Biscuits: if they ain’t flakey, I ain’t interested.

My friend Kevin lives in Hotlanta, but his family hails from Tennessee. As a bona fide good old boy, this means that he has an old school family recipe for old-fashioned baking powder biscuits. Every time he made a batch with his little girl, he’d email me a picture of the high and flakey results. The problem is, that I could never get my biscuits to rise to such enviable heights, and thus his emails served as nothing more than taunting reminders of my failure.

That is, until I perfected my own recipe and finally nailed it.  See, he had only ever sent me pics of his biscuits reaching three fingers high. Here’s the original pic i sent him from my first succesful batch:


Buttermilk & Baking Powder Biscuits

1/3 cup cold butter cut into smallish cubes

1/3 cup cold shortening (I use crisco)

2 1/4 cups plain flour ( use White Lily if you can get it then omit the baking powder)

2 1/2 teaspoons of fresh baking powder

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

pinch of salt, pinch of sugar

a little extra flour and butter for kneadin’ and spreadin’

Start by pre-heating your oven to 450f/230c. You want to try and work quickly with this recipe, the trick is to have the butter super cold and handle it as little as possible. Colder butter = flakier biscuits.

Put the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder into a bowl, and throw in the butter cubes and shortening.

Next, you want to cut the fat into the dry ingredients. The best tool for this is a purpose-made pastry cutter. If you don’t have one, you can use two forks, or even your hands. The cutter works best because it doesnt transfer the heat through to the fats.

Combine until you’re left with small pea sized chunks of butter peeking out from the flour mix. Kinda like this:

Now, stir in the milk, then tip out the dough onto a floured surface. Knead lightly a few times to bring it all together. Sprinkle on a little more flour as required to stop it sticking.

This is the part where we get just a little bit crazy and butter-centric. After kneading, lightly press the dough into a rectangle shape, around an half an inch high. Spread the top of the rectangle with butter.

Then fold one side to the middle, then the other side over the top. Like this:

Flatten this down and repeat two more times. This helps to form the flakey layers of the biscuits.

Press dough out gently with your hands until you get to 3/4 inch thickness. Then grab your biscuit cutter. I have a variety because I seem to stockpile lesser-used kitchen utensils.

Cut out your biscuits and try to get as many out of this step as you can. You can gently re-knead the extra dough to cut more, but I guarantee the biscuits from the second and third passing will never be as high or as pretty as the first.

Arrange them on an oven tray with each biscuit lightly touching the one next to it. This gives them support as they rise in the oven. You know, kinda like a group of drunk friends holding each other up shoulder to shoulder.

Put the tray into your preheated oven and watch those babies rise!

After about 10-15 minutes (and turn halfway if your oven has hotspots), take them out and let them cool.

Usually, they’re served with white gravy, but this particular batch was for breakfast so I had them with jam. While they were still warm. #win.

I’ll admit it, im completely smug when it comes to my biscuits because I know I can nail the recipe every time (which is something many Southerners can’t do). In fact, Southern Comfort loves to show off the “4 finger high” biscuit pic while telling people “I had to come all the way to Australia to find a real Southern girl”.  And when he tells them that, I grin like a cheshire cat.

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Posted on Apr 11, 2011


  1. Cole says:

    “White gravy”? Are you turning in to a Yankee on us? 😉 And cream gravy is totally a breakfast item in the South. Mmmm, biscuits and gravy!

  2. Jess Ho says:

    You bring the biscuits, I’ll make the gravy.

  3. TarheelBorn says:

    Damn, girl, that looks like a really awesome biscuit! My dear old mother could make a fluffy, light biscuit by pinching the dough off and rolling it in her hands but they were not in layers like that and I have never mastered the art. I want to know where you live so I can park my feet under your table!

  4. ClubMed says:

    These are the biscuits of my dreams. Saturday morning can’t come soon enough. Thanks for the recipe!

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