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How To Make Gluten Free Biscuits | Extra Flaky

How To Make Gluten Free Biscuits | Extra Flaky

Learn to make a few puff pastry-style “turns” of this super simple dough, and you’ll know how to make gluten free biscuits with layers and layers. You’ll never want to make them any other way.

Learn to make a few puff pastry-style "turns" of this super simple dough, and you'll know how to make gluten free biscuits with layers and layers. You'll never want to make them any other way. 

We have made a ton of gluten free pastry here on the blog, from flaky pie crust and authentic puff pastry to  biscuits and gravy and 20-minute drop biscuits. But until now, we’ve never done a deep dive on the blog about how to make gluten free biscuits that are as layered and flaky as a Sunday is long (too much?).

The secrets 🤐 to layered and flaky gluten free biscuits 

If you want to make flaky pastry of any kind, besides using the exact ingredients specified in the recipe, measured most accurately (usually by weight), focus your attention on temperature and architecture. The cold temperature of the solid fat (butter) is most important, and the way of shaping the dough creates the right structure. 

Learn to make a few puff pastry-style "turns" of this super simple dough, and you'll know how to make gluten free biscuits with layers and layers. You'll never want to make them any other way. 

Keep it all cold ❄️

In every single recipe for any sort of traditional gluten free pastry in any of my cookbooks and here on the blog, all of the ingredients must be as cold as possible without being frozen at the start of the recipe. 

In baking powder biscuits, the chemical leaveners help create lift. But the layers themselves that appear in any sort of flaky pastry are created when the high heat of the oven hits cold packets of butter that are surrounded by layers of dry ingredients (like flour).

The butter should be cold so that it rapidly releases steam when it reaches that heat. The other ingredients must also be cold (I’ve even refrigerated my whisked dry ingredients before proceeding with the recipe if I really want to ensure mile-high biscuits) so they don’t melt the butter before its time. 

Many pastry recipes are made in the food processor or with a pastry cutter with the goal of making the butter into the size of peas, covered in flour. I used to make pastry that way, too. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it failed to create layers and lift. 

Using larger chunks of butter, flattened quickly between your thumb and forefinger once the butter is added to the flour mixture, allows for more manipulation of the dough (see the discussion below of the “turns”). And it’s the manipulation of the dough with your hands, but without melting the butter completely, that creates those flaky layers. 

Learn to make a few puff pastry-style "turns" of this super simple dough, and you'll know how to make gluten free biscuits with layers and layers. You'll never want to make them any other way. 

Working quickly, make the “turns” ⏎

The layers in pastry are created by sprinkling the dough with extra flour, then rolling the dough and folding it repeatedly. Each additional turn creates layers that increase in multiples. The greater the number of pockets of butter surrounded by flour, all tightly contained in a single buttermilk biscuit, the greater the layering in the final pastry.

When you’re making traditional puff pastry, you begin with a large, square packet of cold butter that is enclosed in dough, then rolled and folded repeatedly. Each time you roll and fold the dough, it’s considered one “turn” of the dough. In between each turn, you must chill the dough. The process is simple, but laborious. 👩‍🍳

Here, we begin with lots of cold chunked butter that has been scattered throughout the dough. If we work quickly, we can complete 4 turns before the butter really begins to melt.

Of course, you can chill the dough at any time if you are concerned that the butter is beginning to melt. Since we are working with larger chunks of butter, rather than pea-sized pieces, even if the butter does begin to melt, it will resolidify when chilled the moment the premature melting begins. 

Learn to make a few puff pastry-style "turns" of this super simple dough, and you'll know how to make gluten free biscuits with layers and layers. You'll never want to make them any other way. 

Begin with a wet dough 💧

When I’m making a pie crust, I’m looking for a light crust that bakes up browned and flaky, but I’m not looking for multiple layers. Since I don’t plan to work the dough nearly as much as I do with puff pastry or layered buttermilk biscuits, I find that I need to add very little additional flour during shaping.

But when making these layered buttermilk biscuits, I like to begin with a relatively wet dough (the proportions in the recipe as written creates a shaggy, wet dough). That way, I can coat my hands in flour and sprinkle the dough somewhat often with additional flour as I complete the turns—all without drying out the dough which will create flat, crumbly biscuits.

