Food & Drink

How Carla Hall Makes Biscuits

The irrepressible chef and TV personality shares her go-to recipe—plus eight great tips—for can’t-miss biscuits

photo: Jacqueline Stofsick


From the moment Carla Hall appeared on Bravo’s Top Chef in 2008, it was clear that she was a winner—whether or not she actually took home the cooking competition’s top prize. With her Southern-influenced culinary chops, irresistibly sunny personality, and even a catchphrase (“Hootie Hoo!”), Hall quickly became a fan favorite—and in short order, a television star in her own right, as co-host of The Chew, which aired on ABC from 2011 to 2018. Last year, she released her acclaimed cookbook, Carla Hall’s Soul Food, which explored the kinds of dishes she ate as a child in Nashville. These days, Hall can be seen hosting Food Network specials and making appearances on ABC’s Strahan, Sara, and Keke.

photo: JAcqueline Stofsick

Carla Hall in the G&G office.

She’s spent much of this year traveling the country, hosting book signings and “Biscuit Time” cooking demonstrations (check here for upcoming events). “I wanted to show people how they could make biscuits if they don’t have years of experience,” Hall says. During the product-reviewing sessions this summer for Garden & Gun’s tenth annual Made in the South Awards, for which Hall served as the food-category judge, she kindly took time to show us how she bakes a batch, and dropped a lot of knowledge along the way. Follow along step-by-step in the video, and keep reading for Hall’s tips and recipe. 

 

 

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The irrepressible chef and TV personality shares her go-to recipe—plus eight great tips—for can’t-miss biscuits. Get the full recipe: gardenandgun.com/recipe/carla-hall-makes-biscuits

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Eight Genius Biscuit-Baking Tips:

 

1. Instead of a sifter, Hall prefers a whisk to aerate the flour. Use a smaller cup or a spoon to pour the flour into the measuring cup, and then level the top with the back of a knife or a bench scraper. “The reason I do this is because I want to have exactly one cup—not a cup and a teaspoon,” Hall says. Do the same with measuring spoons of baking powder or soda.

 

2. Blend the buttermilk and lard or shortening together with an immersion blender. This mixes the fat into the liquid for even distribution throughout the batter. If you don’t have full-fat buttermilk, blend together whole milk and full-fat sour cream as a substitute.  

 

3. Grate cold butter into the flour with a box grater to make uniform pieces of butter, and before grating, drop the entire stick together with the flour to coat it for a safer grip. “The reason you want cold butter is because butter has water in it,” Hall says. “When you keep it cold, the steam from the butter puffs up in the oven when it hits that high temperature. If your butter is soft, it will melt, and your biscuit won’t be tall and beautiful and delicious.” Then gently toss the butter into the flour with your hands and pinch the pieces to mix the proteins of the flour into the fat of the butter. “If your butter is sticking, [the bowl] needs to go back in the fridge,” Hall says. 

 

4. Be flexible with the amount of liquid ingredients. “The reason I say about one-and-a-half cups is that if you’re in the South and it’s humid, your flour takes on humidity and moisture,” Hall says. Don’t pour all the liquid into the dry ingredients at once; pour half and stir, then add more a bit at a time as needed until the dough is tacky but not too wet. 

 

5. Spray the work surface where you’ll roll the biscuits with cooking spray, and then dust it with flour. “The flour sticks to wherever I sprayed,” Hall says. “The reason I do this is because if I didn’t spray my surface, as soon as I put that wet dough down, it’s going to pick up all of that flour.” As you begin to shape the dough, make sure it is always moving and rolling without sticking. “I never use a rolling pin. I pat.” Hall pats the dough into a rectangle, then folds each third inward, like a book. Turn the dough 90 degrees, pat into a rectangle again, and repeat the folds. End with a ¾ inch tall rectangle.

 

6. For a crispy top and bottom, butter the sheet pan. “If you use parchment paper, you’re not going to get any browning,” Hall says. 

 

7. When cutting the biscuits into rounds or, as Hall says, “punching out some biscuits,” don’t twist the cutter until after it passes all the way through the dough to the work surface, and then only lightly. Flip each biscuit so the top—the surface facing up—becomes the bottom. “That’s going to guarantee a least a quarter inch in height,” Hall says. 

 

8. “Resist balling the scraps up,” Hall says. Instead, gather them and gently press together, then pat them flat with floured hands and cut again. Press the very last scraps together with your hands to make what Hall calls the “Granny biscuit.” “That was the biscuit I always wanted ’cause I knew Granny touched it more than any others.”


Ingredients

  • (Makes 1 dozen biscuits)

    • 2½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the dough (1¼ cup for a half batch)

    • 1 tbsp. baking powder (1½ tsp. for a half batch)

    • 1 tsp. granulated sugar (½ tsp. for a half batch)

    • 1 tsp. salt (½ tsp. for a half batch)

    • ½ tsp. baking soda (¼ tsp. for a half batch)

    • 2 tbsp. vegetable shortening (1 tbsp. for a half batch)

    • About 1½ cups cold cultured buttermilk* (¾ cup for a half batch)

    • *Can substitute half full-fat sour cream and half whole milk

    • 8 tbsp. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter (4 tbsp. for a half batch)


Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Butter a sheet pan or spray with nonstick spray.

  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda. With an immersion blender, blend the shortening and the buttermilk. 

  3. Using a box grater, grate the cold butter into the flour. Toss until all of the pieces are coated. Use your fingertips to pinch it into the flour mixture.

  4. Lightly coat your work surface with nonstick cooking spray, then flour. (The spray keeps the flour in place.) Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Gently mix the dough with a rubber spatula until there are no dry bits of flour left. The dough should be slightly sticky.

  5. Transfer dough to the prepared work surface. Lightly coat your hands with flour and gently press the dough with the heels of your hands to form it into a smooth flat rectangle, ¾-inch thick. Sprinkle the dough with flour, then fold it into thirds (like a letter). Press the dough out again, sprinkle with a little flour, and fold it into thirds again. This time folding in the open ends first. Repeat one more time. Dough should no longer be sticky. 

  6. With a floured 2-inch biscuit cutter, cut out dough rounds. Flip the rounds over so that the smooth sides that were against the work surface face up and place on the prepared pan, 1-inch apart. Stack the scraps and press and cut again. Refrigerate until cold, about 15 minutes.

  7. Bake until the tops are golden brown and crisp, about 16 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.


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