American-Style Buttermilk Biscuits

Not biscuits like cookies, and not biscuits like scones. This is an entirely different creature that sizzles from the oven as the butter dances and settles between the flaky layers. It’s what my grandmother called proper southern biscuits, and she often served them within minutes of coming out of the oven with creamy sausage gravy, highly spiced with cracked pepper. It’s an American thing.

These biscuits are rich in calories, saturated fat, and have few redeeming qualities except that they are drop-dead delicious.

Note on the flour: measure 2 cups of plain flour, and then remove 4 level tablespoons of it. Replace it with 4 tablespoons of corn starch or corn flour. This is a substitution for cake flour. If you have access to cake flour, measure 1 cup plain flour and 1 cup cake flour.


2 cups plain flour (note above: less 4T replaced with 4T corn starch)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon table salt
113 gram (8 tablespoons or one stick) cubed and frozen butter
3/4 cup buttermilk


Cut the butter into very small cubes, lay them out on a plate and place it in the freezer. The butter should be as cold as possible. Frozen is best.

Cut and place two layers of baking paper in opposite directions across the bottom and up the sides of an 8×8-inch baking pan.

Preheat oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8.

Place all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl (or in a food processor), and mix to combine thoroughly. (A food processor works brilliantly for this because a plastic blade doesn’t heat up and soften/melt the butter.)

Remove the frozen butter from the freezer, and add it to the bowl or food processor. Use a cheese grater to shred the butter if you’re not using a food processor, rubbing the butter into the flour mixture using your fingertips. If using a machine, pulse the food processor until the mixture looks like fine crumbs.

Tip the flour and butter mixture from the food processor into a medium bowl and dump in all of the buttermilk. Using a dough whisk or a fork, mix gently by tossing and stirring until most the dry mix has been incorporated. Tip all of the contents from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and shape *gently* to form a 6×6” square. Don’t overwork the dough as this will make the biscuits tough.

Using a long knife or a dough scraper, cut the dough into 9 square pieces (cut 3 wide and 3 across for 9). Transfer each square into the paper lined baking pan, leaving a small gap between each square. As they bake, each square will rise and expand to meet its neighbouring square.

The oven *must* be fully preheated. If it’s not, place the baking pan into the fridge or freezer until the oven is ready. Bake for 10-13 minutes or until the tops are lightly golden. Don’t over-cook. Remove from the oven and cool on a plate lined with kitchen towels to absorb butter.

These freeze very well, and can be easily reheated in the oven.

12 Comments Add yours

  1. emilydev9 says:

    Lovely! Haven’t had these in years… We were in Portland (OR) 2 weeks ago and my sister warned me that you couldn’t get proper Southern biscuits there (we both went to grad school in North Carolina), so we skipped them.

    1. Misk Cooks says:

      This recipe makes 9. We ate half of them last night. Ooops! 🙂

  2. Joanna says:

    Ah this explains a whole lot, I am really excited 🙂 !! I have long wondered about the pictures I’ve seen of american ‘biscuits’ and thought, ‘but they look like scones’. I am going to have a go at these when I have some buttermilk from the shops. They sound lovely ! In the meantime – I want to know more about the sausage gravy though…. what is that, sausages whizzed up into a meaty sauce? the mind boggles….

    1. Misk Cooks says:

      Sausage gravy is fried, crumbled sausage and onion/shallots in a medium-thick white sauce. However … the fat from the sausage is used in its entirety to create the roux, and it’s highly seasoned with lots of black pepper and a good bit of sage. Generally speaking the minced pork is double to weight of the ground pork fat. It’s not for the weak hearted. 😀

      When you make your biscuits, it’s important that you not mix, handle, shape or generally poke about with your dough too much.Work as quickly as possible so that the butter stays cold in the dough. When the dough hits the heat of the oven, the butter will start melting which gives these their light texture. If they’re heavy, you’ve over-worked the dough or didn’t work fast enough, and the butter started to melt before they went into the oven.

      Have fun!

  3. emilydev9 says:

    We used to get chicken and biscuits at a shop that bragged about how their biscuits were extra-tender because they were square-cut not round, so that there was no excess dough that needed to be re-rolled. Unfortunately they then ‘buttered’ them with some kind of yellow fat out of a squeeze bottle and added super-greasy fried chicken off the bone. What can I say, it was a good way to soak up a bellyful of beer when you’re young enough for such things! :-S

    1. Misk Cooks says:

      And I don’t even roll mine out! I just press the dough into a ball, and then pat it out flat into a 6×6″ square. I wonder if that mystery butter was actually chicken fat?

  4. Wow, the biscuits have come out real nice. I can say so by looking a the colour. Quite spetacular. It seems like a daring bake! You intro to the dish is super cute. These would be so perfect with a hot cup of tea 😀

    1. Misk Cooks says:

      Thanks! Yes, they did turn out well, and it’s a very easy recipe. Have a go and tell me what you think. 😀

  5. ceciliag says:

    the crazy thing is that i have been looking for a buttermilk biscuit recipe to compare with scones. No-one makes them from scratch here they BUY them frozen, and LOOK you have a recipe and you don’t even live in America.. i think that the irony is brilliant especially as it is a NZer looking for the recipe! ha ha ha .. what are we like!? c

    1. Misk Cooks says:

      My mother didn’t make them from scratch either. She used Bisquick mix, which is a major albeit acceptable cheat, and doesn’t produce anything nearly as tasty as from scratch. You’ll have the advantage over us in the UK because you can buy double-action baking powder in America. We can’t buy that here, so you’ll get a more rise from your dough when it hits the oven heat. If you make this recipe, let me know what you think, okay? xx

  6. They look great Misk. Could I have a couple to dip into some pumpkin soup please?

    1. Misk Cooks says:

      Absolutely! Totally delish with soup. 🙂

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