Recipe Review

I Tried Southern Living’s “Favorite” Biscuit Recipe (and I Still Prefer My Own)

updated Sep 29, 2020
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell | Design: The Kitchn

When it came time to pick contenders for our buttermilk biscuit recipe showdown, one of the first places I turned to was Southern Living. Considering the brand has been writing about Southern food since its inception in 1966, I assumed their favorite biscuit recipe would include all those years of expertise. And according to the recipe, I was right: This is the formula they landed on after baking hundreds of Southern buttermilk biscuits.

Of the four biscuit recipes I tried for this showdown, Southern Living’s had the fewest ingredients and shortest instructions. Would the recipe’s simplicity be its winning secret or its downfall? I had to try it to find out.

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

How to Make Southern Living’s Favorite Buttermilk Biscuit

Before you get started on Southern Living’s biscuit recipe, make sure you’ve got a stick of butter in the freezer. You’ll also need to buy or make a batch of self-rising flour. Self-rising flour is essentially just all-purpose flour with baking powder and salt added.

Much like my favorite biscuit recipe, the butter for these biscuits is grated from frozen. These hard shards of butter are softly added to the self-rising flour, and then the whole bowl is chilled for 10 minutes. Add buttermilk and stir the dough exactly 15 times before dumping it onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll it out with a rolling pin, fold it onto itself four times, then punch it into 2 1/2-inch biscuits. Bake the biscuits at 475°F on a parchment-lined baking sheet, then brush with melted butter after baking.

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

My Honest Review of Southern Living’s Favorite Buttermilk Biscuit

As a recipe developer, I take personal offense to recipes that promise to be precise but fail to give some key instructions. Unfortunately, this was the case with Southern Living’s recipe. The instructions for these biscuits were weirdly specific about some steps — such as stirring the dough 15 times — but vague when it came to folding and baking. I was left with questions about how much flour to use for dusting, how to know when the biscuits were correctly folded, and how to tell when the biscuits were perfectly baked.

My biscuits turned out just okay: tender and somewhat flaky, with minimal rise. Their finished texture was similar to Alton Brown’s biscuits, but they weren’t nearly as tall or flaky since they have less moisture, leavening, and call for fewer folds. It is, however, a very basic biscuit recipe, which makes it good for beginners.

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

If You Make Southern Living’s Favorite Buttermilk Biscuit Recipe, a Few Tips

  1. Make your own self-rising flour. This speciality flour is readily available in most grocery stores, but when a biscuit craving strikes you don’t have to run to the store. Making your own self-rising flour will also ensure that your leavening is fresh, which will help these biscuits rise.
  2. Don’t rely on just four folds. The best biscuit bakers know that the number of folds isn’t precise — some batches need four, but others might need six or eight. Instead of counting exact folds, look for a dough that springs back slightly — a sign that just the right amount of gluten has developed and the dough will rise high in the oven.
  3. Skip the melted butter for a swipe of softened butter. Instead of dirtying another dish to melt butter, just brush the top of these biscuits with three tablespoons soft or room-temperature butter right after baking.

Rating: 6/10

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