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Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Biscuits

makes 12 biscuits

These biscuits are made the classical way, a method whereby the butter and flour is rubbed into flakelike particles by hand. I'm sure you will agree that the extra effort is well worth the reward.

Read more about this recipe in Carole Walter's Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More.


3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, spooned in and leveled, plus additional for kneading and dusting
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, plus 2 tablespoons melted
1 2/3 cups buttermilk


prep: 20 minutes
total: 40 minutes


baking sheet
large bowl
dough scraper
rubber spatula
pastry cloth
rolling pin (with sleeve or cover)
2 1/4-inch straight-sided cookie cutter
pastry brush
thin metal spatula


1. Position the rack in the middle of the oven. Heat the oven to 400F. Have ready a large, ungreased cookie sheet.

2. In a large bowl, thoroughly whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

3. Shave the chilled butter into 1/8-inch slices using a dough scraper or a sharp knife. Add the butter to dry ingredients, one-third at a time, rubbing it between your fingertips to form flakelike pieces. Work gently and quickly so the butter does not become too warm. You should have both large and small pieces.

4. Add the buttermilk, pouring it around the edge of the bowl. Using a rubber spatula, push the mixture toward the center, working your way around the bowl to blend the buttermilk with the flakes. The mixture will be soft and resemble large curds or cottage cheese. Let stand for 2 or 3 minutes while you prepare the rolling surface.

5. Sprinkle a pastry board or other flat surface generously with flour, about 2 tablespoons. Empty the dough onto the board. The dough will be sticky. With the help of a dough scraper, lift the dough four or five times to coat it with flour. With floured hands, gently knead the dough six or eight times, or just until it forms a "skin." It's okay if larger particles of butter are visible. Do not overwork the dough or your biscuits will not be tender. When the dough is ready, slide it aside and clean the work surface.

6. Lay a pastry cloth on the surface and fit a rolling pin with a pastry sleeve, or rolling pin cover. Rub an additional 2 to 3 tablespoons of flour into the pastry cloth and sleeve.

7. Place the dough on the cloth and pat it lightly with floured hands, shaping it into a rectangle. Roll the dough into a 10x14-inch rectangle, with the 10-inch side parallel to the edge of the counter.

8. Fold the dough into thirds, like a business letter. To do this, lift the far side of the pastry cloth up and fold the top third of the dough over on itself. Press the dough to align the edges as best you can. Lift the lower edge of the pastry cloth and flip the bottom third of the dough over on itself, keeping the edges as best you can. You will now have three layers of dough. Press the top gently with your hands, then roll the dough until it's 5x15-inches, with a thickness of a generous 1/2 inch.

9. Using a 2 1/4-inch straight-sided cookie cutter dipped in flour, cut straight down into the dough, without twisting the cutter, cutting two rows of six biscuits. Be sure to dip the cutter in flour before each cut and cut as close to the previous biscuit as possible. When placing on the cookie sheet, invert each biscuit, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart.

10. Brush the tops with the melted butter and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the biscuits from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes before loosening with a thin metal spatula. Serve the biscuits warm. If baking ahead, warm the biscuits for a few minutes in a 300F oven.

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