I first learned this recipe in Home Ec in my sophomore year in high school. It was so incredible that I immediately went home and made a batch for my family. Before then I hadn’t ever even had biscuits and gravy, but it instantly became one of my favorite foods.
Lost and found again… almost
I used that old recipe card written in curly 15-year-old girl handwriting for years, but after several moves and the busyness of life, I lost it, and just about forgot about it too. Luckily, the next time I went to make biscuits I remembered that my teacher had said that the recipe was from Cook’s Illustrated, plus she had given us the distinct title of “Mile-High Biscuits,” and with the magic of the Internet, I was able to find the recipe again.
However, when I went to make them, the recipe wasn’t quite as I had remembered. My teacher must have made a few tweaks, and I’m including those changes in this recipe.
The biggest issue I’ve found with other reprints of this recipe that I’ve come across is that even with measuring the flour by weight, the amount seems to be way off. It is meant to be a very wet and sticky drop biscuit recipe, but each time I’ve tried using the 10 oz of flour that the Cook’s Illustrated recipe calls for, it is as runny as pancake batter. The dough needs 12 oz to actually be workable.
What’s so special about these biscuits?
Most biscuit recipes I’ve seen are for a dough that you roll out and cut into circles. Just having enough structure to be able to do this means the end result will be more like bread. There are also other drop biscuit recipes, which are closer to the consistency of cookie dough. However, without all the butter, sugar, and eggs of an actual cookie recipe, it is difficult to keep them fluffy and soft rather than dry and bland. The only recipe I’ve been able to get consistently good results from is a cheddar biscuit that has plenty of cheese to keep it tender.
The beauty of this recipe is that it is more of a batter than a dough, so the result is almost cake-like. It is cooked in a cake pan rather than on a baking sheet so that they don’t just spread out and lose their shape. This makes the step of scooping and coating in flour and butter especially important, because that’s what keeps the biscuits separate from each other, rather than one solid actual cake. Plus, it creates a delicious crispy crust. It also has a ridiculous amount of baking powder to make it live up to its “Mile-High” name.
What does it mean to “cut” the butter?
This technique got its name because originally bakers would literally take two knives and cut the butter into tiny pieces in the flour. The purpose is to have teensy pockets of butter coated in flour rather than a homogenous mixture of butter and flour.
It sounds tedious, but it is actually a pretty good method if you don’t have any of the other tools available, and goes much more quickly than you would think. Just cross the knives and pull them through to cut up the butter over and over until you have pea-sized crumbles.
My favorite way to cut butter into pastry is a pastry cutter. It’s a simple tool, but it was designed perfectly for this purpose and works incredibly well.
A food processor also works very well, but I often find food processors are so bulky with so many awkward pieces that they are more trouble than they are worth so I stick with my good old fashioned pastry cutter. However, I recently found this food processor that has the motor on top instead of underneath, and I absolutely love it!
You can even just mix the butter into the flour in a stand mixer. Just be careful that the butter stays nice and cold and you don’t overmix it. The biscuits won’t be quite as fluffy, but they will still be delicious!
Whatever method you use, my favorite tip for this step is to literally cut the butter first. If you cut your sticks of butter into small cubes first, there is that much less “cutting” that needs to be done in the flour.
Scooping the dough
This step is a little bit tricky, but only if you hesitate. If you move quickly (and expect a mess) it will all work out just fine, I promise. Set your bowl of batter, a small bowl of flour, the butter-oil mixture, and your cake pan all in a row. Take your 1/4 c measuring cup, dip it in the butter and oil, then use it to scoop up 1/4 c of batter. Plop the batter into the flour, coat it, dip it in the butter-oil mixture, and put it into the cake pan.
Pretty soon you’re going to be thinking to yourself “Either Kelli is crazy or I did something terribly wrong,” but don’t worry, it’s supposed to me a mess!
This step is even easier if you have a small cookie scoop. 2-oz is just the right size for this recipe, but I have a 1-oz scoop so I just heap it extra full of batter. (This smaller size cookie scoop is great because it can also be used for cookies, peanut butter balls, and so much more!)
As you get towards the end, you may need to scoot the batter a bit to squeeze in the last few, it won’t cause any problems. Once all of your biscuits are in the pan, it will look like a complete disaster, but don’t worry, it bakes up like a dream!
They may not be the prettiest biscuits, but they are by far the tastiest! They are so fluffy and tender, and the crispy buttery crust is to die for.
The process for these biscuits may take a little bit of getting used to, but once you taste them you will never make biscuits any other way. They are the perfect biscuits to pair with sausage gravy or to just eat straight out of the oven with a little butter and honey.
Incredibly Fluffy Biscuits
By Metric Weight – Recommended
- 340 grams Flour
- 15 grams Sugar
- 15 grams Baking Powder
- 3 grams Baking Soda
- 5 grams Salt
- 57 grams Butter
- 360 grams Buttermilk - see note for substitute
- 65 grams Flour
- 42 grams Butter
- 45 grams Oil
- 300 grams Milk
- 60 grams Lemon Juice
By U.S. Volume
- 2 1/2 cups Flour
- 1 Tablespoon Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 4 Tablespoons Butter
- 1 1/2 cup Buttermilk - see note for substitute
- 1/2 cup Flour
- 3 Tablespoons Butter
- 3 Tablespoons Oil
- 1 1/4 cup Milk
- 1/4 cup Lemon Juice
- Preheat oven to 500 degrees Farenheight.
- Sift or whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Cut in the first amount of butter.
- Mix in buttermilk just until most of the flour is moistened. The dough will be sloppy, lumpy, and almost more like a batter than a dough.
- Put flour in a small bowl. In another bowl melt the butter and mix with the oil.
- Set up your batter, flour, butter and oil mixture, and an 8 x 8 cake pan in a row. Working quickly, drop 1/4 cup mounds of batter into the flour, coat, then dip in the butter and oil, and place in the pan.
- Bake for 5 minutes, reduce temperature to 450 degrees, and bake for another 15 minutes.
- Enjoy straight out of the oven with some butter and honey, topped with sausage gravy, or alongside your favorite soup!