Biscuit Dough Texture
I consider myself to be a pretty good baker, but biscuits are my nemesis. I've tried recipes from many sources, including the normally reliable Joy of Cooking, but every time I end up the mixing stage with a dough that looks a lot like cookie dough - thick enough to hold in a shape but still sticky. I always end up adding a bunch more flour just to get it pliable enough to roll and cut, which inevitably results in a starchier, less buttery biscuit than what I have in mind.
Is this just a humidity thing (I live in the tropics) or is biscuit dough supposed to be that wet? If the latter, how do you get it in biscuit form without half of it sticking to your work surface? Thanks in advance.
Try drop biscuits instead? I never roll out biscuit dough--I either drop it or scoop it out and pat it into a biscuit shape. Brush some melted butter on top and call it done!
Are you using butter or shortening? If you're in the tropics where it's hot and humid, butter would be harder to work with than shortening. You want it as cold as possible but I can imagine butter starting to melt almost immediately.
This one. Gently plop your wet dough onto a generously floured board and flour the top, then pat it gently out to an even thickness. Then cut out your biscuits with a floured cutter. Don't work more flour into it; leave it on the surface. You can toss your biscuits in the air a bit the shake off the excess after cutting them. If you want to get fancy and add folds, you can pick up the very floured mass and toss it a bit in your hands to get rid of the excess, then put it back down and fold it like a letter. Pat back out and cut out.
Pat out your biscuit dough (don't roll it) and then bifold it a few time. It will produce nice, flaky biscuits.
One other thing, I've found the best way to cut the fat into the flour is with your fingers. I don't know why but it just makes for a nicer texture. Just keep at it until your flour/fat mixture looks like white cornmeal.
I married a southern girl and she thinks my biscuits are the best she's had. It's Alton Brown's Southern Biscuits recipe.
Glad to see somebody else going 'old school'. For people considering lard DON"T USE lard sold on shelves in grocery stores that is solid at room temperature - it's treated: hydrogenated to be solid and tastes awful.
Make your own. When I cook pork roasts etc I trim off fat cap and render slowly, filter and freeze. Keeps forever in freezer. Use the cracklins for cornbread.
I agree - too much flour in most biscuits. Wet, sticky dough is fine. Good advice here: pat out dough w/ a little flour on top and bottom. Or pinch and hand pat. Cut out and place in very heated, small cast iron skillet, brush tops w/butter and bake in very hot oven. This is where a small, hot toaster oven is great (mine is Breville) especially in the South - no need to heat the whole kitchen.
Flour really makes the difference - White Lily or another southern, soft wheat flour. If not using a heated skillet I use an 8 or 9 inch heavy, dark cake pan well buttered and let them sit for 10-15 minutes before baking at 425-450. That quick rest lets rising start.
To get comfortable I made biscuits at least 3x a week for about a month - got easier and faster every time. The hands and eyes learn; even the 'mistakes' were delicious.
Really good info here from the C'hounds.
I would say the humidity is an issue especially using butter. I use shortening. The less the dough is handled the better. The dough should be wet and sticky as kengk said. Here is what I do: I flour the counter and then scrape the dough (it is very moist and craggy) onto the flour. I sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough, flour my hands and pat it out to the thickness I want. Then I dip my biscuit cutter into buttermilk and then into flour before cutting the dough. Don't twist. After all the biscuits are in the pan, I brush them all with a little buttermilk and bake in a 450 degree oven until a beautiful brown.
This won't give you the layers that so many prize but a very tasty biscuit.
Thanks all. I've been using butter (very cold) and I keep my flour in the freezer, so I don't think it's really a melting-butter problem. I do have air conditioning so it's not like I'm trying to do this in a 90-degree kitchen. I'll try with shortening next time though and see if that helps.
Biscuit Dough is sticky.
To roll it you need a well floured Board and Pin. Adding extra Flour to the Dough its self will result in a dry product.
Your Dough should not be as homogenized as Cookie Dough, which sounds over mixed to me.
