I have no idea why, but most biscuit recipes do NOT give instructions on how to get all of those delicious flaky layers. Every recipe that I read just says to mix the ingredients, roll, and cut. But lucky for me, I learned all of this in baking school.
It’s not so much the recipe that makes the difference, it’s the technique. Most biscuit recipes are pretty similar; flour, butter, baking powder, and milk. There’s a few variations, but they’re all pretty similar. This is the recipe I used tonight, but you could use whatever your favorite recipe happens to be.
So here’s what you do. Mix all of your dry ingredients together per the instructions on your recipe. Cut in the fat, and then add the liquid. If you’re adding anything special, like onions and cheese, you should add them before you add any liquid. For this recipe, I added about 1/4 cup of chopped scallions and about 1/2 a cup of shredded cheddar cheese. Once you add in your liquid, mix it as little as you can so that you don’t over mix; over mixing will cause your biscuits to be kind of tough.
Dump the dough into a well floured surface. Form it into a patty with your hands and then sprinkle some flour on top. Roll the dough to be about 1/2 inch thick. Fold it in thirds like a letter. You should now have a rectangle. Check your rolling surface to make sure it’s not too sticky. Add more flour to prevent sticking. Roll the dough again to be about 1/2 inch in thickness. Fold it into thirds again. You can repeat this process one more time if you’d like. After you’ve done your second or third trifold, roll the dough to be about 1 inch thick. Use your biscuit cutter to cut out the biscuits. When cutting the biscuits, firmly press down, and do NOT twist your cutter. Twisting seals the edges and prevents the biscuits from rising properly.
Place your biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet, and bake at about 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes (or whatever your recipe calls for).
Well there you have it. This proper technique for getting gorgeous flaky layers in your biscuits. And in case you were wondering, a similar technique is used for making puff pastry (although that takes much more time than biscuits!)
Now why on earth does every biscuit recipe leave this step out?