Biscuit 911 (calling all chefs)

Why don’t my biscuits turn out right? Whereas they should be light and airy, they turn out like dense hockey pucks. They taste OK, but not like they should. What am I doing wrong?

Here’s how I make them:

Maybe I’ll sift the flour, maybe I won’t. Doesn’t seem to make a difference. To this I’ll add the baking powder and a little salt. Then the shortening. I mix this by hand until I get fine crumbs, then add just a little butter milk at a time until the dough barely holds together. I may kneed it a bit, or not, before putting it onto a surface and cutting it into rounds. Then I put the rounds onto a cookie sheet, barely touching, and into a 400-475 preheated oven. Ten minutes later, voila! Hockey pucks!

Why don’t they puff up?

Well, I don’t know if this will make a difference, but I use ½ shortening and ½ butter (the real stuff) and they usually turn out fine.

Another thing, make sure your baking powder is fresh. If it’s old, it can lose some of it’s raising power.

You also might try adding a bit of baking soda to the mix. I looked at 4 recipies for biscuits and found that the baking powder amount ranged from 2-4 teaspoons, and one called for 2 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp baking soda.

Good luck!

Tried it.

Tried it.

Ain’t tried it. I think maybe some of the problem is that I’m not getting enough of a CO2 reaction, maybe some soda will help. And maybe I could try increasing the amount of baking powder.

The only other things I can think of are flour and oven. Can’t do much about the oven, but whether I use gas or not shouldn’t matter. Plenty of people must use gas stoves and get good results.

For flour I use all-purpose. Alton Brown recommends 3 parts AP to 1 part cake flour if one cannot get winter wheat (which I think is not available around here). I could try that as well.

I’ll make the assumption that you are using all purpose flour.

You definitely need to add baking soda to your recipe.

I would recommend sifting the baking powder and salt along with your flour. Then add the baking soda to your butter milk and mix well before adding to your flour mixture.

You may also try adding a tsp of cream of tartar to your flour mixture as well.

For biscuits, I would also refrain from kneading the dough as much as possible. Also do not roll the dough too thin.

Have you tried making drop biscuits? That’s where you add about an extra third of liquid (e.g., if you’re using 3/4 cup now, use a full cup), mix it in all at once but just until the flour’s wet, and drop it by big spoonfuls on the baking tray. They come out very ugly but very fluffy.

If drop biscuits don’t work, then the problem is almost certainly in your ingredients or in the oven you use. If drop biscuits do work, then the problem is almost certainly in your technique.

The thing that kind of alarms me is where you say you mix in the liquid a little bit at a time. I’ve always heard you want to mix it in all at once, in order to minimize the development of the gluten.

But try a drop biscuit experiment, and narrow things down. It’s a tasty experiment :).


I can’t change my oven, so I think we’re looking at ingredients. I’ve made drop pucks before.

I’d recommend eliminating all kneading. Put all the milk in at once and stir until the dough barely holds together. Roll it out gently to about 1/2 inch (use a ruler to get the feel of it, most people roll them too thin) and do as you have been doing.

Unlike yeast doughs, which you (need to) knead to disperse the activated yeast and make the dough moisture homogenous, this isn’t necessary with biscuits which are much more moist.

Also, use all-purpose flour, not bread flour. Bread flour is too tough for biscuits.

Hmm . . . do other baked goods work in your oven? If the oven’s bottom burner is out (heating entirely by the top one), or if it burns cold, then it could possibly be your oven–but then you’d expect other things to come out poorly.

If drop biscuits don’t work AND if you made them how I described (adding the liquid all at once) AND if the oven works for other baked goods, then it really sounds to me like a leavening problem. Have you had success making other stuff with baking powder, and how are you sure the baking powder works?

You can test baking powder by dropping a pinch of it into a cup of water. If it doesn’t fizz merrily away, that could be your culprit.


I’ve been on a biscuit making frenzy the past few weekends. Mine are good. Very good.

Cut that out! No kneading for you!

Cut that out, too. I turn my dough onto a floured surface. Using my fingertips, and my fingertips only, I fold the dough onto itself five times. After each fold, I lightly dust the surface of the dough with flour. Then, with only my fingertips, I press the dough out until it’s about one inch thick. From there, I cut out my biscuits. All of this is done very, very delicately and handling it as little as possible.

I, too, use half butter, half butter-flavored shortning.

