No Fail Buttermilk Biscuits

No Fail Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit

Are you looking for the most light, melt-in-your-mouth, savory, buttery biscuits for your holiday table? Or just for breakfast. Or for no reason at all. Look no further. These biscuits are made using a unique process that transforms the lowly biscuit into a new category of fluffy goodness. They are so easy that I decided to call them “no fail” biscuits. There is no guesswork, no kneading, and simple clean-up.

I stumbled on this recipe when looking for something to make for a friend’s pot luck “Biscuit Brunch.” Blogging about biscuits is fun, but it puts the pressure on when I’m asked to take biscuits somewhere. They can’t just be biscuits. They can’t just be good. They have to elevate the whole idea of a biscuit. So I pulled out the biscuit bible, aka Southern Biscuits by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart. This cookbook is a treasure trove of recipes, history, folklore, and a variety of biscuit techniques.

Southern Biscuits

Why did you choose this biscuit recipe?

The recipe I chose to make is Shirley Corriher’s Country Buttermilk Biscuits, aka “Touch of Grace Biscuits” (link to great video of Shirley). What attracted me to it was the unique “wet dough” method. I had read about shaping the dough while wet, and this seemed like a great time to try it out. I added black pepper and chives to enhance the flavor.

What is persnickety about this recipe?

This recipe is all about technique. You mix up a super wet dough, like this:

No Fail Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit

Then you scoop it out and put it into a pile of flour – having an actual scoop really does make a difference here. One of the bonuses of this recipe is the easy cleanup. Instead of getting flour all over your counters, it is contained in the pan you choose. You gently roll the dough in the flour, shape it into a ball in your hands, and put it into your pan, snuggling them all together. You’ll notice that the balls of dough actually feel light and rather delicate. This is a good thing.

No Fail Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit

After baking, you brush them with plenty of butter, which makes them look lovely and taste even better.

No Fail Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit

So how were the biscuits?

They were fabulous – the texture was light and delicate and the chives gave a burst of flavor. By themselves, they were amazing.  They also turned out to be the perfect vehicle for the sausage gravy that I made. I think I’ll have to do a whole post on gravy some time. Meanwhile, just know that these biscuits and gravy go together like, well, biscuits and gravy.

No Fail Biscuits with Gravy | Persnickety Biscuit
>>> Click here to download printable recipe.

No Fail Buttermilk Biscuits with Chives and Pepper

Adapted from Shirley Corriher, via Southern Biscuits

Makes 12 large or 20 small biscuits


  • 2 cups self-rising flour (White Lily is my favorite for biscuits)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste (optional)
  • 1/4 cup shortening, frozen, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/8 cup chopped fresh chives (optional)
  • 2/3 cup whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup good buttermilk (I used Cruze Dairy farms)
  • 1 cup all purpose flour, for shaping
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line either 9-inch round or 8 X 10 inch rectangular pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and pepper. Using fingertips, work in the cold shortening until crumbly. It is ok if there are different size lumps, but none should be larger than a pea. Add chives and mix. Then stir in the buttermilk and cream until just incorporated. The dough will be very sticky.
  3. Spread the all-purpose flour onto a cookie sheet. Use a scoop to take about 1/4-1/2 cup of dough and put it onto the flour. An ice cream scoop is great for this. Using your hands, toss the pieces of dough with the flour, coating all sides. Shape into a ball. Place in pan on parchment. The biscuits can be placed close together. Continue until all dough is formed and pan is full.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Biscuits are done when light brown and have a slight “give” when pressed. Brush with melted butter.
  5. Share with someone you love!

Top Five Unexpected Biscuit Lessons Learned [So Far]

All of the biscuit baking and tasting and studying over the past few months has been quite enlightening. Lately, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned along the way.biscuits

There are many sites, articles, cookbooks, and blogs that will teach you the basics of biscuit baking, so I decided to share my slightly less traditional advice. Without further ado, here are my top five favorite, but unexpected, lessons learned [so far].

  1. Frozen, pre-grated butter. First of all, if you grate frozen butter, you really have to do very little to “cut it in” or incorporate it into the dry ingredients. Second, you can pre-grate it and store it in batches. The next time you make biscuits and get out the grater and frozen butter, grate a lot of extra butter, divide it up into 1/4 or 1/2 cup portions (measure before grating for accuracy) and throw it back into the freezer for the next time you bake biscuits. The last time I made biscuits, I used butter that I had pre-grated and it was a revelation. It made the whole process so easy and fast.grated butter
  2. Rectangles and squares are good. Who said round biscuits are better? Don’t believe them! Think about it. One of the traditional recommendations for biscuit baking is to not overwork the dough. So when you flatten the dough into one big rectangle and use a pastry scraper or knife to cut it into squares or rectangles, there are no leftover scraps. Therefore you are only “rolling” out the dough once. And those weird, last, misshaped biscuits formed from the remaining cutout scraps are all but eliminated.Pesto Parmesan Biscuit Dough
  3. Parchment paper rocks. I have learned to love parchment paper. It is the perfect venue for baking biscuits (or just about anything else) and can usually guarantee that the freshly baked items will release easily. I keep a roll of it on hand at all times now. Remember that wax paper and parchment paper are not the same.
  4. Cut where you cook. I think the best advice is often the thing that makes you say, “Well, duh! Of course!” Put the just kneaded dough onto the parchment paper, press it out into a rectangle, and cut it into squares right there. No need to cut out and pick up and move each biscuit.

    Sweet Corn Jalapeno Cheddar Biscuit Dough

  5. No fancy tools needed. While I have, and love, a pastry cutter, scraper, mat, and a whole assortment of different shapes and sizes of biscuit cutters, you don’t really need all that. You can cut butter or shortening in with your fingers, knead on your countertop, and cut out the biscuits with a knife or old tin can. Biscuits really are low tech.baking tools
  6. Bonus Item: Freeze raw dough. Everyone knows that the best biscuit is a freshly baked one (regardless of my fondness for toasted leftovers). So cut out all the dough but only bake what you need and freeze the remainder. Then thaw the frozen dough overnight, let it rest at room temp for a few minutes, and bake as directed in your recipe. They may not rise quite as much as the originals, but you still get that great fresh-baked flavor and texture.buffalo blue cheese biscuit dough

Do you have any favorite tips or tricks? Please comment and share!

cheddar herb biscuits

Oh, and if you are still a bit mystified by the basics of baking a good biscuits, here are a few references you might find useful.

  • This is a video of Sean Brock, the famed chef/founder of Husk in Charleston and the newly-opened Husk Nashville. I really like how you can see how he works the dough. It looks so soft and light as he is turning it and incorporating the buttermilk.
  • This blogger provides a wonderful list of the traditional suggestions for biscuit making.
  • Finally, White Lilly, the biscuits flour of all biscuit flours, provides their own tips here.

Now go grate some butter, make some biscuits, and share them with someone you love!

lovely biscuits