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fluffier/lighter biscuits

  • s

I made some biscuits tonight. It was a standard buttermilk biscuit recipe. Is there any thing I can do to make them fluffier or lighter? They were good and what not but seemed heavy and dense.
Thanks,
Spencer

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  1. One possibility:
    If you twist the cutter as you cut them out, you can "squish" the sides so that they won't rise as high.

    1. j
      JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)

      There's a few things you can do for lighter biscuits. One easy one is to use a different brand of flour, preferably one low in protein. White Lily is the one that cooks swear by in the South (and therefore you should be able to find it ant any Wal-Mart in the country- you'l likely find it one the top shelf with the other flour), but Gold Medal brand s fairly low in protein too. Don't go using cake flour- while it's much lower in protein, it's so low that your biscuits won't get any structure at all.

      Next thing with biscuits is handling. When kneading the dough, think light light light- the more you knead, the more gluten develops and the tougher the biscuits will come out of the oven. Last is what Liz aready said- the cutter. Use a straight down motion, dip the cutter in flour between cuts, and it's also nice to have a fairly sharp edge- all three of those keep the layers in the dough from sticking together.

      There is also the possibility of increasing the leavening a little bit... but if you put in too much you'll end up with metallic or soapy-tasting biscuits that rise even LESS than before.

      1. Sounds like maybe overmixing was the culprit? Also, is your baking powder fresh and active?

        1. b
          Browniebaker

          I think the fluffiest, lightest biscuits are not the rolled-and-cut kinds but the pan biscuits that are made very wet, dropped into flour, formed into rounds, and set into a shallow, buttered pan. I used to make the rolled-and-cut kinds until I tried Shirley Corriher's recipe for "Touch-of-Grace Biscuits," which can be found in her book _Cookwise_ and in Rose Levy Beranbaum's _Pie and Pastry Bible_. My entire family prefers these fluffy pan biscuits to the crusty, denser rolled-and-cut ones.

          Here's the recipe I have developed from trial and error:

          CLOUD-NINE BISCUITS

          2 cups White Lily all-purpose flour (using dip-and-sweep method of measuring)
          1 tablespoon sugar
          2 teaspoons baking powder
          1/2 teaspoon baking soda
          1/2 teaspoon salt
          1/4 cup lard, chilled
          1-1/2 to 1-3/4 cups buttermilk, chilled
          2 cups White Lily all-purpose flour, for shaping
          1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

          Position oven-rack at center of oven. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Lightly butter 8” x 1-1/2” round cake pan. Whisk dry ingredients together in mixing bowl. Cut lard into flour mixture until bits are no larger than pea-size. Pour buttermilk into flour mixture and gently fold in, to combine. Dough should be very wet and resemble cottage cheese; adjust amount of buttermilk as needed. Let stand for two or three minutes.

          Pour two cups of flour into separate bowl for use in shaping biscuits. Flour hands well. Spoon biscuit-size amount of dough into flour and sprinkle flour over top to cover. Pick up in hands and shape into tall round while shaking off excess flour. Place round of dough in pan. Repeat until all dough is used and pan is filled. Bake for 20 minutes, or until tops are golden-brown. Remove from oven. Brush pat of softened butter over top. Return to oven for two minutes to crisp tops of biscuits. Turn out onto plate. Serve hot. Makes about nine biscuits.

          9 Replies
          1. re: Browniebaker

            My southern wife's whole family used to do the roll out and cut method until we saw a lady on TV explain why the wet dropped and formed ones were fluffier and lighter. We've never gone back to rolling and cutting. I can't remember her name - but she was a southern girl, drawl and all - a regular on PBS for a couple of years. This is definitely a superior way to make biscuits.

            1. re: applehome

              I make biscuits both ways. But "drop" biscuits are wonderful, indeed, and so easy! I like to stir in some grated cheese sometimes, or crumbled crisp bacon.

              1. re: applehome

                Drop biscuits are certainly easier and are all I am capable of making (that aren't little hocky pucks.)

                However, in my Southern family, drop biscuits are considered an inferior shortcut, something you do if you don't have time (or the skill) required to roll them out.

                My grandmother's rolled (patted, mostly) biscuits are so light you almost have to weight them down to keep them in the basket. From watching her, I believe the secret is a delicate touch.

