The Kiwi Guide to Big Fluffy Southern Biscuits

The Kiwi is here again today to wrap up America Week by sharing his tried and true biscuit recipe. A while back he declared that he was on a mission to make the most perfect biscuit possible and has made biscuits pretty much every Sunday since in an effort to get them just right. These are, without a doubt, the best biscuits I’ve ever had.


When I first met Lauren we were both recently departed from the southeastern U.S., and both experiencing withdrawal of the staples of Southern cooking. It went without saying, then, that we would be attempting to make biscuits.

For non–American-speaking readers, I must mention that the term ‘biscuit’ does not refer to a harder version of an American cookie, as it does in English. An American biscuit, for the uninitiated, is most closely comparable to a scone, although it’s lighter and fluffier. The secret is that they’re made with buttermilk.

Buttermilk itself is a term with two meanings. It’s sometimes used to refer to the milk that is left over after you make butter—which is watery, and reportedly not very good. The stuff we want is the milk from which you might choose to make butter—which is to say, milk that has already started to go off. It’s sour, and also not very good. Despite this, Germans of all ages drink it neat, and apparently can’t get enough of it. I once saw an old lady in the supermarket scull a pint of it before bringing the empty pottle to the checkout. You can also make your own by adding lemon juice to otherwise perfectly good milk. Don’t. Anyhow, the acid in the buttermilk reacts with baking soda to form carbon dioxide, which makes your biscuits fluffy.

At least in theory. Our first attempt at making them yielded results that had exactly the size, shape, colour, consistency and, indeed, flavour of hockey pucks. We changed recipes and tried again. The result was better but still not good. In the end I baked about 20 batches, experimenting constantly, before I hit on the formula for perfect fluffy biscuits.

This recipe is borrowed from the Tupelo Honey Cafe cookbook, which you should buy immediately unless you are lucky enough to live near a Tupelo Honey Cafe, in which case you should go there immediately, and then buy the book. Not only because the food is delicious but also because it’s that rarest of things among restaurant cookbooks: one we actually cook out of almost every week. You can probably use any recipe you like, however. I am here to tell you how to make your biscuits maximally fluffy on the first attempt, and that’s something you won’t learn from any cookbook.

If you’re feeling ambitious, you can substitute in half a cup of wholemeal flour for a slightly healthier version {pictured below}. Most people don’t make wholemeal biscuits because they tend to be less fluffy, but I have had equally good results even with up to 1 cup of the plain flour substituted for wholemeal.

Kiwi+Peach: The Kiwi Guide to Big Fluffy Southern Biscuits

The Kiwi Guide to Big Fluffy Southern Biscuits

{inspired by Tupelo Honey Cafe‘s ginormous biscuits}

150g {about 1¼ sticks} unsalted butter
2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
1½ tsp salt
2 Tbsp sour cream
½ cup buttermilk

The first key to fluffy biscuits is cold butter. Extremely cold. Place your butter in a flat glass dish and then put the dish in the freezer for at least a couple of hours before you start {overnight is even better}. Unsalted butter is preferred, because you want your biscuits to have exactly the right amount of saltiness and that’s very difficult to control with salted butter.

Preheat the oven to 225°C/450°F. Working as far away as you can from the oven, use a cheese grater to grate the butter into your cold glass dish. Finally, return the dish of cold, grated butter to the freezer while you prepare the dry ingredients.

Sift the dry ingredients together into a large bowl. Next, begin cutting in the butter. To ensure it remains cold, I usually add it in 3 batches, returning the remainder to the freezer each time. To stop it from sticking together and forming lumps, coat the butter gratings in flour as you pull them apart. The correct tool for cutting in the butter is a pastry cutter—I love mine and would recommend you get one, but a fork should also work. When you’re done, the mixture should look like a coarse flour.

Kiwi+Peach: The Kiwi Guide to Big Fluffy Biscuits

Add the sour cream and mix it through. Next, start adding the buttermilk, a little at a time, stirring in between. Remember, the chemical reaction between the buttermilk and the baking soda starts now, so it’s important to keep the amount of stirring to an absolute minimum—just enough to get all of the dry ingredients stuck to some buttermilk. Keep adding buttermilk until you get there, it can often take a little more than half a cup.

This is the point where most recipes would tell you to roll out the mixture with a rolling pin, cut out the biscuits with a 3 inch biscuit cutter, and place them on a sheet of baking paper on a baking tray. This is a sucker’s game. Fluffiness means height, and therefore the last remaining enemy of fluffiness to be vanquished is lateral spreadage. Biscuit cutters are round, and therefore your biscuits will spread into the gaps between them and cost you some of your fluffiness.

Instead, drop the biscuit dough onto a lined baking sheet and prod it gently with your fingers into the shape of a giant megabiscuit about 3cm {1in} thick. Using a sharp knife, cut the megabiscuit into 6, but don’t bother to separate the segments {they’ll separate fairly easily after baking}. Finally, place whatever obstacles you can to prevent the biscuits from spreading. I place them in the corner of a relatively deep baking tray and butt a loaf tin up against the other long side. Use whatever you have.

Place the baking tray in the oven as far from the heat as possible. In the Land of the Free all ovens heat from the bottom and you like it, so place the biscuits at the top. In most other countries you get a choice. Our oven heats only from the top, so I place the biscuits at the bottom and that has worked fine for me.

Bake for 20 minutes. Melt about a tablespoon of butter in a small bowl in the microwave {10-15 seconds should do it, depending on your microwave’s power}. Remove the biscuits from the oven and brush the butter over the top with a pastry brush. {Since spreading is no longer a risk, you can move the biscuits away from anything touching them at this point, to help stop the edges getting too much crispier.} Return to the oven for a further 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire cooling rack.

Give them 10 minutes to cool, then eat them warm with butter and honey or jam.

{This post contains an Amazon affiliate link. That means that if you head over to Amazon from the link and choose to buy the book, a tiny bit of the money you spent on the book will come back to me for the referral.} 

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2 thoughts on “The Kiwi Guide to Big Fluffy Southern Biscuits

  1. Pingback: No-Bake Date Ball Cookies | Kiwi + Peach

  2. Pingback: Oliebollen: A New Year Staple | Kiwi + Peach

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