Why are my biscuits flat?

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If you have tried making biscuits at home, and ended up with flat biscuits instead of tall, fluffy buttery biscuits that your family loved then give this post read! I’ve got 10 reasons why your biscuits are not coming tall and fluffy like you want.

When it comes to baking homemade biscuits, they are quite easy technically. Biscuits are quick to make, and require just a few simple ingredients, but a lot can go wrong if you don’t know some biscuit baking basics.

three flaky biscuits on a wire rack


 

I’ve been making homemade biscuits now for years and am hoping I can pass on to you some of my biscuit knowledge that I’ve picked up over my many baked batches. Because let’s face it, flat biscuits are biscuits that nobody wants to eat! We want golden brown, flaky, tender biscuits that rise nice and tall.

So today I’m sharing with you ten mistakes you might be making with your biscuit recipes that might explain why your biscuits spread out instead of rise up nice and tall.

After you give this article a read, I know your next batch of homemade biscuits are going to be your best biscuits ever. Then all you need to do is brush biscuits with some melted butter in the end, dig in and enjoy!

two flaky biscuits stacked on top of each other

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Mistake #1: Baking powder and baking soda are OLD.

Baking powder and baking soda are what we call chemical leavening agents, meaning they make our baked goods rise. A chemical leavening agent will form carbon dioxide bubbles making your biscuits rise.

But your leavening agents can expire over time meaning they won’t react like they should in your recipe, so your biscuits won’t rise well. If you’re unsure how old that can of baking powder is in your cupboard you can always test it out before you start.

You can test your baking powder in a little hot water before you start. If the baking powder bubbles, then it’s still safe to use. If it doesn’t throw it out and get fresh.

Baking soda will react with the acidic ingredients, like the buttermilk in your biscuit recipe. You can test your it by mixing a little with some lemon juice or vinegar to see if it bubbles. If it doesn’t, then throw it out and get a fresh box.

It’s important to mention that baking powder and baking soda, are not the same thing and should not be used interchangeably in your biscuit recipe as well. So be sure to not mix them up and use as directed in the recipe so the homemade biscuits rise tall

can of baking powder and box of baking soda

Mistake #2: Using the wrong liquid.

You want to make sure to use the liquid called for in the recipe. The liquid used in your biscuit will react with the leavening agents making them rise.

For example, if you’re making buttermilk biscuits, then you want to make sure to use buttermilk and not regular whole milk or heavy cream. They are not the same ingredient and will not react the same with the baking soda.

Buttermilk not only makes for tender biscuits and adds flavor, but also reacts with the baking soda to make our biscuits rise tall.

Regular milk or heavy cream, is not acidic and will not create the same kind of effect. So if you swap milk for buttermilk, then you run the risk that your biscuits will not be quite as tall.

Make sure your buttermilk is nice and cold to also keep the butter cold in your biscuit dough.

If you only have regular milk on hand and want to whip up a batch of biscuits last minute, you can always make a homemade buttermilk in a measuring cup in a pinch.

lemons and glass measuring cup of milk with lemon juice being added to make homemade buttermilk

Mistake #3: Used the wrong flour.

When it comes to baking biscuits you will usually see two types of flour called for. Biscuit recipes will call for all purpose flour or self rising flour. These two flours are not the same and cannot be used interchangeably.

Self rising flour contains regular flour, baking powder, and salt unlike all purpose flour which is just simply flour nothing else. The baking powder, which is what makes the biscuits rise, is already in the flour and doesn’t need to be added in addition. The salt is already in the flour as well, which will give your biscuits flavor.

For example, my 2 ingredient biscuits and my 3 ingredient self rising biscuits recipes use self rising flour, which means baking powder and salt do not need to be added to the recipe because they are already in the flour mixture.

If you were to swap and use regular all purpose flour for those recipes, it would not contain the baking powder, or salt, so your biscuits would come out flat and flavorless.

Whereas, when making butter biscuits or my drop biscuits, I use all purpose flour. So I still stir in additional baking powder, baking soda, and salt to add flavor and make the drop biscuits rise.

So be careful and choose the flour that the recipe calls for, and do not swap them otherwise your recipe may not have what it needs to make your biscuits rise like they should.

bag of self rising flour and a measuring cup filled with flour

Mistake #4: Fat was too warm

Biscuits are made with some sort of type of fat, usually butter but they can also be made with another type of fat such as lard or vegetable shortening. Whichever fat you choose to use in your biscuits you need to make sure your fat is very cold as opposed to room temperature butter or melted butter.

