Monday, January 4, 2010

Beautiful Buttermilk Biscuits

I won't give you my full list, but if I had to decide on 10 contests for a Great American Food Decathlon, the first event will be buttermilk biscuits. Sorry, but if you can't make buttermilk biscuits, you have no business attempting the other nine events.

Buttermilk biscuits are not so much a recipe, as they are a mythology. Secret knowledge passed down from generation to generation, mother to child, blogger to people like you.

This deceptively simple recipe can come out a million different ways with some very minor variations on the ingredients and amounts. This one's my favorite – flaky, but not dry; chewy, but not tough; crisp in just the right spots.This is a recipe you need to practice to really get a feel. Once you do, you can refine the formula to achieve your ultimate buttermilk biscuit. Some like their biscuits moist and tender, while others aren't happy unless they collapse into a buttery pile of crumbs.

In the video recipe, you'll notice I only cooked 10 biscuits. You can get a few more than that, but I only cooked the prettiest ones since, like the dinner rolls, this was made for the cookbook.

Anyone who makes the recipe below is encouraged to chime in. Thanks and enjoy!




Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into thin slices, chilled in freezer
3/4 cup cold buttermilk


View the complete recipe

103 comments:

rosemary said...

Happy New Year chef John! May you continue to shine in 2010! I had the best weekend ever! Made the dry rub u posted on about.com and used it on pulled pork shoulder recipe. I used a clay pot, left it in the oven 1am Friday and went to sleep. My almost toothless mother in law enjoyed it like everybody else. Also did the dinner rolls and they came out very well and delish! (Well the second batch did- first batch was a little burnt and I lowered the temperature a little for the second batch.) Then...The buttermilk fried chicken! My daughter could not find words to describe the yumminess of the chicken. I was impressed with myself. Thank you sooooooo much!!

I want to try these and want to know the effects of using margarine instead of butter? Butter is expensive this side and I normally use margarine if it is possible to substitute.

Chef John said...

Thanks! So glad you and your almost toothless MIL enjoyed it! ;-)

You can use margarine if you want.

redforever said...

rosemary, as Chef John said, margarine will work fine
..... but don't use a light margarine that has a lot of water whipped into it, Becel brand name comes to mind.

Anonymous said...

I love learning the thumbprint in the middle trick. I also like the 'puff pastry' fold it in thirds idea.

I learned a trick awhile back that finally helped me not overwork the dough. I use a box grater and grate the cold butter, then chill it in the freezer. When the butter goes into the flour, you hardly have to do much more than stir them together. Somehow it helps me conquer my tendency to overwork. YMMV.

Chef John said...

great tip!

Anonymous said...

Hi Chef John! Happy New Year and thank you for another recipe of goodness. I am looking forward to another year of Foodwishes. :)

Wanted to offer a suggestion--you slice the butter thin & then cut it into the buscuits--consider putting your butter into the freezer overnite and then put it to a Cheese Box Shredder--the rough side, to shred little tiny butter shavings into layers. Less cutting by hand of whole butter, less warming due to agitation, and the butter is more balanced into the flour incorporation, but the result is a very buttery flaky & tasty biscuit. This is how I learned how to make biscuits from my grandma who does the cheese grater method. It was the first I heard of it. Have you ever tried it? Just thought I would offer the suggestion since you give me such great cooking tips and recipes. cheers!

Chris K. said...

Happy New Year Chef!

I am reasonably certain that buttermilk biscuit dough is one of the sexiest-feeling foods in the world. I tend to overwork the dough because I just can't stop touching it... is that TMI?

I love the idea of a Great American Food Decathalon. Perhaps you could post your picks in installments?

Tkriger said...

Just made a batch (they are cooling now) - and I am convinced all doughs hate me, this one included.

As with most doughs I try to make, it was way too sticky to work right out of the bowl. After getting two dough covered hands trying to work it I broke down and managed to get some flower out, after that it got a little better.

I have no idea what I did wrong, but it defintly took more than three foldings to get it ready to roll and cut....they still taste good though!

Chef John said...

keep practicing! Maybe mix the dough more in the bowl before you start to shape and fold. As long as the butter and milk are ice cold, it should be fine.

Tracy said...

This looks so yummy and easy, I can't wait to try this one out... off to the store for some butttermilk.

Thanks for teaching us!

Anonymous said...