Be sure you don’t replace the buttermilk with anything that isn’t at least the same thickness as a prepared buttermilk. If you use 1 cup of milk that you’ve “soured” by simply adding an acid like lemon juice, your “buttermilk” replacement will be too thin and the resulting dough way too soft and wet.

Learn to make a few puff pastry-style "turns" of this super simple dough, and you'll know how to make gluten free biscuits with layers and layers. You'll never want to make them any other way. 

Cut sharp edges 🔪

The final secret to creating high-rising, layered biscuits is to cut very sharp edges on your pastries. That means flouring your biscuit or cookie cutter, and pressing down swiftly on the dough with the cutter and removing the dough from the cutter right away. 

If you prefer to make a different shape to your biscuit, be sure to use a sharp edge to create the shapes. A metal bench scraper makes nice, clean cuts. So does a very sharp chef’s knife.

Learn to make a few puff pastry-style "turns" of this super simple dough, and you'll know how to make gluten free biscuits with layers and layers. You'll never want to make them any other way. 

Ingredients and substitutions

The main additional allergen in this recipe is dairy, and it comes in 3 forms (butter, buttermilk, and nonfat dry milk). Here are my suggestions for how to replace all 3 of them, but remember that the more substitutions you make, the further away from the original recipe you will be. 

Dairy/Butter: The butter is the most important ingredient in this recipe, and anyone who is dairy-free knows that there is no perfect substitute. However, if you do need to replace it, try using Spectrum butter-flavored nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening as a gram for gram replacement. 

Since shortening is missing the moisture that butter itself has, you will likely need to add a bit more moisture to the dough to get that initial shaggy texture in your biscuit dough. You can actually use very cold water by the teaspoonful until you reach the proper texture.

Dairy/Buttermilk: In place of dairy buttermilk, mix 1/2 cup (by volume) plain nondairy yogurt with 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) unsweetened nondairy milk. 

Dairy/Nonfat dry milk: In place of nonfat dry milk, you can use coconut milk powder. I really like Native Forest brand. You can also try using finely ground blanched almond flour (not almond meal) in place of the dry milk. I have had success with a substitution like that in the past.

Corn: In place of cornstarch, you can use arrowroot. If you’re okay with corn and dairy, you can use 2 cups (280 g) Cup4Cup gluten free flour blend (or my mock Cup4Cup or Better Than Cup4Cup blend) in place of the flour blend, xanthan gum, dry milk powder, and cornstarch.

 

Learn to make a few puff pastry-style turns of this super simple dough, and you will know how to make gluten free biscuits with layers and layers. You'll never want to make them any other way. #glutenfree #gf #gfbiscuits #pastry #flaky

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Cook time: Yield: 6 to 8 biscuits, depending upon size

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons (228 g) all purpose gluten free flour (I used Better Batter)

3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (26 g) nonfat dry milk

3 tablespoons (27 g) cornstarch

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons (24 g) granulated sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

8 tablespoons (112 g) unsalted butter, cut into large chunks and chilled

1 cup (8 fluid ounces) buttermilk, chilled

Directions

  • Preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper and set it aside.

  • In a large bowl, place the flour blend, xanthan gum, nonfat dry milk, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt, and whisk to combine well. Add the chopped butter to the flour mixture and toss to coat. Place each piece of butter between your floured thumb and forefinger to flatten, working quickly to ensure that you don’t melt any of the butter. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour in the buttermilk. Mix with a large spoon or spatula until the dough comes together.

  • Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and press it together into a disk. Dust the dough with a bit more flour, and roll with a rolling pin into a thick rectangle. Fold the rectangle in half lengthwise, then in half widthwise, and dust again lightly with flour if necessary to prevent sticking. You have completed the first “turn” of the dough. Once again, roll out the dough into a thick rectangle, fold it in half lengthwise, again widthwise to create a packet, and dust lightly with flour if necessary. This has been the second “turn.” Repeat the process again twice more (two more turns for 4 turns total), working quickly to ensure that the butter does not melt. Dust again lightly with flour, and roll the dough into a disk about 1-inch thick. With a floured, round biscuit cutter or cookie cutter (about 2 inches in diameter), cut out rounds of dough by pressing firmly and cutting quickly. Shake each round out of the cutter and place about 2-inches apart from one another on the prepared baking sheet. Gather and reroll scraps, and cut out as many more rounds as possible, placing them on the baking sheet.

