Making biscuits is not an exact science, but it does require some basic tips and techniques to get the job done right. Take any any biscuit recipe you have (see below), apply these 7 simple rules to that recipe, and you will be making perfect homemade scratch biscuits every time.
1) Use a good low-gluten, soft-wheat flour.
2) Sift the flour one time by itself, then sift it again with the other dry ingredients in the recipe. This will create the perfect lightness for your biscuits.
3) The flakiest, best-textured biscuits are made when using lard as the fat in the biscuit recipe. If you do not feel good about using all lard for your biscuits, try using half lard and half vegetable shortening. But never use any vegetable oils in any biscuit recipe.
4) Chill the bowl and the fat used, and work quickly to keep the fat from melting. Every grain of flour needs to be covered in fat in order to prevent the flour’s gluten from being activated by the water. If you activate the gluten, you will end up with a hard, heavy biscuit.
5) Buy a good biscuit cutter that makes a nice, sharp cut. It should also allow air to escape (an open top), which gives biscuits the chance to rise properly.
6) Pat the biscuit dough out only one time. Re-rolling dough will cause the gluten in the biscuit recipe to toughen the dough, making very heavy and dense biscuits.
7) To bake evenly, turn the baking sheet around one time during the baking. If baking more than one cookie sheet full of biscuits at a time, switch the positions of the pans once during cooking.
Before baking powder was ever invented, cooks always used buttermilk in biscuits. This would help them rise. Although it still works today, people go more for the flavor buttermilk provides than for its ability to rise the biscuit dough.
Buttermilk Biscuit Recipe
2 1/2 cups good soft-wheat flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons lard, well chilled
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled
1 cup chilled buttermilk
Position the oven rack in the middle, and preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a baking sheet.
Sift the flour, then sift together all dry ingredients in a large bowl. With a large fork or pastry blender, blend in the lard and vegetable shortening until a course meal is formed.
Pour in the buttermilk, and stir together ingredients until a sticky dough is formed.
Flour your hands and a pastry board or counter top. Turn out the dough and knead it gently, just 4 to 6 times. Pat out the dough until it is about 1/2 inch thick.
Cut the dough with a 2 to 3-inch round biscuit cutter, or a round cookie cutter.
Move the biscuits to the baking sheet, arranging them so they just barely tough each other. Bake the biscuits for about 10 minutes, or until raised and golden brown in color (Remember to turn the baking sheet at the halfway point).
Serve the biscuits hot and with butter.