I miss watching you viscerally enjoy the recipes you make- it seems to be missing the last few videos. I guess I'm just sad that you didn't tear into one of those biscuits at the very end!! Where's that Chef John who can't hide his excitement?

Anyway, thanks for the great recipe and I will definitely try these!

tonkaslim said...

I solve the waste problem by rolling and shaping the dough into a rectangle. Then I cut it into squares instead of rings with a flat dough cutter—no waste! They taste the same, square or round... delicious.

Anonymous said...

Great, I will make it for collaegues on my birthdays. Thanks.
ps: so what next? Doughnuts yeah ;)

Hiker9 said...

These freeze really well too. Follow all steps except put them on a wax paper covered sheet pan. Freeze and bag them, bake them layer as directed here.

I will say that mine did not get the same altitude as yours. Still good though.

Catherine said...

I've made plenty of biscuits in my time, but I was intrigued by your method of folding the dough and also the thumbprint trick, so I wanted to give these a try. I followed the instructions exactly, and when I pulled them out of the oven I just had to stand there in awe for a few minutes. They had risen so high and were flaky and golden brown, they were almost too pretty to eat! But eat them I sure did, and I'll be using this recipe and method for a long time to come.

ira said...

Great recipe Chef John!
I've made these twice, and they've turned out to be a success. They didn't rise as much as yours, but that's a probably a practice thing. The one concern I have is that after I incorporate the buttermilk into the dry ingredients, I find that I'm left with residual flour, etc. - as if there's not enough milk to go around? I'm paranoid about overworking the dough, so I usually just hope for the best. Am I doing something wrong? :: ira

jami said...

These were fast and delicious! I love the tip about the thumb print.

Question: how do I store them to retain the crispness of the outer edge while not drying them out? I'm going to freeze some (was going to freeze them unbaked, but forgot), but I'd like the ones stored at room temp to fare well. Thanks!

Chef John said...

i dont know if there is a way to keep crispy. if you hear of one, let me know!

Greginspace said...

John, these are just amazing. I've really got the hang of kneading the dough into tri-folds; just a wonderfully fluffy interior and a nice crispy top and bottom. I've come to really look forward to making a batch of these on weekend mornings or as a way to unwind after a day at the office. Thanks!

Chef John said...

thank you!!

Helen said...

Hi from the other side of the world -Estonia (Europe). I discovered your blog quite recently and now I just need a doze of it every single day. Today I made the first receipe - the buttermilk biscuits, and they turned out wonderfully wonderful! My 3-yr old son was even thrilled by the dough, trying to steal all the leftover dough. For the first time, mine came out really good-looking, too! Now I have the no-knead ciabatta ready to go into the oven any minute now.
I just love your blog. Above all. And there is still so much to discover for me! I have always liked American cooking- it's simple and homey enugh, yet tasty (even though I don't have all the ingredients at hand, obviously). Enjoying!

genelle said...

I am going to try these buttermilk biscuits but not until i get my new oven. Im planning on getting a microwave/convection oven and currently doing my research on which one would be the best and who better to ask than you!!!??!! i'd really appreciate if u could answer a couple of my questions
(1) is microwave/convection oven best for baking breads, cakes, etc? If no what do u recommend?
(2) which brand do u recommend? OR rather which brand are u using? :)
Would really appreciate your opinion on this as im keen on making the right decision cos i do a lot of baking!!! THANKS

Chef John said...

microwaves are not for baking at all. Convection ovens are used by pros, but I don't like for home chefs. I just have a regular gas GE range. Other than that I don't have a specific rec.

d said...

I'm not American and I have no idea how these biscuits are eaten - are they a snack, a dessert, a sidedish to a meal, a breakfast food...? Do you eat them with a topping or just plain...?

Chef John said...

all of the above!!

Frieda said...

Thank you for the video and recipe! I made these for the first time ever....Made the colossal mistake of using salted butter! This is a recipe worth making again. Your clear instructions helped me make a light, fluffy, flaky biscuit the FIRST time ~

Nadine Walley said...

Chef John, THANK YOU. I loved your video and my biscuits turned out fantastic. I have been making rubber biscuits and not understanding why. Most southerners will tell you that you need to use White Lily but I found that they turn out rubbery and dry and taste like flour. YOU ARE AWESOME. I loved watching the technique you used too. Thank you. Now I need to work on my fried chicken! I'll check out your fried chicken video!

