What is the Biscuit Mixing Method?
The biscuit mixing method is the technique used to make biscuits that are fluffy and flaky. The purpose of the method is to reduce gluten development which keeps the biscuits light and tender while also working to create layers in the dough to create flakiness.
Baked Goods Made Using the Biscuit Mixing Method
Even though this method identifies biscuits in its title, it is also used for making other flaky quick breads like scones. The baked goods that utilize the biscuit mixing method are:
The Biscuit Mixing Method Process
To review this method we are going to make my homemade buttermilk biscuits. But the principles of executing this method for other things, like scones, are the same.
This recipe can be made with any solid fat like butter, lard, or shortening. I prefer to use butter if I will be eating them with things like jam or honey. And I love lard or shortening if they will go with sausage gravy for biscuits and gravy.
How to Make Homemade Biscuits
The two keys to success in making the best biscuits are handling the dough as little as possible as well as using very cold solid fat (butter, shortening, or lard) and cold liquid. When the biscuits hit the oven, the cold liquid will start to evaporate creating steam which will help our biscuits get very tall.
Step 1: WHISK TOGETHER DRY INGREDIENTS
To start the biscuits put all of your ingredients in a large bowl and whisk them together. This biscuit recipe uses two chemical leavenors: baking soda and baking powder. These are really going to help the biscuits to rise up in the oven along with the steam.
STEP 2: CUT IN YOUR FAT
The next step in The Biscuit Mixing Method is to “cut in” the fat into the dry ingredients. This process serves two purposes. The first is to coat the flour in fat helping to reduce gluten development. The second is to distribute little pieces of solid fat throughout the dough which will melt in the oven creating little pockets of flakiness.
For these biscuits we are using very cold, real, unsalted butter cut into small pieces. Using a pastry cutter, or a fork if you don’t have a pastry cutter, “cut” the fat into the flour until it looks like coarse meal.
STEP 3: ADD YOUR WET INGREDIENTS
At this point, all of the wet ingredients are added into the flour butter mixture. And I want you to pay close attention here. Stir just until the dough is starting to come together. It will seem like there isn’t enough liquid at first and then it will become sticky and shaggy. Be very careful not to over-mix.
STEP 4: KNEAD AND ROLL/PAT OUT DOUGH
Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and use floured hands to gently press it together into one piece of dough. Press the biscuit dough out to about 1″ thick and then fold it over in half on itself. Give it a 90 degree turn and press it out and fold it again. Do this about 6 times.
This process of folding is going to create layers in the biscuit dough. This will translate into layers of flakiness once baked.
Be very gentle during this process. The more gentle you are the more tender your biscuits will be.
STEP 5: SHAPE DOUGH AND BAKE
I do not suggest using a rolling pin for making biscuits and scones. Your hands will work the dough less and it is very easy to shape the dough this way.
Pat the dough out to about 1″ thick and stamp out your biscuits. I use a cutter that is about 2 1/2″ in width and that will give you 7-8 biscuits. Gently press the scraps together to finish stamping them all out.
I like to bake my biscuits in a cake pan with high sides or a spring form pan baked close together. I believe the high sides of the pan and putting them close together helps them to climb against each other and bake up taller. You can be the judge of that. A sheet pan works as well!
Homemade Biscuits Tips and Tricks
There are a few things to keep in mind when using the biscuit mixing method:
- Be careful to mix as little as possible once the liquid hits the flour. This will reduce gluten formation keeping your baked goods tender.
- When using The Biscuit Mixing Method you want your solid fat and your liquids very cold. This will create the most flaky and tall biscuits and scones.
- Buttermilk in this recipe helps create tenderness and adds a little bit of a tangy flavor that is iconic of classic biscuits. It also activates the baking soda which helps the biscuits to rise. See the recipe notes for buttermilk alternatives.
- 2 cups (240 gr) all-purpose flour
- 1 TBSP baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 6 TBSP (85 gr) cold unsalted butter (cut into small pieces), or lard, or shortening
- 1 cup (237 ml) buttermilk (*see note for substitution)
- PREP: Preheat your oven to 450 F (230 C) and measure out all of your ingredients.
- MIX DRY INGREDIENTS: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well combined.
- CUT IN FAT: Add the cold butter pieces (or cold lard or shortening) into the dry ingredients and cut it into the flour, using a pastry cutter or a fork, until it resembles coarse meal.
- MIX IN WET INGREDIENTS: Add the cold buttermilk into the bowl and stir with a spoon or a rubber spatula JUST until combined. This should only take a few turns. The dough will be pretty wet and sticky.
- FOLD THE DOUGH: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter. With floured hands gently pat out (do not roll with a rolling pin) the dough out until it's about 1" thick. Fold the dough in half and turn it 90 degrees. Pat it out again and fold it again. Do this about 6 times. This process is creating layers which will create flaky biscuits (you can watch the video to see this process).
- CUT OUT BISCUITS: Press the dough out to about 1" thick and use a round cutter to cut into rounds about 2 1/2" wide. Gently pat the scraps together to cut out the rest of your biscuits.
- BAKE: Place the biscuits in a pan with high sides (or you can use a parchment lined baking sheet). Bake at 450 F (230 C) for 13-15 minutes until golden brown. Do not open the oven door for AT LEAST the first half of baking time. You want the steam to stay trapped in the oven to help with the rise.
- SERVE: Brush biscuits with melted butter if desired.
- STORE: Biscuits are best eaten fresh, but they can also be stored after completely cooled at room temperature and wrapped well. Alternatively, you can freeze the biscuits and refresh in a 325 F (162 C) oven until warmed through.
A note on buttermilk substitute: Buttermilk is acidic which adds a slightly tangy taste to these biscuits and also tenderizes and activates the baking soda, helping the biscuits to rise. If you do not have buttermilk on hand you can make a substitute using one of the options below.
- Sour Cream or Plain Yogurt: Combine 3/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt with 1/4 cup water and use in place of the buttermilk. This is the best option for buttermilk substitute.
- Milk: Combine 1 TBSP lemon juice or white vinegar with enough milk to equal 1 cup. Let stand for 5 minutes before using. The higher the milk fat the better the substitute will be. 1% or skim milk is not ideal.