Do you want flaky or fluffy biscuits? I really like both of Cooks Illustrated's, flaky and fluffy, which use a combination of butter and shortening. A dough scraper will help w/ the stickiness as will throwing some flour on the surface.
Biscuit dough is someplace between the stiffness of cookie dough and the wetness of muffin batter.
Touch of Grace biscuits
are at the wet end of that spectrum. Spoonfuls of batter at coated with just enough flour to handle, shape, and place in the (rimmed) pan.
Drop biscuits are also wet enough to scoop and drop on the baking sheet.
I've also poured a wet dough into a dutch oven, and baked it whole.
But another approach is to add just enough liquid to gather the dough together into a coherent mass. It will need just a little bit of kneading with floured hands. I then pat it out on a lightly floured board (or silicone mat), cut and place on the baking sheet. As with the wet dough, the idea is to use enough flour to prevent sticking, but not working it into the dough.
Patting the dough out, folding it, and patting out again is supposed to produce more flaky biscuits.
I have used a wide variety of a fats, and not noticed a significant difference in how the dough handles. Irish soda bread traditionally did not have any fat, and was formed into one large loaf. My mom always used oil in her biscuits. Sometimes I use grated frozen butter, other times, melted butter. I've used bacon drippings, and shortening.
Here is a link to Cook's Illustrated Mile High Biscuit recipe. They're easy to make and delicious. You don't roll them out so they don't get tough. They're soft like clouds. You take 1/4 cup of the dough and coat it in flour and bake them in a pan. I would connect you to CI but they don't give out their recipes. Thankfully, others have reprint it.
Chowser, I made this biscuit recipe recipe for Strawberry Shortcake for mother-in-law for Mother's Day. Delicious! These biscuits are so quick to make, the dough was ready before the oven had preheated. Then again, I had all the ingredients prepped before turning on the oven. Still, quick and easy. I'll post pix after I get home tonight from work.
Let the dough BE sticky, but get your hands lightly wet[water or buttermilk] before forming each one [or two]. Don't over-handle or over process the dough. The extra water will give you a slightly "crispier" outer crust.
I like different types of biscuits, but my favorite overall biscuit is from Homesick Texan's cookbook. They are amazing! It's probably on her blog as well.
My biscuits are always very sticky when I turn them out onto the counter. I only use enough flour so they don't stick to my hands or the counter I am patting them out on. That being said, I use lard and believe that is what makes my biscuits turn out well.
Regarding fats, I sometimes use Spectrum palm oil which has a similar consistency to Crisco shortening (a Southern standard for biscuits). I don't know how it compares with the palm oil that is widely used in west Africa.
You wonder why people get inconsistent results
making Buttermilk Baking Powder Biscuits?
Take a look at the hydration levels for these
Buttermilk Baking Powder Biscuits recipes
from famous chefs. (Most are from the FoodNetwork website.)
Hydration percentage = liquid wt / flour wt
Just as in calculating bread hydration, the shortening is not included in the calculation.
For bread (like white bread) it's usually about
60% to 70%. No-knead bread is usually around 80% to
What is a proper hydration for Buttermilk Baking
Powder Biscuits? I don't know, but these recipes
are all over the map.
-Buttermilk Biscuit Recipes Hydration Percentage-
(Calculated from recipe on author's websites.
Recipes used all-purpose flour, buttermilk/milk,
shortening and salt.)
Alton Brown - 98% hydration
Marion Cuningham - 98% hydration
Ree Drummond - 98% hydration
Bobby Flay - 98% hydration
Gale Gand - 98% hydration
Tyler Florence - (2007) 73% to 98% hydration
Emeril Lagasse - 97% hydration
Nathalie Dupree - 87% hydration
Guy Fieri - 87% hydration
Martha Stewart - 86% hydration
Food Network Magazine - 84% hydration
Shirley Corriher - 74% hydration
Paula Deen - 73% hydration
Tyler Florence - 73% hydration
The Neelys - 73% hydration
Alton Brown - (2007) 72% hydration
Wolfgang Puck - 71% hydration
King Arthur Flour - 68% hydration
Paula Deen - 65% hydration
Ina Garten - 61% hydration
Ruhlman's ratio is : 3 parts flour : 1 part fat : 2 parts liquid (by weight)
Your table would be better if it noted the handling method (roll, pat, drop, etc).
