Golden brown, tender biscuits make a delicious accompaniment to any meal. Making basic biscuits doesn't require any special equipment or fancy additions. With just a few ingredients and minimal time, you can have a warm batch of homemade biscuits baked and on the table to accompany your meal. Additionally, you can add various extra ingredients to the basic recipe to customize it to your taste preferences.
Using a food processor simplifies the dough-making process, but it isn't strictly necessary. If you don't have one, a stand mixer or even a mixing bowl and a spoon will suffice. A pastry blender also helps for cutting butter into the dough, but you can use 2 knives instead. If you're baking shaped biscuits, gather a rolling pin and a biscuit cutter. If you're making drop biscuits, you'll need an extra spoon. Grab a large baking sheet and have it nearby.
At its most basic, biscuit dough contains 1 part cold butter, 1 1/2 parts milk and 4 parts all-purpose flour; along with a pinch of salt, and approximately 1 tablespoon each sugar and baking powder for every 2 cups of flour. Add baking powder, sugar, salt and flour to a bowl and cut butter into the mix with a pastry blender, fork or 2 knives. Continue cutting the butter into the flour until the dough looks like little crumbs. Stir milk into the mix to create soft dough.
Change the basic recipe by replacing 1/4 of the all-purpose flour with cornmeal or whole-wheat flour. Use buttermilk or cream in place of milk to give the biscuit a richer flavor. Adding ingredients to the dough is another way to vary the recipe. For example, add 2 to 3 times as much sugar and stir in citrus zest and dried cranberries for a sweet version. Alternatively, stir in shredded cheese, finely chopped meat or minced herbs and seasonings.
Once all the dry ingredients are moistened, lightly flour your hands and your work surface. Form the dough into a ball and knead it 5 to 10 times against the side of the bowl. Alternatively, dump it onto your work surface and knead it with the heel of your hand. Flour a rolling pin and roll the dough out to 1/2-inch thickness. Dust a biscuit cutter or the rim of a glass with flour and cut the biscuits out of the dough. For fluffy biscuits, place the cut biscuits close together on an ungreased baking sheet. Leave approximately 1 inch between them if you want crustier biscuits. Bake the biscuits until they are golden and they have doubled in height. This takes approximately 10 to 14 minutes in an oven that's been preheated to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Making drop biscuits is a faster method with less fuss, although the end result has a different, somewhat denser texture. You don't need to knead the dough. Simply mix the ingredients until everything is moistened and then drop mounds of dough onto a baking sheet. Bake them for approximately 20 minutes in an oven that's been preheated to 400 F.