8 Tips for a Perfect Biscuit

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I feel pretty good about the biscuits I bake. They usually come out fluffy and moist and are only made better with a pat of butter. But when I went to The Hart & the Hunter (first mentioned here), a Los Angeles-based restaurant located inside the Palihouse Hotel, my standards of a great biscuit shifted drastically. They're unlike anything I've ever had (and I've eaten my fair share of biscuits): they're deceptively light and flaky and are served on a wooden board with pimento cheese, honey butter and fresh berry preserves. Quite simply, they're perfect. And while The Hart & the Hunter's biscuit recipe is a well-guarded secret, I asked their Chef Patrick Costa for his top biscuit making tips that could help me get as close to recreating them as possible. Read on for his eight tips.

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1. Freeze your butter. Start with frozen butter. Not cold, but frozen. Grate your butter with a box grater - your flakes will come from these frozen chunks of butter.

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2. Use a sift to mix your dry ingredients. Sift together all your dry ingredients instead of simply mixing. This will smooth out your lumps and you'll have a much more consistent bake. Some people will also freeze their dry ingredients to keep the dough as cold as possible. Again, cold dough is what makes a flaky biscuit.

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3. Never use your hands. When you mix your butter and dry ingredients together, never use your hands. Use a metal spoon instead. The temperature of your hand will melt the butter, while a spoon will keep ingredients cold. 

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4. Use the well technique for combining dry and wet ingredients. When mixing wet ingredients into the butter and dough mixture use a well technique, much like pasta. Depending on the weather, use more or less flour. For humid days use more flour and cut back a bit on dry, hot days.

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5. Only work on cold surfaces like wood or metal. Avoid touching the dough and use a pin to roll it out. Before rolling, shake any excess flour off the dough. The dough is a living thing and it'll take as much flour as it wants, so feed the dough only what it needs. 

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6. Cut and stack the dough. This is where you'll exponentially increase the number of layers in your biscuit. Cut, stack, roll, and re-stack three times.

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7. Do not twist the ring mold. Flour a ring mold and push it through the dough. DO NOT TWIST. Pull the biscuit straight out. If you twist, the layers will slant and the biscuit will not cook evenly.

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8. Do not use the leftover dough. Re-folding the leftover dough means dense biscuits that will cook differently than your first batch. You can use the leftovers for strawberry shortcake, bread crumbs, or savory bread pudding.

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Also, tips for making the perfect pie.