Anonymous said...

This video is just what I was looking for :) I was just wondering, is the pastry cutter the only tool for the job? Would a fork work, perhaps?

Cathy @ ShowFoodChef said...

Awww, my grandma used to press her biscuits in the middle too - YOU have really captured the southern biscuit. Nice video and as always, fun.

Becky said...

I loved this recipe so much, I featured it on my site ziggyfoods.blogspot.com.
They were yummy!

Claire said...

These were delicious!!! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Outside the US, foreign flours may require less buttermilk.

Anonymous said...

If i dont have parchment paper on hand is it okay to use a buttered baking sheet?

Chef John said...

Yes!

Anonymous said...

OMG... I had tried making buttermilk biscuits using Crisco and they turned out horrible. This recipe is FANTASTIC! They looked and tasted great the first time I made them! I love the flakiness the layering creates. Just to share, I had only powered buttermilk. I added the water, wisked it, put it in the frig and it worked just fine. Thank you!

Non-Chef John said...

And this time I've been wondering when you'd make biscuits! I guess it took me 10 months to find this recipe. Better late than never!

Christie said...

These turned out perfectly with White Lily! Thank you for the great recipe. I can't understand anyone having bad results with that flour. If the right variety is used, there should be no problem. True, we Southerners swear by it, but I know a chef in Southern California who does, too. This was a very instructive video.

Anonymous said...

what if i dont have buttermilk? what's the next best thing?

Chef John said...

i guess milk, but you should get some buttermilk!

nadine.walley said...

Chef John, I'd be interested in your opinion of the Buttermailk that is found in most stores. It is reduced fat. What's up with that? I have to go out of my way here in the Atlant GA area to get REAL Buttermilk which is Marburger. Do you have a favorite Buttermilk? And do you see the reduced fat where you are?

Chef John said...

it's my understanding that buttermilk is naturally low fat since its the by product of making butter. All I see in the stores is low fat.

Bill said...

I've been trying for a good rise on biscuits for the last month. Your method was my 7th attempt but I used a slightly different recipe. The result was definitely better in terms of rise but then I went to your web site and used your recipe and the rise was not as good as yours but still much better than my previous attemps And the taste was far superior. Thanks for the help.

About buttermilk...yes, orginally buttermilk referred to the thin liquid left from churning butter but buttermilk in this country has always been cultured with bacteria and can be had in whole or low fat varieties. I prefer the whole milk but it IS difficult to find even here in Texas. Southern states are your best bet for whole buttermilk easily found.

Ellen said...

Love your video. Thanks! Gonna try making these gluten free, following your instructions!

Ellen
Gluten Free Diva

Anonymous said...

Thank you Chef John for your instruction. These turned out GREAT. I didn't use store bought butter. Instead, I made my own butter from heavy whipping cream. The buttermilk made from the process has a much better flavor than store bought buttermilk. Thank you again.
Lee

AtlHealthMgmt said...

Wow Lee, Did you grind your own wheat for the flour too? All kidding aside, I am so impressed.

Anonymous said...

Hahaha, I know you are kidding...but there is an attachment for my standing mixer my wife said she will get me if I behave...Lee

Anonymous said...

Hi, I love your recipes.

I can’t get buttermilk, someone recommended me mix milk with lemon juice or white vinegar and someone else recommended me substitute the buttermilk with yogurt. What would you recommend?

Chef John said...

You can use yogurt thinned with some milk.

Mandy said...

I tried your recipe, exactly as you instructed. I tried twice in one night, and neither batch rose. I didn't overwork the dough, the butter was in the freezer...I'm very frustrated. Any idea what I might have done wrong?

On a side note, I did use the powdered buttermilk as opposed to the actual buttermilk. Could this have had anything to do with it?

Chef John said...

Not sure , never used powdered so could be. Maybe not as acidic.

Mandy said...

Alright, I'll try the recipe again with regular buttermilk and let you know how it goes. Thanks!

P.S. Love the site! I have no knead ciabatta rising on the table right now.

Mandy said...

Also, the oven I'm using is really old and I don't think heats evenly. Am I going to fail at all biscuit/bread endeavors? I've tried a few breads and they were so hard even the birds won't eat them.

Eric-Gunther...Oberhauser said...

My biscuits looked good and tasted great but they were hard. What happened?

Chef John said...

