There are few things more satisfying than biting into a buttery American biscuit. These soft, fluffy pillows of goodness go well with just about anything (though enjoying them as a breakfast basket or part of a fried chicken fix are both hard to beat). Some of us like them packed with savory flavors like cheddar and chive, but everyone can appreciate a classic homemade plain biscuit, ever-so-slightly sweet and moist, just out of the oven.
To make sure that you can provide the perfect basic biscuit fresh out of your oven, the Test Kitchen has put together step-by-step instructions with photos, using Paula’s basic biscuit recipe.
Step 1: Gather your ingredients and equipment
Preheat your oven to the directed temperature, choose a skillet or baking sheet, and get out a bowl or two, measuring devices, and hand tools.
Most biscuit recipes will call for a dry mixture of flour, a little salt and sugar, leavening, butter, and some form of milk, buttermilk, or cream. As with a pie crust or a scone, it’s important to begin with cold butter cut into even cubes so that it cuts evenly into the dry mixture and won’t leave you with a sticky mess.
Combine your dry ingredients in a bowl using a whisk or a fork. This should be quick and gentle, just a couple light strokes to distribute the ingredients evenly. Add the butter cubes to the bowl and measure out your milk. Set aside some flour for when you roll out the dough later.
Step 2: Cut the butter into the dry mixture
We like to use a pastry cutter to get those tiny pea-shaped clumps, but if you don’t have one, you can always use your hands. And besides, an unusually large piece of butter in a biscuit dough will likely be one of the most delicious bites of all.
Step 3: Add in the milk or other liquid
Make a well in the middle of the dry mixture and gradually pour in the milk.
Whether using your hands, a wooden spoon, a rubber spatula, or a fork, the idea is to incorporate the liquid evenly and gently for optimal texture. You may have to knead the dough in the bowl a little, but do not overwork it. You should be able to ball and transfer it to a rolling surface without too much crumbling or sticking.
Step 4: Pat and roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.
The key here is moderation: unless you feel your dough is too wet, don’t use too much flour on your board, and, especially if you are rolling out the dough with a rolling pin, don’t use too much force. You don’t want to compact the dough, or you won’t get that puffy, crispy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside texture. Three-quarters of an inch is a common biscuit thickness.
Step 5: Form the biscuit rounds
You can use a biscuit cutter, ring mold, tablespoon, ice cream scoop, or even a small glass.
Step 6: Place the biscuits on the prepared baking surface and bake until golden brown.
We like to bake our biscuits on an oven-proof skillet brushed with melted butter for crispy, golden edges, but a baking sheet (lined with a Silpat, parchment, or greased) works fine. Some recipes recommend brushing the tops of the biscuits directly with a little extra milk, cream, or butter before they go in the oven.
Serve immediately. Biscuits stale quickly and are best when fresh out of the oven. There’s your excuse!