The first time I encountered angel biscuits, I was staying with my friend Jenifer, who was born and raised in the South. Growing up in St. Louis, I thought I knew biscuits, but one bite of my friend's Southern biscuits, and I knew I had a lot to learn.
A cross between a dinner roll and a flaky biscuit, angel biscuits are easy to make and practically foolproof. So, forget the old myth that only Southerners can make decent biscuits—these biscuits are for everyone!
What Are Angel Biscuits?
Angel biscuits are made with three leaveners: baking powder, baking soda, and yeast. They're the exact opposite of the heavy hockey puck biscuits everyone dreads. Using three leaveners makes angel biscuits so light and fluffy, it's as if they could float up to heaven, like angels—which, of course, is where the name came from.
What Flour to Use for Angel Biscuits
Don't fuss or worry about what flour you have for these angel biscuits; just use what you have in the pantry. Though many Southerners swear by White Lily flour (a flour made from soft winter wheat that has less gluten in it), I've found that all-purpose flour works just fine for these biscuits.
Tips for Light and Fluffy Biscuits
I said angel biscuits are easy to make, and they are; they don’t even require a rolling pin, since a rolling pin would smash the dough down too much and lead to denser biscuits.
Instead, use these tricks for light and fluffy biscuits:
- Press and fold the angel biscuit dough with your hands to help keep the biscuits light and fluffy
- When cutting out the biscuits, first dip the cutter in flour (this keeps the biscuit dough from sticking to the cutter), then press straight down into the dough.
- Don’t twist! If you twist while cutting out the biscuits, you run the risk of “sealing” the edges of the biscuits, and then the biscuits won't rise as much.
I recommend using a two-inch round biscuit cutter to cut out the biscuits. You can use a larger sized one if you like, but you will get fewer biscuits.
Note: Because of the nature of angel biscuits, which are more like a roll, they won't work as drop biscuits.
Can I Omit the Shortening?
The shortening in the recipe is there to give the biscuits even more lift and fluff, but if you are averse to using shortening, you can omit the shortening and increase the butter to one cup (two sticks or 225 grams). Just keep in mind the resulting biscuits will be slightly denser, but still delightfully lighter than the average biscuit made without yeast.
Do I Need to Use a Cast Iron Skillet?
I recommend baking angel biscuits in a heavy cast iron skillet, because in addition to distributing the heat of the oven more evenly, a cast iron skillet provides a nice, tight area in which to place the biscuits. When the sides of the biscuits touch, they have nowhere to go but up when they bake—and "up" means fluffier biscuits!
If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, you can use an oven-proof skillet, a cake pan, a springform pan, or a small rimmed baking sheet. Just pay attention to the bake time. Keep in mind that thinner-walled skillets, baking pans, and baking sheets may bake the biscuits faster.
Make-Ahead Angel Biscuits
Want fresh baked biscuits in the morning with minimal effort? Make your angel biscuit dough ahead of time! In fact, letting the dough sit in the refrigerator overnight slows the yeast's rise, which gives the biscuits a better, more complex yeasted flavor.
To do this, make the dough, cut it out, arrange the biscuits in the pan like you would bake them, then cover and refrigerate. Bring the biscuits back to room temperature (one hour on the counter should be sufficient) before baking.
How to Store and Freeze Angel Biscuits
Angel biscuits can be stored in an airtight container for up to two days at room temperature. Refrigerating them is not advised, as they will harden and quickly stale.
Freeze the baked biscuits in an airtight container or a resealable bag for up to a month. Thaw the biscuits on the counter (about 30 minutes) then place in a 350°F oven for 5 to 10 minutes to warm up.
More Delicious Biscuit Recipes:
- Classic Southern Buttermilk Biscuits
- Soda Bread Biscuits
- Bisquick Shortcake Biscuits
- Cheese Biscuits
- Cheddar and Jalapeño Biscuits
- 4 1/2 teaspoons (2 packages or 14 g) active yeast
- 3 tablespoons warm water (110 to 115°F)
- 5 cups (700 g) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (50 g) white sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 cup (115 g) butter, cold
- 1/2 cup (95 g) shortening, cold
- 2 cups buttermilk
- To finish:
- Extra flour for forming and cutting biscuits
- 3 tablespoons melted butter
Dissolve the yeast:
Place the yeast and warm water in a small bowl and stir to dissolve. It should be a thick paste.
Combine dry ingredients:
Place the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Stir together with a balloon whisk.
Add the butter and shortening:
Cut the butter and shortening into 1/2-inch chunks and sprinkle over the dry ingredients. Use your fingers to smash and break the butter and shortening until they have flattened out and are about the size of peas.
Make the biscuit dough:
Stir the yeast paste into the buttermilk, then add it to the biscuit dough. Don’t worry if all the yeast paste isn’t incorporated into the buttermilk. You just want to loosen it up a bit.
Stir with a large spatula until a rough dough forms. Using your hands, knead the dough a few times to make sure all the dry crumbly bits at the bottom of the bowl are incorporated.
Pat and fold the dough:
Sprinkle some flour on a clean surface. Dump the dough onto the surface, and pat the dough into a rough rectangle, about 1-inch thick. Fold the dough in half and then rotate the dough 90 degrees.
Repeat this process, patting the dough into another 1-inch thick rectangle and folding it over 2 more times. Sprinkle flour under the dough if it starts to stick. Do not pat too roughly, just enough to get the dough down to 1-inch. After the final fold, pat the dough out one more time to 1-inch.
Cut out the biscuits:
Dip a 2-inch round biscuit cutter in flour, then cut out biscuit rounds. Do not twist the cutter. Just press straight down as you cut. Repeat with all the dough. Gather the scraps together and cut more biscuits until you have used all the dough.
Place biscuits in skillet, then let rise for 1 hour:
Brush a large 12-inch cast iron skillet with some of the melted butter. Place the biscuits in the skillet, making sure they touch slightly. If you have leftover biscuits that don’t fit in the skillet, place them in another baking pan or smaller cast iron skillet. Cover the biscuits with plastic wrap and let rise in the pan for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven:
About 15 minutes before the hour is up, preheat the oven to 400°F.
Bake the biscuits:
Once the biscuits are done rising, brush the remaining melted butter (you may need to microwave it for 15 seconds to re-melt it) over the top of the biscuits. Bake the biscuits for 16 to 18 minutes or until the top of the biscuits are golden brown. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack.
Serve warm with butter, honey, or your choice of jam.