Nothing beats an oven fresh biscuit. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

Nothing beats an oven-fresh biscuit. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

Ages ago a reader requested a biscuit post and now, in something of a dreary February brain hibernation, I thought would be the perfect time. Donna shot this biscuit while I was writing Ratio and what I love about it is not the ratio itself (3 parts flour : 1 part fat : 2 parts liquid) but rather how the rolling technique results in layered flakiness.

It’s kind of a cross between a pie crust and puff pastry. A pie crust is flaky because random knots of butter separate layers of dough and puff when baked. With puff pastry, one sets out to create precise layers of dough and butter, hundreds of them, by successively folding and rolling out a single block of butter encased in dough (called turns) for a uniform puff dough. Here, we make a looser pie crust (compare the 3-2-1 pie dough ratio), purposefully allowing chunks of butter to spread out in the dough, then give the dough several “turns” to create multiple, though far from uniform, layers that puff when you bake them.

These buttery wonders are great for breakfasts and dinners, the dough made a day in advance if necessary, the biscuits baked and frozen for a week or more. For an amazing winter weekend breakfast, make a bechamel (cook butter and flour, add milk, heat till thick) then add sausage and onion to this and pour it over the biscuit for a classic biscuits and gravy breakfast.

Biscuits

  • 9 ounces flour (a scant 2 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 ounces chilled butter, diced
  • 6 ounces milk
  1. Set a mixing bowl on a scale and pour out the flour. Add the baking powder (pressed through a strainer if it’s pebbly) and salt. Weigh out the butter. Rub and pinch the butter into the flour so that the butter is well distributed and in fragments and small chunks, the largest of which are not bigger than peas. Pour in 6 ounces of milk and combine just until a dough is formed (you will see distinct whole chunks of butter in the dough). Form into a 4-inch-by-6-inch rectangle, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  2. Unwrap the dough and dust it with flour. Roll out the dough to about three times its size on a floured counter, board, or plastic wrap, maintaining the rectangular shape. Fold it into thirds and roll it out again (it will be more resistant and springy now). Fold it in thirds again, press it down firmly, wrap it in the plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for at least an hour or until thoroughly chilled. Repeat the procedure again. The dough is now ready to be rolled out to 1/2 inch thick and cut, or it can be folded in thirds, refrigerated, and rolled out again one more time for a total of six folds, or turns.
  3. Cut the dough into squares or, if you like, into rounds with a ring cutter or a glass. Bake at 350°F/177°C until done, 20 to 30 minutes.

Yield: 4 to 6 biscuits (can be doubled or tripled by weight)

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© 2013 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2013 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved.

 

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50 Wonderful responses to “The Key to Flaky Biscuits”

  • ruhlman

    You can just roll them out once, they’re still delicious. the more rolls,the more lift though. Recommend rolling and folding once, fridging, rolling and folding again before cutting. actually quite easy.

  • Natalie B

    Oh my these look perfect! I find it so hard to get a good biscuit recipe but this looks like it may be “the one”!

    • ruhlman

      hold in paper bag and reheat next day in medium oven. wrap in foil and freeze, allow to thaw, unwrap and heat in medium oven

  • Mia (Savor Everyday)

    I’ve tried this method from your “Ratio” book and I couldn’t be happier with the results – tender, buttery, flaky biscuits! Definitely worth the effort.

  • Susan Boiko

    Does it matter if you use skim milk or is important to use whole milk?
    also, any particular type of flour that is better?

    • MonkeyBoy

      It is also common to use buttermilk. Being acidic you then replace some of the baking powder with baking soda.

      I’ve even made biscuits with yogurt or sour cream which changes the texture and flavor a bit though not in a bad way.

  • MonkeyBoy

    “A pie crust is flaky because random knots of butter separate layers of dough “

    While a pie or ordinary biscuit dough may contain “knots” of butter, when you roll it out they turn more into discs or pancakes of butter.

  • Bricktop Polford

    I guess that’s where the ratio concept is valuable, because “Yield: 4 to 6 biscuits” only covers my own requirements.

  • John Robinson

    Can we call these something other than biscuits? That’s an insult to Southern cooks everywhere. Biscuits aren’t supposed to be flaky, and if they are, they most certainly came from a Pillsbury can.

    • ruhlman

      I’m afraid these are indeed biscuits, John. The states SC, NC and TX all make barbecue. Are you referring to drop biscuits (which I’m not a fan of)? I’d be happy to call these flaky winders northern biscuits, nwathen biscuits. In the book I called them Chicago biscuits because of their 312 ratio.

      • John Robinson

        I guess they’re “biscuits” in a very loose sense of the word. Calling them “Northern Biscuits” wouldn’t hurt my feelings. As a Southerner, biscuits are moist and quite soft on the inside and not an ounce of layering in the least. Also a common misunderstanding of real southern biscuits is the incorrect assumption they should rise any significance in the oven. They won’t. They should be rolled out to the thickness you plan to eat them.

    • ATN654

      Natalie Dupree was on The Splendid Table and she seemed to be saying that flaky biscuits are Southern, even instructed on how to get those delicious flaky layers too.

      • John Robinson

        I must have been raised in a parallel Southern universe where Flaky Biscuits aren’t the norm and New Jersey natives aren’t authoritative Southerners in any sense of the word :)

  • Steve-Anna

    Well, this is a surprising recipe! I was always told to handle biscuit dough as little as possible to get a good rise. What is it, after all of that rolling and pressing, that yields a different result from other biscuit recipes?