Fat ratio is also highly variable. As I noted, plain Irish soda bread has no fat.
Is there a convenient hydration calculator, e.g. put in quantities 2 c flour, 3/4 buttermilk, etc?
At 98% hydration, Alton Brown tells you to fold the dough over on itself, pat it out and cut it with a biscuit cutter.
At 74% hydration, Shirley Corriher tells you that her dough is really wet, scoop it with an ice cream scoop and drop it into a pile of plain flour to coat so you can form the dough into a ball and place in a cake pan.
Is it any wonder people have such trouble making consistent biscuits? Plus no two people will measure a volume of flour in a cup and end up with the same weight.
Okay, as a starting point, I've calculated the Bakers Percentage for two basic baking powder biscuit recipes.
They are quantity recipes from the U.S. Armed Forces recipe cards and the USDA School Cafeteria recipes.
Here are the formula's in Baker's Percentage for each:
U.S. Armed Force Baking Powder Biscuits (2003)
100% FLOUR,WHEAT,GENERAL PURPOSE
5.5% BAKING POWDER
USDA School Cafeteria Baking Powder Biscuits (1988)
100% Enriched all-purpose flour
6.2% Instant nonfat dry milk
5.7% Baking powder
65.3% Water, cold
For comparison - here's the King Arthur Flour Baking Powder Biscuits Baker's Percentage:
KAF Baking Powder Biscuits
100% King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3% baking powder
15.8% to 23.5% butter or shortening
67.8% milk, buttermilk, or water
3.5% to 13.8% sugar
This is a recipe for a South Georgia style of biscuit. That's a pretty hot and humid part of the USA, so it might be relevant to the OP living in west Africa.
There are two things that are distinctive in this recipe:
- the use of oil instead of butter or other solid shortening.
- hand forming the biscuits, rather than cutting them.
Looking at other S Georgia recipes, I suspect the hand forming is more characteristic of the area than the use of oil. The use of buttermilk isn't essential. Self rising flour, or baking powder can be used instead.
I did not use quite as much oil as the recipe calls for (1/2c for 2c flour), but I noticed that the oil changes the handling characteristics of the dough. It's not as sticky as a solid shortening dough, and doesn't need much of a flour dusting. It also makes it easier to form by hand. I suspect the hydration ratio is not as critical either.
As this blogger admits these do not rise as high as the cut-no-twist kind. Nor do they have the flaky layers of some biscuits. But the flavor was good (I used grape seed oil), and they worked well as mini-sandwiches.
If other biscuit recipes give problems due to weather or materials, this style would be worth a try.
1 c AP flour (northern)
1/2c barley flour
1/2c rye flour
2t bp, 1/4t bs, 3/4t salt
1/2c of farmers cheese (cut in like a solid fat)
1/4c grape seed oil
1/4c whipping cream
I just stirred this in the bowl, pulled of pieces by hand, and rolled them into flattened disks. In the bowl the dough was sticky but did not stick to my hands during forming (due to the oil). The dough was a bit on the soft side.
I got good rise with some spread (again, softer dough). Good flavor, made good little sandwiches with soft cheese and ham.
While my flour was not the low protein southern kind, the use of barley and rye effectively lowered the gluten ratio.
I use the rule of thumb of 1 t baking powder per cup of flour. I've seen some recipes calling for 1T (3 t) per 2 cups. I don't recall something as high as 4.
I include baking soda more for color than leavening. I've tried straight buttermilk (trying to maximize its flavoring), but found that biscuits don't brown quite as much. Acidity slows up Maillard reaction, alkalinity speeds it up.
Some books warn of too much baking powder, which it could produce larger bubbles that join and burst. But that is probably more of an issue with wet batters than with biscuit dough. But supposedly too much baking powder can leave undesirable residual taste.