                1. re: danna
                  b
                  Browniebaker

                  I just want to point out that drop biscuits are different from pan biscuits, which are what my "Cloud-Nine Biscuits" recipe produces. Drop biscuits are made from a wet dough that is dropped by spoonfuls onto a baking sheet. When drop biscuits bake, they spread outward, like a puffy cookie. A key difference with pan biscuits is that each spoonful of wet batter is dropped into a bowl of flour, picked up in hand, formed into a tall round, and placed touching one another in a pan with shallow sides. During baking, the biscuits rise upward, not outward, resulting in lofty, fluffy biscuits.

                  I agree that round-cut biscuits may be neater and prettier, especially for parties, but in many Southern households, there's nothing more favored at a family meal than a homey pan of light, fluffy biscuits hot from the oven and turned out onto a serving plate. Each person breaks off a biscuit or two from the round, and there's a great sense of community in thus breaking bread together.

                  1. re: Browniebaker

                    I sincerely hope my post didn't come off as a slam against your biscuits. They sound great!

                    1. re: danna
                      b
                      Browniebaker

                      No offense intended or taken! I love this biscuit discussion. I do make rolled-and-cut biscuits once in a while: for strawberry shortcakes, when I really do want the slightly denser, flaky, crusty quality of the rolled-and-cut variety of biscuit; for scones (which are just a sweeter biscuit, right?); and, as I said before, for times when presentation in neat rounds counts. Never met a biscuit I didn't like!

                  2. re: danna

                    That's why the other name for drop biscuits is "bachelor biscuits." OTOH, Lodge makes a cast-iron drop biscuit pan (I have one and it's great), so they must have some respectability. The biscuits are light but with a crispy crust, and look kind of like scones.

                    1. re: FatBob

                      Yep - that was her. Has she been on anything since?

                2. What another poster said about twisting the cutter -- don't do it. Cut straight down. Also, you don't really knead biscuit dough, you just fold it over about 6 times to form the flaky layers.

                  Finally, instead of baking powder, I use Bakewell Cream and baking soda. You can find the recipe many places on the web. An accurate version is posted at http://www.dininginmass.com/secrets/m...

                  Link: http://www.allserv.com/Bakewell%20Cre...

                  1. You may be working the dough too much. My first try at biscuits came out looking like little tan quarters. I watched a cook in NC make them, she just barely mixed the dough and we had incredibly light fluffy biscuits.

                    1. Thank ya'll. I got something out of each post. You guys/gals are the bomb!
                      Spencer

                      1. You got good advice here. The big secret is to barely mix and to handle gently. I often don't even roll out, I just lightly pat into a square/rectangle and cut into squares (cutting straight down.) This way you don't have to re-roll the scraps, which will then be tougher. Cold butter/lard/shortening is important too, and don't cut it in too small.

                        I prefer buttermilk biscuits which seem fluffier. OH, I never get the amount of biscuits described in the recipe, like many cookie recipes, I always get less.

                        I hope you saw my answer to your flour question below.

                        1. k
                          Kathryn Callaghan

                          I've had good luck with grating very cold butter into the flour. I picked up the technique from a previous Chowhound thread.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Kathryn Callaghan

                            Glad to hear you picked up on that. For two cups flour in the recipe try 2 tbls butter and 1/3 cup solid shortening like crisco. Freeze and grate the crisco too.

                          2. p
                            Pat Goldberg

                            I am no expert in biscuits, but the other day I was rereading Edna Lewis's "The Taste of Country Cooking." She suggests that the making of bicuits is quite nuanced, and in her family there were different recipes for different situations. In fact, she gives three separate recipes: for "regular" biscuits; for crispy biscuits to be served with, e.g., quail casserole; and biscuits to be used as the topping for chicken stew.

                            Pat G.

                            1. a
                              abdul alhazred

                              yo spence what's up?
                              listen, one time in the south i had the best ones i'd ever tasted and the lady told me her grandma used grapefruit juice in them.
                              unfortunately i don't have a recipe/proportions...
                              anyone else ever heard of this?

                              1. The type of flour you use really does make a difference. White Lily or Martha White are the two best brands to use IMHO. They are both soft wheat flours made especially for biscuits, corn bread and other non-yeast breads.

                                Martha White is available only in the South and Midwest. Their website (lots of good recipes) has a map that tells you where you can find their products.

                                The URL is: http://www.marthawhite.com

                                If you can't buy White Lily locally, they sell it online. Here's their link -- lots of good recipes here, also.

                                Link: http://www.whitelily.com