 67 mg, Sodium: 893 mg, Potassium: 85 mg, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 2 g, Vitamin A: 575 IU, Calcium: 220 mg, Iron: 2 mg