THE BLOG
09/10/2014 12:37 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The 8 Essential Biscuit Archetypes

Zack DeSart

by Gabriella Vigoreaux

What makes a perfect biscuit? If you live in the South, everyone will tell you that you're making them wrong.

Biscuits, perhaps more than any other Southern food, are heirlooms steeped in a family tree of kitchen secrets. A perfect homemade biscuit, straight from the oven, slathered with butter can move someone to tears. There's nothing quite like it, and there are infinite variations, recipes, and techniques for every type.

Whether you like them a bit more dense and crumbly (perfect for soaking up gravy), light and feathery, savory and herb-flecked, or the size of your face, everyone seems to have their own biscuit preference. That, combined with the fact that it happens to be National Biscuit Month, prompted us to devise a list of the 8 essential types you should be familiar with.

1. The Angel Biscuit

If feathery light biscuits appeal to you (and why wouldn't they), this is the biscuit for you. That ethereal airiness is the result of three different leavening agents: yeast, baking powder, and baking soda. Get your hands on the softest flour you can find, preferably a fine Southern flour, like White Lily brand. Check the expiration date and make sure your baking soda and powder are fresh, or the biscuits won't rise properly.

2. The Buttermilk Biscuit

The ultimate in flakiness. The less your dough gets handled the more tender it will be. Try grating the cold butter into the flour mixture so the pieces are already small enough to blend quickly. Mix your wet and dry ingredients just until the mixture is the consistency of cottage cheese. The less you activate the gluten, the better.

3. The Crumbly Biscuit 

Many Southerners firmly stand behind the combination of superfine flour, like White Lily brand or cake flour, and lard. This makes a fine delicate biscuit, but for a sturdy base that will hold up to a ladling of sausage gravy, you'll want to use All Purpose flour and butter. You'll get a crumbier biscuit, perfect for making these Chicken Biscuits with Sausage Gravy

4. The Drop Biscuit

Drop biscuits require no rolling out or cutting which makes them the perfect topping for pot pies or cobblers. In this Root Vegetable and Mushroom Pie, chopped, fresh rosemary is added to the dough. For those massive biscuits you see at your favorite Southern breakfast joint, use an ice cream scoop to portion out your dough.

5. The Savory Biscuit

These Salt-and-Pepper Biscuits are rich and tender with a bit of tang thanks to a sour cream and heavy cream combination.

6. Cream Biscuits

A great standard recipe that tastes kind of like the Pillsbury kind in the tube, only better because you made them. Heavy cream adds rich butterfat content, which gives the biscuits their flavor and tenderness.

7. The Sandwich Biscuit

Your fried chicken sandwich needs a sturdy, yet delicate biscuit to stand up to all that filling. The good ol' buttermilk, butter, and flour mixture is responsible for the biscuit you see above. Once you cut out the dough you can freeze them and bake individually as needed for an anytime breakfast biscuit sandwich. 

8. Sweet Potato Biscuits

These seem to come into heavy rotation around Thanksgiving time, but they are great any time of year, especially with mustard and ham. 

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