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Like frying chicken, making biscuits is a labor of love for me. I’m from the South where they’re a staple and I wouldn’t feel comfortable claiming to be able to burn at all if I didn’t make some damn good ones – but biscuits are easy to master with practice.
They’re made of simple ingredients and the dough is fairly forgiving; once you have your method down you’re good to go.
This recipe for my How High Buttermilk Biscuits can be tricky to master, but it’s very very worth it.
I have a few different recipes and techniques, most with different results, but I never make biscuits without buttermilk. There’s no real reason for that, I guess I just haven’t felt the need to explore non-buttermilk biscuit making.
These particular buttermilk biscuits are tall and fluffy, with crispy golden tops and tender layers. Beautiful and rustic and perfect for pulling apart with your fingers. They’re sturdy enough to build a breakfast sandwich on, yet soft and flavorful enough to eat alone.
“How High” is in the name because depending on how many times you fold the dough, these will climb so high that they’ll topple right over while baking. Also because of How High (2001).
If you’ve seen me make buttermilk biscuits before, you know I usually employ a pastry cutter and rolling pin. This is purposeful – I hate having stuff on my hands (how that coincides with loving to cook idk).
With this dough, however, I’ve found that using my hands only – save for combining the wet and dry together – yields the most tender final result. Actually, the pastry cutter probably doesn’t matter all that much but definitely avoid the rolling pin.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a large bowl.
Dice the cold butter into small cubes, and toss with flour. Using your hands, cut the butter into the flour until none is larger than pea-sized.
Make a well in the center. In a small bowl, beat one egg until no streaks remain. Pour the buttermilk and egg into the well, then gently fold together until you have a wet, sticky dough. If the dough seems too dry, add more buttermilk 1 teaspoon at a time as needed.
Transfer the bowl of dough to the fridge for at least 5 minutes, no longer than 30 minutes. Prep and flour your work surface while the dough chills.
Turn the dough out onto the floured surface. Flour your hands and knead just until the dry parts from the bottom of the bowl are fully incorporated.
Using as little pressure as possible pat the dough out into a rectangle (or oval, whatever) that’s about 3/4”. Fold over in thirds – the short sides over the center – and pat out again.
Repeat around 5 times, then use a floured biscuit cutter to cut out your biscuits and transfer to baking sheet. You can space the biscuits out a couple of inches or let the sides touch – just make sure to leave about an inch of space around the rim.
Beat the remaining egg and the water together to make an egg wash. Brush it over the tops of the biscuits.
Bake for around 15 minutes if separated, 20 minutes if touching.
Brush the biscuits with melted butter when you remove them from the oven and serve warm. They’re pretty great with molasses, but that might be a lil’ too country for some of y’all.
You’ll want to use aluminum-free double acting baking powder because of the amount in these biscuits. A sensitive palette might get a metallic aftertaste if you don’t.
When it comes to cutting the butter into the flour, the best way I can describe my technique is this: you ever tried to flatten a Skittle between your thumb and forefinger? Especially two Skittles together? Do that. You want to coat the flour with the butter. Push the flour through the cubes of butter with the pads of your fingertips until a crumbly mixture forms (with some larger pieces of butter throughout). Work quickly, and place the bowl into the freezer for a few minutes intermittently if needed. It’s crucial to keep everything cold.
Try using parts of your hand instead of the whole thing when patting out the dough, like just your fingertips or the heel. This will help minimize the amount of force you’re using, especially if you tend to be heavy-handed in all things like me.
I don’t recommend folding the dough over more than 8 times. It’ll start to become overworked no matter how gentle you’ve been, which makes for tough biscuits. I folded the ones photographed above only 4 times because… I’m not sure – lazy probably – but I usually do 6.
Leaving at least an inch of space between the biscuits and the rim of the baking sheet is crucial because these will probably plop over sideways as they rise in the oven. The wider your biscuit cutter, the better their chance of staying upright.
For a softer exterior, you’ll want the biscuits touching while they bake. If you separate them, watch them closely when they begin to brown – you want the outside crisp but not dry, and exact baking times always depend on the oven.
You can skip the egg wash, or replace it with buttermilk or melted butter. I like the glossy golden tops that egg wash provides on these particular biscuits.