When they’re made right, biscuits are a light side dish that kicks any meal up to the next level. Perfect biscuits have just the right level of fat so that the dough melts in your mouth and accompanies sauces and gravy like a dream.
However, this dream dinner bread can quickly turn into a nightmare if they turn out dry. Dry biscuits are crumbly and suck all the moisture out of your mouth.
If you find yourself reaching for the glass of water over and over again while eating your biscuits, you’re not alone. Dry biscuits are one of the most common problems that bakers attempting this dish for the first time encounter.
There are a few reasons why you may be having trouble achieving that perfectly moist, fluffy texture when you’re making your biscuits. Luckily, it is easy to identify why you are having trouble with your biscuits and troubleshoot a solution.
One of the most common culprits of dry biscuits, and dry baked goods overall, is baking time. Many bakers are afraid of accidentally serving raw dough or want to achieve bakery-worthy golden-brown baked goods, so they leave their baked goods in the oven for too long.
It doesn’t help that biscuit recipes tend to be misleading when it comes to the baking time. They usually offer a wide range of times that are appropriate for baking and tell people to wait until biscuits are a golden brown color.
Usually, if you wait until biscuits turn golden, the interior has already dried out. It’s best to take them out of the oven earlier and have biscuits that are pale but moist than biscuits that look pretty but stick to the roof of your mouth.
If you want to achieve a golden brown color, brush the tops with melted butter after you take them out of the oven. This will give the biscuits the appearance you were hoping for without sacrificing flavor and texture.
You can also try baking your biscuits without an oven completely, but that comes with its own challenges to deal with.
Ratio of Ingredients
Biscuit dough is relatively simple compared to bread or other types of dough, but because it has so few ingredients, you must get the ratios right. Adding too much flour is a particularly common problem among beginners to biscuit-making.
When you add too much flour, the fat is not able to hold biscuit dough together as well and it becomes crumbly. The texture is also very dry and difficult to eat.
Many bakers add too much flour because biscuit dough is much stickier than other kinds of dough. They panic while rolling it out and think they need to add more flour, or they add too much to their work surface and it gets incorporated into the dough.
When measuring your flour, be sure that it is not packed too tightly in your measuring cup by spooning flour into the cup as opposed to scooping. Be careful to only lightly flour your work surface and add an extra coating to your tools and hands to prevent the dough from sticking.
Add Some Helpful Ingredients
Most traditional biscuit recipes are relatively bare bones and call for only butter, flour, a raising agent, salt, and milk (although the milk can be omitted). However, adding an extra ingredient can help keep your dough moist and improve the texture of your biscuits.
Buttermilk is one of the most common additions to biscuit dough. It is particularly common in recipes that use baking soda as a raising agent because the chemical reaction between acidic buttermilk and basic baking soda causes the dough to rise.
Besides its importance in the rising process, buttermilk also adds moisture to the dough. This will prevent your biscuits from becoming too dry.
Another surprising addition that helps biscuit dough stay moist is softened cream cheese, particularly in recipes that call for rolling out the dough multiple times. Adding a thin spread of softened cream cheese between the layers counteracts the dough’s tendency to dry out if it is worked too much.
Fat Is All That
Fat is one of the most important components of making biscuits. Not only does it keep biscuit dough moist and tender, but fat distribution also helps form the defined layers that biscuits are known for.
Many bakers see the amount of fat that the average biscuit recipe calls for and are tempted to cut it, for health purposes and other reasons. However, not adding enough fat to your recipe will make the dough flat and dry.
Another common error is to use the wrong kind of fat. Most recipes call for butter, margarine, or shortening. You should use solid fat, not butter or margarine that comes in a tub because those often have a water content that is too high for recipes.
Make sure that your biscuit dough is moist and rises as it should by adding as much fat as the recipe calls for. Cut it into small chunks so that it distributes evenly throughout the dough and be mindful of the temperature.
Working the Dough
Another common culprit for dry, crumbly dough is working biscuit dough too much. Kneading the biscuit dough causes too much gluten to develop, which is desirable for bread but not for tender, fluffy biscuits.
You should only knead your biscuit dough a few times. Rolling it out too much will cause the dough to become tough and dry.
Another common error is using a stand mixer or bread hook to knead the dough together. Electrical mixers work the dough too much and it is more difficult to tell when it is ready.
The best way to work biscuits is to roll the ingredients together by hand. This allows you to feel when the ingredients are incorporated and gauge the texture.
Tips for the Best Biscuits
Here are a few tips that can help you make the best moist, fluffy biscuits every time.
The amount of ingredients that you use is important, but so is their temperature. Make sure that you are working with cold butter or whatever fat you are using, as that helps biscuits form their layers and retain moisture.
When you bake your biscuits, make sure that you preheat your oven to a high temperature. High temperatures help biscuits rise as high as they can while putting them in a cool oven at first shocks the dough and does not allow it to develop the rise that it needs.
Preventing Dry Biscuits
Dry biscuits are one of the most disappointing baked goods. Instead of a moist, fluffy roll that helps you sop up gravy or accompany dinner, you’ll bite into a dry, crumbly biscuit that makes your mouth stick together.
Luckily, it is easy to troubleshoot dry biscuits and prepare moist, fluffy biscuits for the next time. Often, the culprit is a bad ratio of ingredients. Adding too much flour and not enough butter will make your biscuits dry.
Another common culprit for dry biscuits is baking them for too long. Biscuits require very little time to be ready and usually need to bake or be rolled out for only a few minutes.
Dry biscuits are an annoying baking problem to deal with, but not that difficult to solve for future batches. Above all, the process of making biscuits should be enjoyable and not cause you stress.
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.