Ultimate Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits

While necessity has dictated that I make them on occasion, I have never loved biscuits. My heart lies with the wonderful flavor of yeasted rolls. Of course, chemical leaveners such as baking soda/baking powder have an advantage over yeast in that they are quick. But today’s biscuits take two full hours from start-to-finish; an hour of which is related to chilling the butter/dough to allow for the nice definition of the layers. As biscuits go; these are better than most. The flaky layers lighten the crumb, and they have nice buttery flavor. But biscuits are inherently dry, and they would have been better if I served them with a main course with gravy. 4-1/2 stars for the recipe; ignoring the flaws in my execution.

A few of my errors reduced their flakiness

A few of my errors reduced their flakiness

I have made these biscuits on two different occasions (the pictures are from the second time that I made them). Because it was the second time, I wasn’t reading the recipe as closely and made to errors in execution that affected their flakiness and made them denser than the first time I made them. Still, even at their best they cannot compete with the texture produced by yeast.

Issues/Comments:

  1. While the recipe calls for King Arthur’s flour; which has a slightly higher protein content along it’s entire line of flour; I used whatever flour I had on-hand. I did substitute one of the cups of flour for bread flour; but the biscuits will come out fine with 100% regular all-purpose flour.
  2. In Step 4, I forgot to grate the butter directly into the flour. Actually I made this recipe twice, and only forgot the second time. The results were not as flaky.
  3. In Step 8, After the fifth turn, I accidentally rolled it out into a 9×12″ rectangle again, so I ended up having to give it 6 turns. It resulted in layers being a little too thin (and not as well defined).
  4. In Step 10, when I trimmed the biscuits, I only trimmed them to make them edges uniform; not a full and uniform 1/4″. The results: where I trimmed away less than 1/4″, those edges did not properly rise and show their flakiness.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $2.50.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time 4:00 PM. Ready at 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe for is here. My descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2-sticks unsalted butter (16 tablespoons)
1-1/4 cups buttermilk, chilled

  1. Freeze butter for 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. After the butter is partially frozen, dip sticks of butter in flour mixture. Hold the box grater directly over the flour mixture and grate 7 tablespoons from each stick on large holes. The grated butter will fall directly into the flour; which will keep each grate as an individual piece. Gently toss to combine. Set aside remaining 2 tablespoons butter.
  5. Add buttermilk to flour mixture and fold with spatula until just combined (dough will look dry).
  6. Liberally flour a clean work surface, and turn out dough. Dust the surface of dough with flour, and use your floured hands to press dough into a 7″ square.
  7. Flour a rolling pin and roll into 9″x12″ rectangle (with the short side parallel to the edge of the counter). Use a bench scraper or metal spatula to fold the dough into thirds like a business letter. Press down firmly on the top of the dough to seal the folds.
  8. Turn dough 90-degrees and repeat Step 7 four more times (for a total of 5 folds). After the fifth fold, roll into an 8-1/2″ square (about 1″-thick). NOTE: Here is where I accidentally rolled it out and was forced into an extra turn.
  9. Move dough into the prepared sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap, and move to refrigerator for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, adjust a rack to the upper-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 400-degrees. I set my 2 tablespoons of butter (that you set aside in Step 4) in a pan over the oven vent to gently melt the butter in preparation for Step 11.
  10. After 30 minutes, set dough on a lightly floured cutting board (not your counter-top) Use a floured chef’s knife to trim away 1/4″ of dough from each side of square; discard (or form into an extra, mis-shappen biscuit). Cut the dough into 9 squares, flouring the knife after each cut.
  11. Arrange biscuits at least 1 inch apart on the same parchment-line sheet pan. Brush the tops of biscuits with melted butter.
  12. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, rotating biscuits halfway through baking, until the tops are golden brown. Allow the biscuits to cool for 15 minutes on a wire rack before serving.
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11 Responses to Ultimate Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits

  1. Katie C. says:

    How long do the biscuits keep?

  2. jeanf says:

    Mark, have you ever tried the drop biscuits from CI (2007) ? They are very quick and pretty good, although I agree yeasted rolls will always win.

  3. Kathy says:

    What’s your favorite yeast roll recipe?

  4. Will Dean says:

    I made these recently after buying the Cook’s Illustrated 2015 Annual and was floored. I don’t consider myself a baker, but these were perhaps the best biscuits I’ve ever eaten. And I don’t think they require gravy or anything else if you follow the recipe closely. My plan is to make a bunch more and freeze them.

    By the way, I love your website. I peruse it regularly to learn what ATK recipes I’ve been missing out on. Thank you!

  5. Crabby Mamba says:

    I made these from ATK recipe, and they came out twice as high as yours. Extremely tender and flaky. I have been on a “buttermilk biscuit quest” for years, and his recipe finally nailed it. Regarding your comment about yeast, that is another category altogether. I love your website!

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