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Southern Style Buttermilk Biscuits

Not being from the South, I will state that I am not an authority on biscuits. In fact, most of the biscuits I have eaten in my life have been the kind you might find in the refrigerated section of the market. I probably have never had an authentic Southern biscuit. They look tasty, though, so I set about to make some.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you’re probably not reading this from inside the US. Biscuits are small, round breads that have fat cut into the flour and are leavened with baking powder, similar to scones. They are flakey, light in both texture and color and have a golden brown top. Traditional biscuits are rarely sweetened prior to cooking and are served as a savory side dish or are eaten with butter and jam.

The ingredients are simple: flour, leavening, salt, fat and buttermilk. A more traditional southern recipe, as pointed out by Alton Brown’s recipe, calls for White Lily flour, low gluten, self rising flour originating in the southern US. All purpose flour, being more widely available, is what I used. I rubbed in the butter, leaving some the mixture looking fairly coarse, with chunks of butter as when I make pie crust, and stirred in the buttermilk. The dough was sticky. I used lots of flour when handling it as I rolled it, kneaded and folded it in half several times – 5 or 6 six. I was careful not to twist my biscuit cutter (flouring it liberally instead) so my biscuits would rise straight and high. The final biscuits were noticeably flakey. I think that the repeated rolling and folding of the dough that A.B. mentioned actually did help create a flakey final product. I was very pleased. I skimped a bit on the salt as I mixed my ingredients, but using salted butter when eating the finished biscuits made up for it.

My final recipe is a hybrid between Alton Brown’s recipe and a recipe from Southern Living magazine.

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits
2 cups all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1 cup buttermilk, chilled, plus more for brushing

Preheat oven to 400F.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Rub in butter with your fingers until mixture resembles coarse crumbs of varying sizes, but none larger than a pea. Stir in buttermilk until dough comes together.
Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead or roll out until dough has been folded 4 or 5 times. Roll dough out until it is 1 inch thick. Using a 1 1/2 – 2 inch round cutter, push straight down through dough (do not twist the cutter!) and place biscuit on a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat. Any biscuits made from the scraps will not be quite as flakey as the first pass, but will still be good.
Brush biscuit tops with buttermilk and bake for 15 minutes, until tops are a light golden brown.
Makes 12-16 biscuits.

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  • cookie jill
    July 7, 2005

    oh….nummy…then add hot butter and honey or dip in gravy…

    I’m hungry now.

  • Clare Eats
    July 7, 2005

    I have always wanted to make biscuits now I will be able to give them ago thanks nic 🙂

  • eatzycath
    July 8, 2005

    those biscuits look really delicious and flaky, am going it give them a try (my previous biscuits of this nature have always been a little stiff), thanks for sharing the folding method 🙂

  • Zarah Maria
    July 8, 2005

    They look good Nic! I’ve obviously never had biscuits, but sounds like I’d like them! And hey, LOOOOOVE your new index!

  • Amy
    July 8, 2005

    You may not be Southern, but I’ve lived here in the South for 20 years and your biscuits look perfect!

  • Helen (AugustusGloop)
    July 8, 2005

    Thanks for this post. I’ve always wondered what “biscuits” look/taste like, esp since I’ve only ever read about them. I still remember when I was shocked to discover that Yorkshire puddings weren’t sweet!

  • farmgirl
    July 8, 2005

    What absolute biscuit perfection! And that was your first attempt? Well done, Nic! And as always, your posts are full of interesting and helpful tips and hints. I will definitely have to try your recipe. Biscuits and Gravy is one of my all-time favorite things. Thanks!

  • Nic
    July 8, 2005

    Jill – Pass the butter, please!

    Clare, Zarah and AugustusGloop – I’m glad that this was interesting to all you non-Us bloggers. I’ll never forget the argument I had (now, I’m thinking I should post it!) about biscuits vs. damper vs. scones with my two close friends: one Aussie and one Brit. And I’m glad you like the index, Zarah!

    Eatzycath – These were bothy fluffy and flakey – enjoy!

    Amy – Thanks for the compliment!(blushes)

    Farmgirl – Yes, this was my first attempt at an official biscuit. I’ve done scones and such before,though, so the method wasn’t totally new. I ate these with chili, but next time I’m definately going the gravey route.

  • Granny Jo
    July 9, 2005

    Greetings! I was linked to your blog by AgustusGloop of Grab Your Fork and happened on this post.

    I have considerable knowledge regarding southern style biscuits. I was born in Florida and learned to make them from my Grandmother who was from Georgia. I take it you are not located in the U.S.? Can you source either “Bisquick” http://www.bettycrocker.com/products/prod_bisquick.aspx or “Krusteaz” http://www.krusteaz.com/brands/krusteaz/Baking_Mixes__Hot_Cereal/ buttermilk baking mix? Please let me know if you can’t and maybe we can arrainge something.

    Anyhow, my biscuits are actually better than my Grandmother’s and here is my recipe:

    Preheat oven to maximum (500 degrees farenheit in the US on a regular oven)

    2 cups baking mix
    2/3 cup milk (can include soured milk or sour cream)

    Using a fork, beat vigorously till very stiff dough is formed. Put a chunk of butter, approximately 1/3 to 1/2 cup into a square baking dish (I prefer glass) and put into the oven to melt. Put dough on lightly floured counter and knead vigorously until smooth. Using fingers, pat dough out to about 3/4″ thick. Use a round cutter or knife to cut circles or squares as desired. For circles, gather scraps, re-knead & pat and cut some more. When done, the butter should be melted, pull out the pan and place on protected surface. Put biscuits into melted butter, using a fork, flip them all to get butter on both sides. Return the pan to the oven. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown (I like mine on the dark side). These should rise nice and tall.

    Serve immediately with sausage gravy or honey, or a nice homemade jam. ENJOY!

  • Radhika
    October 27, 2006

    The biscuits look great.wanted to try them,but i’ve a small doubt.
    How thick should the buttermilk be & did u get the buttermilk from the store or is it homemade.

  • Tonia Moxley
    March 4, 2008

    I really like your southern style biscuit recipe, and the sweet potato scone recipe, which to me looks like a sweet potato biscuit. It gives me all sorts of ideas for adding things to biscuit recipes.


  • Jessica
    December 30, 2009

    I am from Texas and have lived her all my life! These look like some authenic buttermilk buscuits to me! Now just add some sausage gravy to these and you’ve got yourself a meal, yumm yumm!

  • Pamela
    March 27, 2010

    I had to chime in on Granny Jo’s comment. Having a long history of using Bisquick, I was dismayed to realize that it was a product of big agribusiness and not at all healthy for you. It’s loaded w/ trans-fat, including partially hydrogenated soybean/cottonseed oil. There’s no buttermilk in it and the flour is over-processed. About 4 years ago I started buying buttermilk and making all of my pancakes, biscuits and some cake recipes with it. I use organic unbleached flour, organic butter and organic buttermilk. What a difference using real buttermilk has made in my biscuits – they’re amazing (and this is a great recipe btw!).

  • Faythe
    March 6, 2011

    Alton’s recipe is great. I made them gluten-free and whipped them up in my food processor. Super easy and incredibly delicious.

  • Tina
    November 19, 2011

    I had left over buttermilk from a different recipe, so I googled buttermilk biscuits and found this. I made them right away and they are delicious and flakey. I had them with butter while they were warm, but plan on having them with honey later. Thanks for the great recipe. It was my first attempt at buttermilk biscuits.

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