Biscuits (the Southern-style rolls, not the British cookies) can intimidate even seasoned bakers. A well-made biscuit is a flaky, buttery delicacy, while a biscuit done poorly is only slightly more palatable than a hockey puck. If you've messed up this classic comfort food in the past, blame it on the recipe. While instructions for making biscuits can be overly complicated, this three-ingredient, five-step recipe from Southern Living is hard to get wrong.
According to the magazine, the perfect biscuits consist of butter, flour, and buttermilk. After preheating your oven to 475°F, grate a stick of frozen butter into a bowl with 2.5 cups of self-rising flour and toss the ingredients together. Allow them to chill for 10 minutes.
Next, create a well in the middle of the mixture. Pour 1 cup of cold buttermilk into the indentation and stir everything 15 times. (And make sure to keep count; as Southern Living writes: "When we say to stir the dough 15 times, we mean it!")
Now comes the part that foils many bakers. Transfer the sticky dough to a lightly floured surface and sprinkle the top with flour. Roll the ball into a .75-inch-thick slab with a lightly floured rolling pin. Fold it in half and roll it flat again. Repeat this process until it's been folded and rolled six times total.
The sheet of dough should be flecked with butter. When these butter pockets melt in the oven, the steam will help the dough rise and give it its flaky, layered texture. This is why keeping your ingredients cool in the beginning is so important. The butter will melt otherwise, causing the dough to fall apart as you roll it.
For the next step, cut your .5-inch-thick dough sheet into circles with a 2.5-inch cutter that's been floured. Place the dough discs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 15 minutes. When the biscuits are lightly browned, remove them from the oven and brush with melted butter.
Any biscuits you make with this recipe should be light and fluffy—unlike the biscuits that were consumed by explorers and sailors centuries ago. If you're looking for a more historically accurate baking project, this recipe for ship's biscuits yields very different results.
[h/t Southern Living]