America's Test Kitchen is a real 2,500 square foot test kitchen located just outside of Boston that is home to more than three dozen fulltime cooks and product testers. Our mission is simple: to develop the absolute best recipes for all of your favorite foods. To do this, we test each recipe 30, 40, sometimes as many as 70 times, until we arrive at the combination of ingredients, technique, temperature, cooking time, and equipment that yields the best, most foolproof recipe. America’s Test Kitchen's online cooking school is based on nearly 20 years of test kitchen work in our own facility, on the recipes created for Cook's Illustrated magazine, and on our two public television cooking shows.
Nobody feels good about their culinary skills after baking up a batch of lumpy, leaden, lopsided biscuits. We’re here to help you put those sad, squat, doughy days behind you with our recipe for unfailingly light, fluffy, tender, flavorful and perfectly shaped biscuits. We have a few helpful hints and 12 key steps that will guarantee you success.
Biscuit Cutters: Makeshift cutters such as juice glasses produce rounds that rise unevenly (the rounded lip compresses the edges of the cut biscuits). Use biscuit cutters. Our favorite? In our testing of biscuit cutters, we liked this $15 stainless steel set from Ateco the best (available on Amazon).
Kneading: Old cookbooks, "The Fannie Farmer Baking Book" among them, instruct cooks to knead biscuit dough. This activates the gluten in the flour and helps the biscuits rise. Many modern baking books stress that kneading makes for tough biscuits. We say knead gently: Don’t overdo it, but definitely do it.
To Preheat the Oven: Don’t neglect this. Biscuits need an initial blast of high heat to rise properly, and it takes most ovens 15 minutes to get up to temperature (you might also check your oven temperature using an inexpensive oven thermometer).
To Measure the Flour Properly: Use the dip-and-sweep method for accuracy: Dip a measuring cup into the flour, scoop up the flour and level it with the flat side of a knife. If you pack flour into the cup using the side of the container or spoon it in, you could end up with significantly more or less flour than called for. One cup all-purpose flour correctly measured weighs 5 ounces. Spooned into the cup, it weighs just 4.5 ounces, and packed in, it can weigh as much as 5.75 ounces.
Making the biscuits:
1. Chill the fat
2. Prep the pan and oven
3. Mix the dry ingredients
4. Add the fat gradually
5. Stir in the liquid by hand
6. Knead the dough briefly
7. Roll the dough out evenly
8. Use a floured cutter
9. Handle the scraps gently
10. Flip the biscuits
11. Rotate the pan and reduce the heat
12. Eat 'em hot
Light and Fluffy Biscuits
Note: If you don’t have buttermilk, there’s no need to run to the store. Make a substitute by stirring 1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon lemon juice or white vinegar into 1 1/4 cups milk. Let the mixture stand at room temperature for 10 minutes until thickened.
2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Pulse flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in food processor until combined. Add chilled butter and shortening and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.
3. Transfer flour mixture to large bowl. Stir in buttermilk until combined. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead briefly, 8 to 10 times, to form smooth, cohesive ball. Roll dough into 9-inch circle, about 3/4-inch thick.
4. Using 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter dipped in flour, cut out rounds and arrange upside down on prepared baking sheet. Gather remaining dough and pat gently into 3/4-inch-thick circle. Cut rounds from dough and transfer to baking sheet.
5. Bake until biscuits begin to rise, about 5 minutes, then rotate pan and reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees. Bake until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes more. Transfer to wire rack and let cool 5 minutes. Serve warm.
To make ahead: Cut rounds can be refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap, for 1 day. To finish, heat oven to 450 degrees and proceed with step 5.
More from America's Test Kitchen:
Visit Eatocracy’s new home
Don't miss a single new story. Visit us at our (temporary) new home on CNN.com