From America's Test Kitchen
Drop biscuits have many things going for them: a crisp outer crust, a tender, flaky interior, and a simple, no-nonsense method. There’s only one problem—they’re often not very good. Too many are dense, gummy, and doughy or, on the flip side, lean and dry. Drop biscuits should, by nature, 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. But when we had trouble avoiding this, we made a batch with lumpy buttermilk anyway. 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.
Makes 12 Biscuits
If buttermilk isn't available, powdered buttermilk added according to package instructions or clabbered milk can be used instead. To make clabbered milk, mix 1 cup milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice and let stand 10 minutes. A 1/4-cup (#16) portion scoop can be used to portion the batter. To refresh day-old biscuits, heat them in a 300-degree oven for 10 minutes.