    • ruhlman

      If you’re mixing drop biscuits, then less is better (with all flour-liquid concoctions that you want to be tender). but all this rolling creates thin layers, and thus tender, crisp, buttery!

  • Mary

    Thanks for the link to my vanilla bean whipped honey butter. These biscuits look amazing! Your method looks similar to the layering in croissants. I haven’t tried it myself, but I’m tempted once again to be patient and give it a shot. I wish I had one of these in front of me right now!

  • Chelsea

    I made these a month or so ago with the addition of brown sugar and sharp cheddar cheese – delicious and worthwhile, if you have some time!

  • Dee

    These aren’t traditional biscuits, not like the kind my grandma made. Those were light, buttery and crispy on the outside, and fluffy and moist inside, but not flaky. Maybe that’s what the above commenter is taking about. With my grandma’s biscuits, she made them with lard, or shortening. She mixed them as little as possible, and used buttermilk. Sometimes she may add a little butter for flavor, and brush the tops with melted butter. May she rest in peace.

  • Mike

    The biscuits and gravy will definitely be the route I go…first. I want to try that cheddar cheese addition too.

      • Chelsea

        Thanks so much! I thought about grating or cutting smaller, but I wanted to be sure there were assertive, oozing pockets of cheese at the end of the baking time. I find grated cheese often melts away into scones or biscuits, leaving its flavor a bit diluted.

  • E. Nassar

    I travel a lot for work and I like to leave some prepared foods for the wife and kids for quick meals while I’m away. The Ratio biscuits are a regular weekly breakfast. I have the recipe stored under “My Recipes” in the app and they come together in about 15 minutes, they get portioned and frozen on a Silpat. My wife just bakes them straight from the freezer for perfect biscuits. I use buttermilk usually and since it is thicker than milk I tend to use a bit more than what ratio recommends. I really believe there are 2 camps when it comes to biscuits (and even pie dough), those who value the flaky/crispy dough that comes from using butter and those who really like the fluffy/tender dough (in case of pie it’s just the tenderness) that you get from adding shortening. I am firmly in the buttery flaky camp and really love the flavor that butter imparts. Shortening has no place in my kitchen at all.

  • JulieD

    These actually seem very straightforward and not overly complicated to me. I’m going to squeeze in biscuit making today or tomorrow…just for the sake of making biscuits. Will definitely freeze some too! Thanks for the recipe!

  • Lisa R

    I love flaky biscuits. :) believe I’ll be doing them gluten-free. And I don’t mind the work like this for melt in your mouth results. :)

  • Michael B

    I am throwing two pork butts on the smoker Saturday morning and I think these will go great with the pork. Thanks for another great recipe. My wife (a die hard biscuit lover) also thanks you.

  • Brenda

    OMG! My husband surprised me with these yesterday morning (after I sent him the link to the blog posting)! There were so many layers oto them that I actually ate one like it was a baklava!

  • ruhlman

    Thanks Brenda and all for your comments. Thrilled that people are making biscuits and having great success with them. Saw gorgeous pic on twitter this morning.

  • Sherry Bellamy

    These aren’t what we would have called “biscuits”, our biscuits were much sturdier, in fact they were downright stodgy. These look much more delicate, crisp, and rich. (I think we all consider the biscuits of our childhoods the ‘real’ biscuit; but they vary so much from place to place and family to family. Our family recipe comes straight out of the Five Roses Flour Cookbook, written in 1932. They were the biscuits of the depression; much less fat and much more baking powder, commonly known as “tea biscuits”. Still yummy though….)

    I’ve never seen biscuits like this before, which makes me want to try them immediately…thank you!

  • Skip

    I make the RATIO biscuits pretty regularly. A few days before this post I played around using your ratio with half AP flour and half cake flour and half milk and half creme fraiche. They were pretty dang wonderful if I say so myself. Extremely light and flaky and big on flavor. I got the idea because of a “luxe” biscuit recipe you posted a good while back that you adapted from GOURMET or SAVEUR.

  • slightlypickled

    Hi Michael. I’ve been a longtime fan and while I do not own a iphone, I recently picked up an ipad. I was surprised to see that Ratio was not available in the app store. Should it be? Or has the product not been made available for ipads as of yet? Just curious, and please keep up the good work. Your thoughts/input in the written culinary world are a breath of fresh air, and that is still an understatement. Cheers.

    • ruhlman

      How kind of you to say, thank you. Will and I are planning a full scale iPad ratio app but for now it’s only for smart phones. you should be able to download to your ipad, but it will just be the size of smart phone screen.

    • Michael Ruhlman

      Oh dear, why?! Donna made them saturday night and baked sunday morning and covered with sausage gravy. It did occur to me that they needed something salty and savory to go with them.

      • Deanna

        Mine came out heavy and took forever to brown. I struggle with incorporating my fat correctly when I make biscuits. Maybe I did that part wrong. I’m a pretty good baker, but I obviously am falling short on some technique here! :D

  • Gina

    Seriously good biscuits – easy! I put some coarse sea salt on my 2nd(!) batch. W/ a white gravy you made me a hero. Grazie mille.

  • Michael Lippe

    Lacking a kitchen scale, would I be safe using 3/4 of a stick of butter (3 weight oz??) and just short of 2 cups of flour? Thanks for the wonderful looking biscuit recipe.

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