No idea! cooked too long?

Gwenevere said...

not quite as lofty but not bad for my first batch. I need to work on getting them a little more moist.

Anonymous said...

Just made these, only thing I did different was use a pizza stone. I've always been a fan of those when baking. I preheat the oven, but not the stone, the bottoms never burn. Tastes fantastic, I just need to make them a little thicker next time.

Gary said...

When a recipe calls for baking on a silicone mat...or whatever they are made of, if one does not have one of these mats, what else could be used?

gary

Neeli said...

Thank you for reintroducing me to biscuits. These reminded me of the ones I made in Food Science classes years ago. I have never attempted biscuits b/c I always manage to overmix and end up with pucks. Definitely a keeper.

oni♥tree said...

Chef John, is there another option for the pastry cutter?

Chef John said...

use a glass or cut in squares with a knife . enjoy!

Calvin said...

Hey Chef John, here's an idea. How about maximizing the crispiness of the biscuit using aluminium foil instead of your usual Silpat? Lighty buttering the foil does the trick. Love your videos by the way!

Chef John said...

yes, thats a great tip, thanks!

Anonymous said...

hi chef..i made your cookies and they taste delicious!i cant stop eating them haha..

but im just curious..the biscuit is supposed to be crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside or just all the way crispy?

Anonymous said...

hi chef in this recipe no sugar can i use the sugar because i like sweet one please advise Thanks

Chef John said...

Go ahead. Theyre your biscuits! I've never added it.

Anonymous said...

Hello chef john,
great receipe, can u please tell me how much sugar should i use? thank you

Chef John said...

Sorry I can't. Never tried it. Does sound goo to me. Best make them as intended and just serve with jam.

Padraig J said...

For years my father tried to make a great biscuit, but all we ever had were brittle hockey pucks. Tonight after my first try, following your recipe to a tee, I got the best homemade biscuits I've had outside of a restaurant. Thank you for the fantastic recipe. If ever a recipe was enhanced by video presentation surely this is it. I was able to watch it three times, and was able to see how the dough should look at each stage of the process, how firmly the hands should push it together. I guess its all about not over working the dough, the coldness of the ingredients and the the thickness of the dough when cut.
What I want to know though is how to get a tad more flavor from my biscuit. My babysitter, a fine woman transplanted to the North from Mississippi, made the tastiest biscuits outside of KFC. (Yes KFC's biscuits I think are in my top ten miracles of American fast food, and I don't care what that says about my taste!lol) What could have been her secret? Bacon drippings? Crisco? Lard? What are the best fats to substitute for part of the butter to get a little more flavor to match the perfect texture of your bisccuit recipe??

1Bigg_ER said...

Is the 3/4 cup milk the correct amount? I ended up throwing away my first dough because it was pretty much liquid. The second batch was still way too mushy.

Chef John said...

Yes! Something is wrong since this is not a runny dough at all as you can see from the video.

1Bigg_ER said...

well I decided not to throw away the second semi runny dough. I dropped small amounts on a greased baking sheet and ended with delicious buttermilk "things"

About Me -- Butter, dressing and bread... said...

Did you check your dry ingredients? 2 cups flour?

1Bigg_ER said...

I found out what I did wrong. I measured 1 and 3/4 cups buttermilk........TWICE!! No Typo, TWICE. HAHAHA
And then I forgot to add milk to my banana bread.

About Me -- Butter, dressing and bread... said...

It helps to not drink when cooking.

About Me -- Butter, dressing and bread... said...

It helps to not drink alcohol while cooking.

1Bigg_ER said...

I love alcohol in the kitchen and occasionally I put some in the food as well.

ButterYum said...

I finally got around to making your wonderful biscuits. Loved them so much I posted them on my blog. Hope you'll stop by and visit.

http://butteryum.blogspot.com/2012/01/buttermilk-biscuits-photo-tutorial.html

:)
ButterYum

Crawppie said...

Just a reminder to all the novice bakers, like myself, to check the expiration date on your baking powder. I tried these the other day and wondered why they didn't rise like they should have. They were still good just not very tall...I'm embarrassed to say how old my baking powder was. Yikes!!!

Alice K.McNichols said...

Keep functioning ,impressive job!
Golf Gifts & Gallery 553 Hanging Golf Bag Organizer

The Faceys said...