The fact that I'm using Argo rather an Rumford may also account for my being happy with the 1t/cup rule.
First of all, there are different kinds of biscuits.
It depends on what you are aiming for. Do you prefer flaky biscuits or light and fluffy? How is the preferred texture best accomplished? Rolled & cut biscuits, formed biscuits or drop biscuits?
I prefer light and fluffy, tender biscuits.
I've tried many recipes and the one closest to my goal was Shirley O. Corriher's "Touch of Grace Biscuits". (Shirley Corriher is the food scientist that appeared often on Alton Brown's "Good Eats". She also authored the cookbooks, "Bakewise" and "Cookwise").
Here is a link to the original recipe, Shirley O. Corriher's "Touch of Grace Biscuits"
Here is a link to a YouTube video showing Shirley Corriher preparing her "Touch of Grace Biscuits". It's an interesting technique and it really works to produce a light, fluffy, tender biscuit.
These biscuits are like drop biscuits, but instead of dropping them onto a cookie sheet, you drop them into dry flour. Then you pick up the flour coated biscuit dough and place it in a cake pan. The biscuits are crowded together in the cake pan, pressed against each other, so there is no where to go but up.
The really wet dough makes a very light, fluffy and tender biscuit, due to the steam formed during baking. Most of the dry flour coating disappears during baking. Small remaining patches of flour on the finished biscuits disappear when the final butter coating is applied. These biscuits also use a soft Southern flour that adds to the tender biscuit.
I made a few changes to the original recipe to tweak it to my liking.
Shirley Corriher's original recipe used White Lily Self Rising flour, which is not readily available in some areas of the U.S. The soft wheat grown in the Southern U.S. is what makes up White Lily Self Rising flour. Soft Southern wheat (a low protein flour) is one of the secrets of the tender Southern biscuits.
I substituted cake flour in this recipe adaptation to replace the soft Southern flour. Soft Southern flour and cake flour are both low protein / gluten flours. Using cake flour also results in a light, tender biscuit. But, using all cake flour would result in cakey biscuit without much taste, so all-purpose flour is also blended in for a better structure and flavor.
Since we are not using self-rising flour, I have also added baking powder, more salt and cream of tartar to the recipe. The Baking Soda promotes browning. The original recipe seemed a little too sweet, so I halved the sugar.
Finally, the original recipe dropped the wet dough into plain all-purpose flour. I thought that resulted in a bland tasting biscuit. I adapted the recipe to use all-purpose flour seasoned with sugar and salt, instead. I think this results in a more tasty biscuit. This flour is reserved before the baking powder and baking soda is added. Doing this prevents a bitter taste in the finished biscuits.
Here is my adaptation for "Touch of Grace Biscuits".
(For the moderators, this recipe is in my own words and not copied from any source).
If you like flakey biscuits, this recipe is not for you.
If you like light, fluffy, tender biscuits, please give the original recipe or this adaptation a try. You won't be disappointed.
TOUCH OF GRACE BISCUITS MADE WITH CAKE FLOUR
Makes about 12 to 14 light fluffy biscuits in a 9-inch cake pan or cast iron skillet.
1 1/2 cups (200g) cake flour (1 c. cake flour & 2 c. a.p. flour also works well).
1 1/2 cups (200g) all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons (25g) White Granulated Sugar
1 teaspoon (6g) Table Salt
1 Tablespoon (10.5g) Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon (2.6g) cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon (1.3g) Baking Soda
4 Tablespoons (50g) Vegetable Shortening or Butter
1 2/3 cups (400g) Buttermilk, as needed
1/2 cup (65g) Reserved Flour Mixture, from above
2 Tablespoons (30g) Butter, melted
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Adjust the oven shelf to the middle position. Spray 9-inch cake pan or cast iron skillet with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the cake flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, and salt. Remove 1/2 cup of flour mixture and reserve for later in a small mixing bowl.
