Recipe Review

Maw Maw’s Buttermilk Biscuit Recipe on Reddit Is Truly Old-School

published Dec 31, 2021
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Maw Maw’s Buttermilk Biscuit Recipe on Reddit
Credit: Laurel Randolph

No one makes biscuits like a Southern grandmother. Both of mine made biscuits from scratch regularly, and I ate them warm from the oven more than once a week when I was growing up (and probably had high cholesterol, but boy was I happy). So when LauraInglesWildin shared her Maw Maw’s Buttermilk Biscuit recipe on Reddit, I had to give it a try.

How to Make Maw Maw’s Buttermilk Biscuits

Like many family recipes, the ingredients and instructions are … scant. You start by sifting enough self-rising flour “to fill a medium bowl.” I quickly realized my medium bowl would hold quite a bit of flour. A commenter mentioned the recipe would likely take around 3 cups, and the original poster noted that she has flour left over at the end, which she sifts and reuses. My gut said 2 cups, but going with the excess flour idea, I used three. I sprinkled in a little salt and a pinch of baking powder — self-rising flour contains both — to give the biscuits a little boost.

Top with a scoop of vegetable shortening the size of a “large egg” and about 3/4 cup of buttermilk. I recommend making a well in the flour; it’ll help with the following steps. Break up the shortening with your hands, avoiding mixing in the flour, “until you have tiny bits of Crisco floating on top.” As a baker and someone who is not afraid to get their hands into food, I found this gross. But more on that later. I broke the shortening up as best I could, but since the milk is really thick, the Crisco doesn’t exactly float.

Add another 3/4 cup of buttermilk and start mixing in the flour from the sides, rotating the bowl and adding just enough to form a dough. The instructions make this sound so simple, but it’s incredibly tricky to add flour by hand to buttermilk without it breaking into a bunch of pieces rather than a cohesive dough. I ended up adding a bit more buttermilk when my dough got too dry and scraggly. Next, form the biscuits and add them to a greased cast iron skillet, baking at 425°F for 20 to 25 minutes until browned. Mine took 25 minutes in a greased 8-inch cake pan (my cast iron was out of commission).

Credit: Laurel Randolph

My Honest Opinion

I’m always attracted to bare-bones recipes like this one — the kind of thing Paul Hollywood would give you as a technical challenge on GBBO. As a fairly practiced baker, I’m usually able to figure out the gist and fill in any gaps to make a successful recipe. This was the case with Maw Maw’s biscuits, but not without some misfires along the way.

For starters, I wasn’t wild about adding a mystery amount of flour to a vaguely medium-ish bowl. That’s a gigantic window of flour — anywhere from 2 to 10 cups. You could produce consistent results if you’re Maw Maw and using the same bowl every time, but it leaves home cooks guessing. While I think the purpose of treating the flour and wet ingredients this way is to keep the biscuits light, it had the opposite effect for me. I was desperately trying to add just enough flour, but since there’s plenty of flour just sitting there, it’s hard to keep it from incorporating into the buttermilk, making a dry dough.

And I simply need to talk about the hands-on approach utilized here. Again, I like sticking my hands into doughs and batters! I often toss salads with my (clean) hands! But rubbing the shortening into the buttermilk was, well, not appealing. It was squishy and cold and fatty. It leaves your fingers coated, but then you’re supposed to add more buttermilk. Safe to say, you’re going to make a huge mess.

That all being said, once I tweaked the dough with a bit more buttermilk and got the biscuits baked, we devoured them all warm. There was just one little biscuit left after we got through with them, which turned to a hockey puck upon cooling. They weren’t quite as tender as I had hoped and they were ugly as sin, but they were still delicious warm and had great buttermilk flavor.

Credit: Laurel Randolph

Tips for Making Maw Maw’s Buttermilk Biscuits

This biscuit recipe, while only containing a few ingredients, is tricky. But I think with a few tweaks, it can be much simpler and more foolproof. Making the flour a set amount and adding buttermilk as needed makes it much easier to gauge the dough’s texture and avoid adding too much flour. Just don’t tell Maw Maw.

  1. Use 2 cups of flour. Instead of starting with a mystery amount of flour, sift 2 cups into a medium bowl along with a pinch of baking powder and salt.
  2. Cut in the shortening. Add your large egg of shortening and cut it into the flour until the largest pieces are pea-sized or slightly smaller. You can use your hands, two butter knives, or a pastry cutter.
  3. Or use butter. You can swap the shortening for butter (and I highly recommend it). Again, don’t tell Maw Maw.
  4. Add the buttermilk. Add a cup of buttermilk and toss. Add up to 1/2 cup more buttermilk as needed to make a slightly wet, very soft dough. Don’t over-mix or your biscuits will be tough.
  5. Form and bake. Scoop out biscuit-sized lumps and add to the prepared pan. Top with pats of butter or brush with melted butter and bake 20 to 25 minutes at 425°F until puffed and brown.
  6. Serve warm! Biscuits are 100 times better when served fresh. Great biscuits can be reheated with good results, but nothing beats a fresh, warm biscuit from the oven.