  • Place the baking sheet in the freezer for 5 minutes to chill the dough until firm (or in the refrigerator for 10 minutes or until firm). Place the baking sheet in the center of the preheated oven and bake until the biscuits are puffed and pale golden (about 15 minutes). Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the biscuits to cool on the baking sheet until firm (about 5 minutes). Serve warm or at room temperature.

  • Adapted from the book Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread: Biscuits, Bagels, Buns, and More by Nicole Hunn. Excerpted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.  Copyright © 2013.

Love,
Nicole

  • Lillian K. Stroter
    February 15, 2019 at 11:32 AM

    Thank you, thank you for this biscuit recipe. I have been baking gluten free for ten years now and tried countless biscuits. This one is hands down the very best. I just ate two for breakfasts and there’s no funny aftertaste. I have all of your books and use them religiously. Keep up the good work.
    L. K. Stroter

    • Nicole Hunn
      February 15, 2019 at 12:05 PM

      I’m so glad, Lillian! A good biscuit recipe is actually really important. It ticks so many boxes, you know?

  • Martha
    February 12, 2019 at 12:02 AM

    Love your books. They have been a lifesaver since my husband was diagnosed with celiac three years ago. I wonder about the sugar in the recipe. We really don’t like sweetness in our bread or biscuits. When I’ve made you r flakey biscuits before they were really good, but didn’t get the lift I used to get with delicate handling t gluten dough. I did cut the sugar in half after trying them once.
    Is the sugar important to the rising in away I’m not knowing?

    • Nicole Hunn
      February 12, 2019 at 8:24 AM

      The sugar is included in a very small amount, Martha, and doesn’t make these biscuits sweet at all. If you didn’t get flaky layers, I’m afraid I really can’t know where you deviated from the recipe other than the sugar since I’m not there with you but I’d always look first at any substitutions you may have made, whether you used one of my recommended flour blends, measured by weight instead of volume, etc.

  • Pam Cinelli
    February 11, 2019 at 11:09 AM

    Nicole,
    In your recipes , can I use Cup for Cup for the flour? I have used them in the past in your recipes and it didn’t come out like yours.
    I have never seen better batter in the stores. Do you have to order it online?
    I have always used the Cup for Cup to sub flour in any family recipes. Things come out great, and its easy to get, it’s available in ShopRite and Target super convenient. But I’m not sure it’s good in your recipes. What do you think?
    Pam

    • Nicole Hunn
      February 11, 2019 at 12:46 PM

      Hi, Pam, Cup4Cup is really a pastry flour. It will work quite well in this recipe as a substitute for the flour, milk powder, and cornstarch (gram for gram). It doesn’t work in every recipe (it’s particularly poor in chewy bread recipes) because it’s very high in starch. Please see my Gluten Free Flour Blends page (linked in the recipe) for full information on flour blends.

  • Terri
    February 11, 2019 at 7:33 AM

    In the video you didn’t add the dry milk powder, cornstarch and xanthan gum.

    • Nicole Hunn
      February 11, 2019 at 8:24 AM

      It’s all in the “GF Flour,” Terri. It’s really a pastry flour blend that I use. Trust me it’s all in there!

  • Judy
    February 10, 2019 at 7:03 PM

    I made these biscuits for dinner tonight with beef stew and they are the best biscuits I’ve ever made and so easy!! Thanks Nicole

    • Nicole Hunn
      February 11, 2019 at 8:25 AM

      That’s so great to hear, Judy! Once the dough is shaped and cut, they freeze great and can be baked right from frozen. I always have biscuits in the freezer ready in a pinch!

  • Charlotte Moore
    February 10, 2019 at 5:59 PM

    Oh my, these look great. I do my regular biscuits by folding the dough and using cold ingredients. I will have to try these for our great granddaughter.

    • Nicole Hunn
      February 11, 2019 at 8:25 AM

      I hope she loves them, Charlotte!

  • Annie
    February 10, 2019 at 12:04 PM

    Nicole, the video is for coconut cupcakes, not biscuits.

    • Nicole Hunn
      February 10, 2019 at 2:19 PM

      Oh my gosh, Annie, it has the right introductory thumbnail, but the wrong video! I’ve fixed it now. Thank you for pointing that out! If you still see the old video playing, try clearing your browser’s cache and it should be there. So sorry about the issue, and thanks again for pointing that out.