As far as kneading goes, I really don’t do much, sometimes I take care not to knead it at all. I treat it with kid gloves, or sometimes rougher – honestly, I’ve probably tried every permutation of handling known to man. The results are more or less the same.

Same with rolling (I’ve tried drop biscuits).

I’m using AP flour.

I think they’re 1/2 inch think, but I’ll break out the trusty ruler.

I’ve tried them in at least 5 different ovens, all with the same result. All were gas ovens, BTW.

I don’t do much baking, but Pillsbury biscuits rise up just fine.

I think the leavening is a major culprit.

I use two cups of all purpose flour, four teaspoons of baking powder, a quarter teaspoon of baking soda (if I’m using buttermilk and if I’m not, I skip it), two tablespoons each of butter and shortning. I use my dough/pastry blender or the tines of a fork to cut the fat into the flour mixture. I leave some of the fat the size of peas and others so that they resemble crumbs.

I then add a cup of cold buttermilk or regular milk and, using a fork, mix just until everything comes together.

From there, just follow the rest of my earlier post.

I make perfect biscuits evertime.

Except for the soda, that’s pretty much what I do. I’ll try again tonight, except I’ll follow your recipe exactly, then report in tomorrow.

I’ll also try fizzing the baking powder in water to make sure it’s still good.

Two quick questions: Where in the oven do you put them, and at what temperature?

450 degree oven, middle rack.

Whoops! I forgot to post the salt! I use a teaspoon of salt, too.

If you’re making buttermilk biscuits you definately need to replace some baking powder with baking soda. Baking powder is just baking soda with some acid premixed, the acid in the buttermilk will replace some of that. The other step is the fat. I use 100% butter when making biscuits, and you really need ice cold butter. Since you are using shortening, I’m guessing you are using room temperature fat. I’d drop the shortening completely and use butter from the refrigerator. You don’t have to work super-fast, but you definately don’t want the butter to melt or get warm. And your other ingredients should be cool too. Putting the flour in the fridge is a bit overkill, but you definately don’t want the fat to melt before baking. Cold butter. Yep, cooooold butter. Mmmm-hmmm.

I use the old 2-4-6 recipe…

two teaspoons salt
four cups flour
six teaspoons baking powder
about 2/3 cup of margarine
Enough milk to make a dough OR 2/3 cups powdered milk. Still powdered.

If using the powdered milk, then add enough water to make dough.

Two possiblities not mentioned yet - how cold are your fats (on preview, lemur866 beat me to it) , and how finely do you chop 'em up? If your fats are warm and smooshy, they blend right into the dough and you don’t get the flakiness. And if you cut them up too fine, say, rice-size as opposed to lima-bean size, you can get the same problem. (The fine crumb is kind of a key phrase here…mine are always kind of chunky - pea size to large lima bean size - 'cause I’m lazy and can’t be arsed, and they turn out fabulous.)

Just a thought…I’ve seen this problem in the past with pie crusts.

One more point: When you cut the biscuits, press straight down with the biscuit cutter, do not twist the cutter as you go through the dough. Twisting as you cut seals the cut edge and inhibits rising.

Also: Let your biscuits stand about 5 minutes before putting them in the oven. Baking powder is double-acting: It starts rising the instant that the moisture hits it. Then it rises some more when it’s activated by the heat of the oven.

I, uh, didn’t know anybody made buttermilk biscuits by rolling them and cutting them out. Why would you do that? They wouldn’t be cathead biscuits then, would they? They’d look like storebought. Plus that’s a bunch of equipment to wash.

I make great biscuits every time the way my old Southern aunt showed me, with a sifter of all-purpose flour, the “right” amount of baking soda, the “right” amount of salt, about a handful of Crisco, and buttermilk until it feels right. You gotta drop them with a wooden spoon, which comes out to the right size.

I haven’t made them in more than a year though, because I gotta tell you, them frozen Pillsbury cathead biscuits, they taste almost as good and you don’t have to get your hands dirty and you can make just one. Even my aunts use them now. Don’t tell anybody. :wink:

I’ll second what Lemur866 mentioned: your ingredients need to be cold. Cold butter/shortening, cold buttermilk.

When I make biscuits, I sometimes make the dough a few hours before I need it, press it into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and let it sit in the fridge until I’m ready to cut the dough and bake it. Keeping it very and putting it in a hot oven is definitely one of the steps of getting the biscuits to rise nicely.

Crisco!??!?! Butter??!?!?! and (horrors!) Margarine?!?!?!?
If you ain’t using **Lard ** you ain’t doin’ it right!!