3. Sift the baking powder, baking soda and cream of tartar into the 2 1/2 cups of flour mixture remaining in the large mixing bowl. Work shortening into the flour mixture in the large mixing bowl, with your fingers or use a pastry cutter, whisk, or dinner fork until there are no lumps of shortening larger than a pea remaining.
4. Gently stir in enough buttermilk so the dough resembles wet cottage cheese, about 1-1/2 to 1-2/3 cups of buttermilk. Stir until there are no dry spots of flour left. A dinner fork works well for this.
5. Using a cookie scoop, ice cream scoop, 1/4 cup measuring cup or 2 spoons, drop a 1/4-cup size portion of the wet dough into the bowl of reserved dry flour. Using your fingers, sprinkle some of the dry flour on top of the wet dough ball until it is coated in dry flour. Pick up the coated dough ball, shake off excess flour and place in the greased cake pan, along the outside edge. (If the dough ball falls apart, it is too wet, add more flour to the batter.) Continue adding the flour coated biscuit dough around the edge of the cake pan, pressed up against each other. After the uncooked biscuits ring the edge of the cake pan, fill in the middle with the remaining flour coated balls of biscuit dough. The filled cake pan should have little or no gaps between the uncooked biscuits.
6. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees F until biscuits are lightly browned on the outside and interior of a biscuit reaches 195 to 200 degrees F, about 25 minutes. Brush tops of biscuits with melted butter. Cut biscuits apart and serve warm.
Yield: 12 to 14 biscuits.
Antilope, that's very similar to the CI recipe I linked to above. This biscuit doesn't have the layers you'd get from a cut-out biscuit, but it makes up for it with its softness. I find the recipe so easy that it takes longer to preheat the oven than it does for me to make the biscuit dough.
Photos and recipe:
Just read over that recipe. What do you think it does for the biscuit to go through the step of rolling the balls of dough in flour instead of just spooning them into the cake pan?
They look good and I would be pleased to have them. This is really more what my ideal biscuit looks like though. Well, maybe not ideal, I think I must of done these either half asleep or whilst drinking.
On the rare occasion that I make drop biscuits I smooth the tops off with a wet spoon after I put them in the pan. They look pretty much exactly the same as Antilope's picture.
I strongly believe that folks should experiment with different techniques and figure out how to make the biscuit that they enjoy the most. Both in the making and eating.
Two things I notice -The biscuits pull apart from each other very easily. The top has a nice quality.
Here are a few of my photos from the Mile High Biscuit recipe. As you can see, very similar to Antilope's recipe.
Note: In case it's not clear, the middle photo is the pan of biscuits turned upside down so I can separate them.
Those look really good. The secret is the really wet dough that forms steam during baking. The biscuits are crowded together and have nowhere to go but up. Makes for a really tall, fluffy and light biscuit.
Being so wet, it's like a no-knead dough. But you shouldn't knead biscuits anyway, because that forms gluten and makes them tough.
The dough is really too soft to roll into a ball between your hands. The large cookie scoop pretty much makes the dough round. I just drop it in the flour with the scoop, sprinkle some flour on top, pick up the flour dusted dough ball, shake of excess flour and plop it in the cake pan.
There are 2 tricks to achieving this:
- pressing the shortening into flat nickle size pieces
- folding and rolling several times
It's a crude copy of puff pastry and croissant dough.
That folding and rolling goes against the usual minimal-handling dictum.
I suspect the canned biscuits use preformed shortening waffers. The repeated folding is also easily done in a factory. They probably make big sheets of this dough, and punch out the cylinders that go into the cans.
I normally don't give a whole lot of thought to my biscuits. Been doing it for a long time and can make them my way in my sleep.
Remembering this thread I made a point of making an extremely wet dough this morning. Too wet to roll or even be able to pick the mass up off the counter. I put them on a heavily floured counter and floured the top well and patted them out to cut.
They came out fine but I prefer my slightly dryer (but still wet enough to be sticky) and lightly kneaded dough.
White Lily SR flour, crisco, buttermilk.