Published November 1, 2007.
Drop biscuits are the no-nonsense alternative to traditional rolled biscuits. Only one problem—they're often not very good.
Too many drop biscuits are dense, gummy, and doughy, or lean and dry.
Drop biscuits should be simple to make and tender. We wanted a biscuit that could be easily broken apart and eaten piece by buttery piece.
Identifying the best ingredients was the first task. While oil-based biscuits are easy to work with, they lack flavor, so butter is a must. Replacing the usual milk with buttermilk helped heighten flavor; the biscuits now had a rich, buttery tang and were crisper on the exterior and fluffier on the interior. Choosing the right leavener was also important. We needed a substantial amount, but too much baking powder left a metallic taste. Since we'd added buttermilk, we could replace some of the baking powder with baking soda (buttermilk provides the acid that soda needs to act), which gave us the rise we needed, without the metallic bitterness. Once the ingredients had been identified, we were left with only one problem. Properly combining the butter and buttermilk requires that both ingredients be at just the right temperature; if they aren't, the melted butter clumps in the buttermilk. We didn't like testing and retesting temperatures—this is supposed to be an easy recipe—so we made a batch with lumpy buttermilk. The result was a surprisingly better biscuit, slightly higher and with better texture. The water in the lumps of butter (butter is 20 percent water) had turned to steam in the oven, helping create additional height.list of recipes