  • Janet
    February 10, 2019 at 10:01 AM

    Nicole You are the best! I have bought all of your books and look forward to the Sunday weekly recipe.. I have been gluten free since 2007. I have a rare inherited form of ALS. It is not life threatening but it is aggravated by gluten. My tremors increase when I eat gluten. I am now 74 and have told people I am in the best shape I have been in my entire life due to going gluten free and it is due to your fabulous recipes making my life better. I do not feel deprived or like I am missing out on things.. I do not know how you get your inspiration to create the things that you do but sending a lot of love and a big Thank you for making my life and others so much better.

    • Nicole Hunn
      February 10, 2019 at 10:06 AM

      Oh, wow, Janet, thank you for taking the time to leave such a kind comment. I’m so honored to have been able to help you feel more capable of taking care of yourself, even though my help is in a very small way and you’re doing the heavy lifting. I had never heard of a gluten free diet’s being helpful for ALS in any form, but nothing about the interaction of diet and health really surprises me anymore. Whenever a doctor tells me that anything is entirely unrelated to diet, I nod and smile—and know it can’t be true. How could it be? Cheers to never having to feel deprived!

  • Milvi
    February 7, 2019 at 5:49 PM

    Well you certainly have been keeping me busy these days Nicole. Each time you post a recipe, I find myself running to the kitchen to see if I can ‘give it a try’. I’ve been avoiding pastry for a long time, but these extra flaky biscuits called out loud to me and today was the day to roll and fold. I went to about 6 folds as the first couple of rounds were a bit sticky on my board (maybe the powdered, re-constituted buttermilk? because who has buttermilk on hand), but the results were great! They were a bit higher than your video, ergo 6 folds, but oh my gosh, DELICIOUS! and light! You really are the best GF reference on the internet!

    • Nicole Hunn
      February 8, 2019 at 12:15 PM

      Thank you so much for letting me know, Milvi! I’m thrilled that you’ve been so game to try new recipes, and that means that I’m doing my job properly, at least some of the time. 🙃

  • Holly
    February 7, 2019 at 10:57 AM

    Cindy, I need to be dairy free too (except we use butter) so PLEASE report back exactly what you used and how it all turned out. Thank you so much!

    • Nicole Hunn
      February 7, 2019 at 2:05 PM

      If you can use butter, Holly, I highly recommend that you do that. No butter substitute, not even the shortening that I recommend as a butter substitute, will perform exactly as when you make the recipe as written. The buttermilk can be made dairy free as I describe in the Ingredients and substitutions section, if you can’t have regular buttermilk.

  • Mar
    February 7, 2019 at 8:54 AM

    Can you do this dairy free???

    • Nicole Hunn
      February 7, 2019 at 2:03 PM

      Please see the “Ingredients and substitutions” section at the bottom of the post, Mar, for all the information I can provide on making this recipe dairy-free.

  • Cindy Padgett
    February 7, 2019 at 6:44 AM

    I can’t wait to try this! How large should the chunks of butter be. I normally cut each tablespoon into four pieces. I will be using the dairy subs.

    • Nicole Hunn
      February 7, 2019 at 2:03 PM

      I highly recommend that you use shortening, not a vegan butter, Cindy, as described in the Ingredients and substitutions section. That won’t be in a stick, so you’ll have to approximate the size of the pieces I use in the video.

  • Nicole Bickford
    February 6, 2019 at 10:23 PM

    Hello Nicole
    I would please like to get some of your gluten free recipes.I have IBS and have been eating gluten free and has helped so much.Always looking for more ideas.
    Thanks
    Nicole Bickford

  • Sheri Jenkins
    February 6, 2019 at 4:06 PM

    Thanks for all you do! I make many of your recipes for my son who has celiac disease. I was hoping to watch this video to see exactly how you handle the dough – I probably over handle it, but I can’t find the video. Did the link not get put in or am I missing it?

    • Nicole Hunn
      February 7, 2019 at 2:02 PM

      Hi, Sheri, if you’re using an ad blocker, you won’t see the video. Otherwise, on desktop it plays automatically (without sound) and on a mobile device it’ll be right above the recipe, and you just click the ▶️button in the center of the horizontal photo.

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