Building better biscuits

Technique tips for the best baking powder biscuits ever!

I’ve always loved making and eating what I grew up calling tea biscuits but have since learned are more commonly referred to as baking powder biscuits. They’re a little different than scones in that they are usually less sweet (here’s one of my favourite scone recipes, by the way), making biscuits more versatile. You can serve them with soups and stews, or slather them in jam and/or whipped cream. The one aspect of preparing biscuits that I never particularly enjoyed was using a pastry cutter to work the butter into the flour. It seemed like an instrument of culinary torture and not particularly efficient; the recommended alternative, a pair of knives, was even worse. I tested a new method a while ago and am happy to report that it was fantastically easy and resulted in better biscuits too. This new and improved technique: make sure the butter is well chilled (15 minutes in the freezer after measuring) then use a box grater to shred it directly into the flour mixture. A couple of quick tosses with your fingers and you are ready to add the liquid and form the dough. So much faster and simpler!

Another important tip for fluffy, light biscuits is to ensure your baking powder is fresh – its shelf life is actually less than one a year. One final key technique when making biscuits is to cut them cleanly. If you are using a circle (biscuit) cutter, take care not to twist it as you press down on the dough or as you pull the cutter up out of the dough. A clean cut will keep the biscuit’s layers from getting compressed; as a result it will puff up higher and more evenly in the oven. Use biscuits to crown a pot of stew, slather them with butter and jam or stuff them with ham and cheese, to name just a few of the limitless possibilities. Happy baking!

better baking powder biscuits

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons (20 mL) baking powder
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) white sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) very cold salted butter
  • 2/3 cup (180 mL) milk or buttermilk

tea biscuits

Method

  • Line a large baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 425F.
  • Place flour, baking powder and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
  • Grate the cold butter into the bowl and toss with your fingers to combine.
  • Add milk and stir quickly to form a shaggy dough.
  • Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead 4 – 6 times to pull mixture together into a ball.
  • Use your hands to pat mixture down into a rectangle of 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) thickness.
  • Cut with a 2” (5 cm) circle cutter and place on prepared baking tray.
  • Shape scraps into a ball, pat down again and cut additional biscuits. These will not rise as much as those in the first cutting, but they’ll still be delicious.
  • If desired, sprinkle the tops of the biscuits with a few pinches of white sugar.
  • Bake in the preheated oven 8 – 10 minutes until golden brown on top.
  • Remove tray from oven and transfer biscuits to a wire rack.

Makes 12 to 15 biscuits.

best ever baking powder biscuits

 

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About Paula Roy

Welcome to my kitchen! I play with words and with food. I love simple dishes prepared with passion and am always seeking to find new methods to make food as fun and flavourful as possible. I'm also an enthusiastic explorer of faraway lands and cuisines.
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