The fat needs to stay cold so it stays solid in the biscuit dough, otherwise the fat melts becomes absorbed into the flour mixture resulting in biscuits that spread out.

When the cold butter finally melts in the oven, it will create steam and push apart the layers of flour creating tall biscuits instead of flat ones.

To keep the dough as cold as possible, I recommend using a pastry cutter to cut the cold butter into your dough instead of using your hands which can warm up the butter too much. Another method I know bakers love to add butter is using a box grater and grating frozen butter into the flour. Another great option!

You can also use a rolling pin to roll out the dough, although I don’t, but this could also help to keep the biscuit dough colder if you are worried about your hands warming up the dough too much.

Pro Tip: I always recommend after you cut out your biscuits, cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and place it into the fridge for 20 minutes or freezer for 10 minute to firm up the butter or other fat again before baking.

four sticks of butter, one unwrapped

Mistake #5: You didn’t fold the dough

To create flaky layers in your biscuits, it’s important that you fold the dough a few times. When cutting the butter into your dough, the fat forms small pockets coated by flour. By folding the dough you create layers of those fat pockets and flour.

When the homemade biscuits bake, the fat will melt and steam will push apart the layers of flour to create flaky layers.

To fold the dough, you want to gently pat the dough down and fold in half. Or you can also fold in thirds, like a book. Then repeat this process a few times. By folding the dough, you create tall biscuits with flaky layers instead of biscuits that spread.

biscuit dough being folded in half

Mistake #6: You overworked your dough

When you make your biscuit dough and shape your biscuits it’s important to not overwork your dough. Overworking the dough will not only create a tough biscuit instead of a tender biscuit, but can also result in a flatter biscuit.

The more you play with the dough, the warmer the dough becomes. If the fat becomes too warm it will melt into the flour and they won’t rise as tall.

So while it’s important to fold the dough a few times to create layers, you don’t want to get carried away and do this too many times. I prefer to make my dough in a mixing bowl with a pastry cutter and either a wooden spoon or spatula to stir the dough together so it doesn’t become over-worked.

If you make your biscuit dough in a food processor instead of by hand with a pastry blender, then be sure to not overwork the dough. A food processor is very powerful, so be sure to use the pulse feature.

You also want to cut out as many biscuits as you can out of the first batch and then gently press the dough back together to cut out more biscuits out of the scrap. The more you have to roll out and shape the dough, the tougher the biscuits become and the warmer the dough will get.

biscuit scrap dough being pressed back together

Mistake #7: You twisted the biscuit cutter.

When cutting out your biscuits you want to make sure to not twist your biscuit cutter. You want to press straight down into the biscuit dough and lift up.

When you twist the biscuit cutter, you seal the edges of the biscuits so they can’t rise as tall and may spread more.

Pro Tip: If you don’t have a biscuit cutter, then use a sharp knife and cut dough into squares instead.

biscuit dough being cut out with a biscuit cutter

Mistake #8: Placing biscuits too far apart on the baking sheet.

To bake tall biscuits place you want to place biscuits next to each other, with edges touching on the baking sheet. If you separate the biscuits and bake them too far apart, they won’t rise as tall.

By placing the biscuits next to each other, they will be able to cling to each other helping them rise taller.

Pro Tip: I also like to place my biscuits onto parchment paper or a silicone baking mat onto my cookie sheet, so they don’t stick and it’s easier to clean up!

unbaked biscuits placed next to each other on a baking sheet with parchment paper

Mistake #9: Baking at a too low of a temperature

Biscuits should be baked at a high temperature so they turn out golden brown and rise nice and tall. I like to bake my biscuits at 450oF.

By baking at a high temperature it helps your homemade biscuits to rise up quickly in the oven. You want a hot oven that will ensure your homemade biscuits bake up tall and don’t fall flat.

So preheat your oven to a high temperature and double check your oven temperature with an oven thermometer to ensure it’s running at the correct temperature.

Mistake #10: You opened the oven door.

Be sure to keep that oven door closed! Opening your oven door during the baking process will let all that heat out. That rush of cold air that you let in can cause your biscuits to not rise as much.

If you really want to keep an eye on your biscuits while they bake, turn the oven light on and peek from the outside.

three buttermilk biscuits stacked on top of each other

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