This is adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
Yield: Makes 8 to 12 biscuits
Optional special equipment: pastry blender or electric food processor, biscuit cutter, cookie sheet or pizza pan, parchment paper.
Ingredients: 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus 1/4 cup more, divided (for rolling out dough)
1 cup cake or pastry (can be whole wheat, if you like) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons or 1 stick butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes and chilled for at least 30 minutes
3/4 cup very cold buttermilk (more if your flour is very dry and soaking it up)
Instructions: Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 450 degrees. Line the cookie sheet or pizza pan with a sheet of parchment paper, or use a 12-inch cast iron skillet.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the chilled butter cubes and, using a heavy-gauge metal whisk, pastry blender or large fork, quickly cut the cubes into the flour. Stop when you have pea-sized lumps of fat distributed throughout the flour mixture. (You can also do this in a food processor — it takes about 12 pulses). Using a rubber or silicone spatula, stir in the buttermilk until just combined.
DO NOT OVERMIX, or your biscuits will be chewy, not flaky. Mixing excites the gluten in flour. This is a wonderful thing to do when you want to make sandwich or artisan bread, but it’s a terrible thing to do to biscuits.
The dough should be rough and sticky. Turn it out onto a clean, dry counter sprinkled with a half of the reserved all-purpose flour. Sprinkle the rest over the dough and your hands. Gently pat the dough into a circle about 3/4-inch thick.
Using a medium-sized smooth or fluted cutter, cut the dough into 8 to 12 rounds. Dip your cutter in flour after ever biscuit to keep it from sticking. Place each biscuit in your baking vessel. Gather scraps, mix gently and roll and cut again. Each time you do this, the biscuit will get a little tougher – just be aware.
Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, or until brown to your liking. Check the bottoms at 12 minutes to make sure they aren’t burning. If they are getting very brown but the top is staying pale, switch to the broiler. Don’t move the pan directly under it, just leave it in the middle of the oven and keep the door propped open so you can turn the pan every minute or so and watch the color.
When brown to your liking, remove the pan. Place them in a towel-lined bread basket and pass the butter, jam, honey, molasses, or my favorite, King Syrup.
They’re pretty good with fried chicken and fixings, too.