Have you ever wondered what’s the best flour for biscuits and does it even make a difference? Can you substitute one for the other? Read on for everything you need to know to make the best Southern biscuits.
I’ve been making buttermilk biscuits all my life using all-purpose flour, but I came across a recipe that called for using bread flour for biscuits. Had I been doing it wrong for all these years? I decided to do a test to see if it made a difference.
Before we get to my conclusion, I think it’s helpful to know something about these two types of flour.
What is the difference between bread flour and all-purpose flour
They are both white flours but differ in their protein content. The amount of protein will determine how much gluten is formed when is combined with liquid. The more gluten the stronger the baked good.
They can be bleached or unbleached. Bleached flour is bleached with chemicals to make it white. Whichever brand you choose, try to use one that is unbleached.
What is all-purpose flour
All-purpose flour is the work horse of the kitchen. With a protein content of between 9% and 12% it’s great for cookies, muffins and cinnamon rolls and is what most people use for biscuits. It comes in regular or self-rising, with the self-rising containing baking powder and salt.
While most Southern’s swear by White Lilly Self-Rising Flour for biscuits, I don’t like using self-rising flour. My mother-in-law swears by it and I’ve tried it many times and just don’t like it. White Lilly has a protein content of 11% but their all-purpose flour only comes bleached.
My favorite flour for biscuits is King Arthur’s Unbleached All-Purpose flour with a protein content of 11.7%
What is bread flour
Bread flour has a higher protein content of 12% to 15% and is used for baking bread. It gives a loaf of bread extra strength. Along with bread, it’s great for pizza dough or bagels. You would’nt want to substitute it for all-purpose or pastry flour if you want the baked goods to be light and airy.
You don’t have to use bread flour when making bread, you will still get a beautiful loaf using all-purpose flour, the bread flour will just make it taller and sturdier.
My flour of choice for making bread is King Arthur’s Unbleached Bread Flour.
Why does the protein content matter for baking
The higher the protein in the flour the more gluten is formed which is needed to make a sturdy loaf of bread. However, the high protein will make the dough a bit chewier, which is not something you want in a cake or pastry.
What’s the best flour for making Southern Biscuits
For my test, I used my standard scrumptious buttermilk biscuit recipe. It produces beautifully tall, flaky soft biscuits every time. I made them in the same oven and cooked them for the same time, the only difference was the type of flour.
I have to say I was very surprised by the results. Both biscuits would make any Southerner proud, they were tall with beautiful soft layers.
However, the biscuits made with bread flour were actually taller than those made with all-purpose flour.
My taste testers tried to see if they could tell any other difference in the biscuits other than the height and we could not. They tasted exactly the same, and had the same texture.
My conclusion is that if I want biscuits to hold a filling like pimento cheese or ham, then I would use bread flour. It’s a little taller and could be a little sturdier if making a sandwich.
Or if I’m out of all-purpose flour, I’ll use bread flour. Otherwise, I’ll stick to the work horse in my pantry, King Arthur’s Unbleached All-Purpose Flour. The cost is the same, and I’m more likely to be out of bread flour than all-purpose flour.
What do you really need to make the best biscuits
- You need cold butter
- Buttermilk – it activates the baking soda so you don’t have flat biscuits
- Try to handle the dough as little as possible
- Cut and stack the dough a few times before rolling it out to give more layers
- If you want the tallest biggest possible, use bread flour but all-purpose will still give you beautiful tall biscuits.
The best way to store flour so that it doesn’t get pantry bugs is to transfer it to an airtight container and keep it in a cool dark place. It will stay fresh this way for about a year. If you want to keep it longer, you should store it in the freezer.
Whole grain flours will tend to get rancid and get pantry bugs easier than all-purpose flour, so it’s best to store those in the freezer. Just place it in a freezer bag and store in the freezer. Make sure to let it come to room temperature before using.
Flour can last up to 2 years in the freezer.
Instead of sifting flour, you can use a wire whisk and whisk it to add air to the flour and remove any lumps.