Science of Baking: Biscuits

I have been on the hunt for the best biscuit recipe.  During the search, I have become very interested in the range of the amount of ingredients used as well as the impact of the temperature of ingredients has on the resulting biscuits.

I love the science of baking. So I decided to create a spreadsheet to compare the amount of ingredients. I decided to just focus on biscuits made from flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, butter and dairy. I left out those that I have made that use yeast or included other ingredients.

The ingredients included had quite the range in quantity:

  • Flour (AP, Bread, Cake) = 240 g – 640 g
  • Sugar = 8.4 g – 55 g
  • Baking Powder = 1/4 tsp – 1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp
  • Salt = 1/2 tsp – 3/4 tsp
  • Dairy (Buttermilk, Heavy Cream, Milk) = 115 g – 600 g
  • Butter (Unsalted) = 84 g – 250 g

Here is a PDF of the spreadsheet that compares all of the recipesScience of Baking_ Biscuits

What was the same for all of recipes and what did I learn? Here are some tips:

  • Preheat the oven to 425 F
  • Grate and freeze the butter
  • Freeze the baking sheet of biscuits for 10 minutes

Here are images of each of the biscuits.

Flaky-As Biscuits

Brooklyn Biscuits

Classic Cathead Biscuits

Fluffy Buttermilk Biscuits (Edna Lewis)

Buttermilk Biscuits (Anthony Bourdain)

Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits

Buttermilk Biscones

 

Best Buttermilk Biscuits

 

After all of the testing, the winner is “Best Buttermilk Biscuits”

BEST BUTTERMILK BISCUITS

INGREDIENTS

2 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, grated and frozen, plus more, melted, for brushing
1 cup chilled buttermilk

METHOD

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Combine baking powder, salt, sugar, baking soda, and flour in a large bowl. Add chilled butter and mix using a wooden spoon or bowl scrapper. Gradually drizzle buttermilk over top, tossing as you go to incorporate. Knead mixture a few times in bowl until a shaggy dough forms (mixture will look a little dry), then turn out onto a clean surface and pat into a 1″-thick square.

Using a knife or bench scraper, cut dough into 4 pieces. Stack pieces on top of one another, sandwiching any loose dry bits of dough between layers, and press down to flatten. Lift up dough with bench scraper and dust surface with flour. Roll dough into a 1″-thick rectangle and trim a thin border around sides of dough to create clean edges.

Cut biscuits with a biscuit cutter to make 8-12 biscuits (don’t reroll scraps). Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing 2″ apart; freeze 10 minutes.

Brush tops of biscuits with melted butter and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 400 F and bake biscuits until deep golden brown on bottom and golden on top, 20–25 minutes.

Do Ahead: Biscuits (unbaked) can be made 1 month ahead. Freeze, uncovered, on baking sheet until solid, then transfer to a resealable plastic bag. Do not thaw before baking, but add a few minutes to baking time.


Here are the links to all of the biscuit recipes and results. Enjoy.

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