Published January 1, 2006.
How do you get tender, flaky biscuits with truly distinctive layers? It's a pressing issue.
Truly flaky biscuits have become scarce, while their down-market imitators (think supermarket "tube" biscuits) are alarmingly common.
We wanted to achieve a really flaky--not fluffy--biscuit, with a golden, crispy crust surrounding striated layers of tender, buttery dough.
We first needed to understand what makes one biscuit fluffy and another flaky. We learned that while ingredients (lard versus butter, buttermilk versus milk, and so on) influence texture and flavor, the secret to the fluffy/flaky distinction was how the ingredients were handled: Flaky butter equals flaky biscuits. To get "flaky" butter, we abandoned the food processor and worked thin slices into the flour by hand. Next, we rolled and folded the dough to flatten the butter into thin sheets sandwiched between equally thin layers of flour (as with puff pastry). In the oven, the butter melts and steam fills the thin spaces left behind, creating the flaky layers. Once we further tenderized the recipe by swapping a little shortening for some of the butter and softened the impact of the buttermilk with a little baking soda, our revised technique had, in fact, produced an ultra-flaky biscuit with rich flavor.list of recipes