It’s funny how terms can be both simple and confusing. When I was a kid, biscuits meant crisp, flat and unsweetened bread. If they were sweet, they were cookies. Simple. Then, I grew up. You’d think that by learning more and broadening one’s horizons, things would get even clearer but that wasn’t what happened. I learned that the things I called biscuits as a kid were actually crackers, and biscuits are not flat but are, on the contrary, crisp outside but soft and fluffy inside. More like shortbread, really. How confusing!
And things got even more complicated. The soft and fluffy things are biscuits in the United States but are called scones in the United Kingdom. Or, at least, the English scones are somewhat similar to the American biscuits. The confusion in terminology even has a long history that has to do with how Latin words were adopted by the French, the Dutch and the English — none of which will really explain how I baked these biscuits, so never mind.
To avoid even more confusion, these are Southern-style biscuits which have become culturally associated with the American south.
Based on a recipe by Alton Brown.
Recipe: Southern-style biscuits
- 1 c. of all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 2 tsps. of baking powder
- 1/8 tsp. of baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. of salt
- 2 tbsps. of cold butter, grated or chopped
- 1/2 c. of cold milk
How to bake
- Preheat the oven to 450F.
- Line a baking sheet with non-stick paper.
- In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the butter and, using your hands, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Do this fast so that the butter does not melt.
- Make a well in the center and pour in the milk. Mix lightly, about 10 strokes, just until combined. The mixture will be very sticky.
- Turn out the dough into a floured surface; pat down lightly. Sprinkle the top with more flour.
- Fold the dough over itself about half a dozen times. You are kneading the dough but ever so lightly.
- Pat the dough flat to about an inch thick.
- Dip a two-inch round cutter in flour. Press down into the dough — DO NOT TWIST (I’ll explain later) — then lift. Tap the cut dough into the lined baking sheet. Repeat until you can’t cut any more rounds from the dough.
- Refold the remaining dough, pat down again and cut out more holes. With a two-inch cutter, I was able to cut out a total of 16 rounds.
- Bake at 450F for 15 to 20 minutes. You can wait until they’re golden or you can take them out earlier so long as the outside is crisp.
- The biscuits rise tremendously during baking. The reason why bakers always say never twist the cutter is because the biscuits never rise properly when there is twisting involved. I don’t know the scientific explanation for it but I have proven that it is true. I’ve made biscuits before and they came out sad and flat because of the twisting.
- The biscuits should be crisp outside. If you baked them right, the biscuits should separate into top and bottom halves at the slightest pull. And the inside should be light, moist and soft.
- If you don’t have an oven, the biscuits can be cooked in a pan. About three to four minutes per side, covered, over medium to medium-low heat. But you really have to use a pan with a very thick bottom. Otherwise, the bottoms will burn before the inside is cooked through.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s)
Cooking time: 20 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 16 two-inch biscuits