Recipe Review

The Surprising Ingredient That Makes Carla Hall’s Buttermilk Biscuits So Irresistible

updated Oct 10, 2020
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell | Design: The Kitchn

Y’all, Carla Hall wants to get everybody baking biscuits. In 2019, the Top Chef and The Chew alum traveled the country teaching her biscuit-making ways in cities large and small, and she even has a whole section of her website dedicated to her recipe, tools, and videos.

As a chef born and raised in the South, I had high expectations for Carla’s recipe. I was also shocked to see that her biscuit includes a quite controversial ingredient: sugar! Carla’s classic technique, with a few little tricks, made me eager to give her recipe a try. Here’s how it went.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell | Design: The Kitchn

How to Make Carla Hall’s Flaky Buttermilk Biscuit

Carla’s biscuit ingredients include the essentials: all-purpose flour, baking powder, shortening, butter, and full-fat buttermilk, but her addition of just a teaspoon of sugar might upset a certain sect of Southern bakers who believe sugar should never be added to biscuits (or cornbread).

Much like Samin Nosrat’s Light and Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits, Carla’s recipe calls for an unusual mixing tool: a food processor! You’ll pulse together the dry ingredients with the shortening, then swap out the mixing blade for the food processor’s grating disk. You’ll then grate the cold butter into the dry mixture, making perfect little strands of butter in the finished dough. Transfer the dough to another bowl to add the buttermilk and mix the dough together.

Fold the dough into thirds three times before punching out 2-inch biscuits. Chill the punched biscuits for 15 minutes, then bake on a buttered baking sheet at 450°F.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

My Honest Review of Carla Hall’s Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits

I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor and texture of these biscuits. I couldn’t believe they called for sugar (even just a teaspoon), but I really do think it made them extra golden and crisp, without actually making them taste sweet. The dough was really wet, even after folding, which made punching out the biscuits a little tricky, but they still rose beautifully. These biscuits aren’t sky-high, but they are tender and flaky — perfect biscuits for serving with jam. And although generally I prefer an all-butter biscuit, Carla’s addition of just a few tablespoons of shortening kept these soft for days after baking.

If you’re a big fan of the old-school Popeye’s biscuits, you will absolutely love these biscuits. Here, the extra effort of pulsing the shortening and grating the butter into the flour makes for a very soft biscuit with a golden exterior. I would absolutely make these again (maybe for a whole Popeye’s-themed dinner) and I’d rank them high on my list of beloved biscuit recipes.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

If You Try Carla Hall’s Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits, a Few Tips

  1. Don’t skip the sugar. Even if you’re opposed to the idea, I encourage you to give it a try here. A little goes a long way in contributing to color, texture, and flavor.
  2. Coat your work surface with nonstick spray or oil. This smart trick from Carla will ensure you don’t add too much extra flour during the folding and kneading process (the spray keeps the flour in place).
  3. Chill the punched biscuits before baking. I know it can be hard to wait, especially for buttery biscuits, but chilling the dough before baking is what gives Carla’s biscuits a little extra rise in the oven and makes them oh-so delicious.

Rating: 8/10

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell | Design: The Kitchn

Have you ever tried Carla’s Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits? Tell us what you think in the comments!