Biscuits at their finest are light, fluffy pillows of dough that go perfectly with gravy and are even delicious on their own.
However, biscuits are also easy to get wrong. One small mistake and their trademark fluffy texture is gone, replaced with a heavy denseness that nobody likes.
If your biscuits are turning out more like hockey pucks than dinner treats, you’re not alone. Plenty of bakers, both beginners and advanced, struggle to get the texture of their biscuits just right.
Here are a few ways you can troubleshoot your biscuits and get that light, fluffy texture everyone will love.
How to Make Biscuits
Biscuits are small, individually-sized pieces of bread that are usually served alongside dinner. They are usually a similar size to dinner rolls.
Unlike dinner rolls, biscuits are not kneaded and have a much lighter, flakier texture. They also use baking powder instead of yeast as the rising agent (although it is possible to make them without baking powder).
Most biscuits contain only a few ingredients—flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, butter, and milk or buttermilk.
The fat content in biscuits is crucial. Generous amounts of butter are the reason why biscuits have the texture that they are known for.
Reasons Why Biscuits Might Turn Out Dense
Biscuits are deceptively simple to make. They have only a few ingredients and don’t even require kneading or shaping as other bread products do.
However, it is still possible to ruin your biscuits if you make a mistake during the process. Unbalancing the ratio of the ingredients or changing the baking time could make your biscuits heavy and dense.
Here are a few reasons why your biscuits do not have the light and fluffy texture that you want them to have.
1 – Not Enough Fat
Butter is one of the most important ingredients in biscuit dough. Cutting butter into flour creates dough with layers and plenty of air pockets, which is the ideal texture that you want from your biscuits.
When you’re making biscuits, that is not the time when you want to try and be healthy by limiting the amount of fat that you include in a recipe. Most biscuit recipes call for large amounts of butter because butter is crucial in developing the right texture.
If your biscuits are dense and heavy, that could be a sign that you are not adding enough butter. The ratio of flour to fat needs to be perfect to get the right texture.
When you add your butter to your biscuit dough, be sure that it is chilled. Biscuits get their texture from cold lumps of butter cut in with the fat. If you add butter after it has softened to room temperature, it will melt immediately and won’t form the air pockets that give biscuits their distinctive texture.
If you’re completely out or need to avoid it for other reasons, it is possible to make your biscuits without butter.
2 – Leavening Problems
Most biscuit recipes call for baking powder or a combination of baking soda and buttermilk to leaven the biscuits.
Baking soda and baking powder tend to be more reliable than yeast, which sometimes becomes stale in storage and then does not activate the dough as it should. However, you can still have leavening problems even when using these yeast substitutes.
If you think your rising agent is the source of your flat biscuits, try adding a little more to your next batch and see what happens. Possibly, the ratio was off.
You should also double-check the expiration date on your leavening products because they can also spoil, just like yeast. Most people recommend using baking soda or baking powder within six months after opening the package.
3 – Oven Temperature
Once the dough is ready, your biscuits should go into a preheated oven (unless you’re baking biscuits without one). They usually bake for a short time, about 12 to 15 minutes.
If your oven is too cold, then your biscuits will be dense. Biscuits need very hot oven temperatures to activate the leavening agent and achieve their rise.
Your biscuits may cook through if you put them in a cool oven. However, they will not achieve their famous flaky, light texture because the dough will not get the chance to rise.
4 – Overworking Your Dough
Biscuits are not like traditional bread. They only need to be mixed for a short time, just enough for all the ingredients to combine.
If you mix your biscuits for too long or try to knead them as you would regular bread, then you will not get the rise that you want. That is because overmixing your biscuits can cause too much gluten to develop, which makes them tough and dense.
Overworking your dough could also melt your butter due to the heat from your hands. When butter melts, it turns biscuit dough into a dense, homogenous mess.
How to Troubleshoot Your Biscuits
There are many ways that your biscuits can go wrong and not achieve the light, fluffy rise that they are famous for. However, a quick study of your process can help you pinpoint what your mistake was and salvage future biscuit batches.
When making biscuits, follow directions precisely. Biscuits depend on the right ratio of ingredients, so a splash of too much liquid or not enough butter could throw off your whole biscuit.
Be sure to follow directions even when it comes to subtle differences such as the temperature you want the biscuits to be at different stages of the process. For example, you should always use cold butter but preheat your oven.
No More Dense Biscuits
Dense biscuits are the bane of many bakers and dinner tables. If you’ve experienced them before, you can avoid making anything other than light, fluffy biscuits by following these tips.
Biscuit recipes are deceptively simple, so following the proper ratios and using only the highest quality ingredients is important. Adding too little fat or using an expired rising agent are some of the most common culprits for dense biscuits.
You should also follow directions precisely, as overworking the dough or lowering the oven temperature too much can also affect your rise.
Follow these tips, and you’ll be able to reliably churn out light, fluffy biscuits every time!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.