Thank you, Chef John, for this! My 3 year old made better biscuits than me and I've been trying for 6 years. But now with this instructional video I have at last conquered this culinary hurdle and I can look forward to years of pleasing my husband in that one way I never could before. Thank you, thank you, I am no longer baking hockey pucks, I am complete :)

Chef John said...

happy to help! :)

Arlene said...

OMG! This the first time I tried these biscuits. I have tried other recipes but they have never come out right. Although I didn't have buttermilk this time they still came out flakey and buttery. I froze the butter then thinly sliced and cubed it and placed it back in the freezer. I also brushed the tops lightly with butter since no buttermilk. They still came out golden and a perfect rise. Oh and plus used the thumb trick. Thanks ;)

The Nyan. said...

:) I am an 18 year old kid who has just begun trying out baking- I came across your recipe and tried it out, and they rose on my first try! I admit I slightly baked them for too long so they were a bit darker. But they are amazing! The video tutorial was a big help. Thanks! :D I'm going to see if I can make your peanut butter cookie recipe next!

DLA said...

I need to make these for 18 people. How do I increase the recipe to accommodate that many?

Chef John said...

One batch makes 8 so I'd do 2.5X the recipe.

Anonymous said...

Ouch! I forgot the salt. Thankfully, I eat everything low in salt. Other than than that, easy to make and just the right texture.

Nicole Gamble said...

My biscuits are in the oven as I type. I'm glad that I watched the video before making them, I am sure I would have been tempted to add more buttermilk because of the very dry crumbly texture of the dough. But after seeing the dough in the video I knew better!! Thanks Chef John for the excellent video instructions!

Jules LaPierre said...

John:

Made these this morning & served them with maple cured Berkshire ham.

They were buttery, flaky, layery goodness.

Signed,
Your Newest Fan c"|

Da said...

I made them this morning. (and it was my first time making it) They turned out perfect as your pictures. My husband absolutely loved them! Thanks for the recipe! :)

Anonymous said...

Made the biscuits for dinner this evening. They were yummy, but they did not rise like the ones in your picture. How do I fix it?

Anonymous said...

Hello, Chief John! I'm from Brasil and I lived in USA (NC) for a whole year. I was addicted to biscuits and I have missed it so bad for the last 5 years. I don't know why but I had never looked it up on google to get a recipe or something... I guess I always thought it took some "special american ingredient" and looking at your recipe I realized there is not! It's hard to find buttermilk here but there is actually a way of making it: mixing a large cup of milk with a tablespoon of lemom juice! I cannot wait to try this & I'm so excited!

Unknown said...

Hi chef John. I love all your videos. I had tried to make biscuits before for my kids with butter and shortening. Guess what? ...they are went into the trash can. I hate the taste of shortening. I will definitely try to make yours, simple and tasty. Thank you.

Unknown said...

Hi chef John. I love all your videos. I had tried to make biscuits before for my kids with butter and shortening. Guess what? ...they are went into the trash can. I hate the taste of shortening. I will definitely try to make yours, simple and tasty. Thank you.

Steve said...

Made these today and other than rolling the dough out a little too thin they turned out great! My grandmother would have been proud.

Steve

Anonymous said...

If you "twist" your cutter when pressing down, your biscuits won't rise as well as pushing it straight down. :)

Chels said...

This recipe and technique, has changed my life. Every time I make these, they get major compliments and disappear rapidly. I always send people to your site. Thanks so much!

Wayne Whitted said...

I used your recipe and video to make some buttermilk biscuits. The first time I tried it they turned out flat and then I realized my flour and baking powder was old. Made a new batch and t5hey turned out fantastic!

Riani Tania said...

Hi chef,,I'm from Indonesia,first of all I want to thank u for the recipe,,I have already try this chef,but I dont know exactly the right texture and taste,would u mind to tell me please,,^^

Chef John said...

Sorry, but no way to describe such subjective things!

Thom Lawrence said...

Really enjoying your blog. It's inspring me to bake things for myself.

Melissa Kreinin said...

hi! i would like to add some raisins to this recipe. how do you think that would turn out??

Juicing One Day At A Time said...

I forgot and used salted butter and then added the teaspoon of salt. So they were a tad bit salty. Very good though. My husband thought they were good. I froze 1/2 of them for another time. They should really rise up next time I bake them!

Unknown said...

Is it required to fold the dough? I just took my hand and made sure everything is mixed.