Biscuit Dough Troubleshooting Guide

When looking at video tutorials and reading recipes for biscuit making, it seems so easy – a piece of cake. It might appear so when someone else is doing all the hard work. However, when you try to do it on your own, it turns out to be tricky. 

Making biscuits can be complicated, especially if you’re new at baking. You’ll need the right kind of flour (we recommend all-purpose or cake flour for best results) and the right kind of fat. Of course, great ingredients don’t guarantee you’ll get the perfect biscuits if you don’t mix them together properly. There is the oven temperature, too as well as cooling down and many other factors which can ruin all your efforts.

There are some common mistakes people make while kneading and baking biscuits. They can come out hard and flat, not airy and fluffy as you would expect. What to do when your biscuits don’t turn out as you wish? 

Toss them away? No. We’ve gathered all biscuit-related problems in one place to help you avoid making these mistakes.

Let’s see.

Why aren’t my biscuits light and fluffy?

We all want our biscuits to be airy and fluffy, but sometimes they turn out hard, flat, dry, and crumbly. Why is that happening? Well, there are several reasons:

  • Over-kneading the dough could be one of the problems. If you’re mixing biscuit dough in a food processor you’ll need just 2 or 3 minutes, and if you’re kneading by hand you’ll be done in 5-10 minutes tops. Overworking the dough will develop more gluten and make your biscuits hard and cracked and you want them to be tender, airy, and flaky.
  • Too much flour can also cause hard and tough biscuits. 
  • Fat is one of the most important ingredients of a tasty biscuit. You can use lard or coconut oil, but butter is our favorite fat. The butter should be diced and cold when you add it to the dry ingredients.

Put your butter in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before you use it. Why is that important? Melted butter in a hot oven will produce greasy and leaden biscuits. If the butter is cold, it will need more time to melt and the biscuit will have time to rise.

  • Don’t add all the fat at once, but little by little. Knead butter and flour with your fingertips until you make crumbles. If you use the palm of your hand, you will warm up the butter and the dough texture won’t be as expected.
  • In the basic biscuit recipe, we mentioned the importance of preheating the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Heat will produce maximum steam, which helps the dough to rise.
  • You’re not sifting dry ingredients. Sifting is an important factor because it removes potential clumps from flour and also aerates the flour, which is important for measuring.

What happens if you over-knead biscuit dough?

When you’re making the dough, kneading is essential. You’ll knead bread or pizza dough for at least 20 minutes, to help gluten development and achieve better rise and elastic structure. The yeast-based dough is one thing but when you’re working on a tender and fragile delicacy, such as biscuits, make sure you don’t overwork the dough.

Knead the dough for 10 minutes tops if you’re doing it by hand.  If you’re using a food processor, 2 or 3 minutes will be just fine. Over kneading biscuit dough will result in tough, chewy, and cracked biscuits and that’s not something you’re aiming for.

Biscuit dough should be handled as little as possible.

How to avoid crumbly biscuits?

There are two possible reasons why your biscuits are crumbly:

  • Fat. As mentioned, you should cut your butter into small cubes but make sure they’re not too small. Each cube should be about ⅛ or ¼ of inches. Why is that important? If pieces of butter are too small, they will leave air gaps while melting in the oven. Those gaps will cause your biscuit to crumble once it’s baked.
  • Flour. Using too much flour in your dough can produce hard and crumbly biscuits, but that’s just one trap you could fall into. Biscuit dough is a little bit sticky. To prevent stickiness, we tend to use a lot of flour to cover the work surface. And then before rolling the dough, we use some more flour. All the extra flour hardens the dough and as a result, you get crumbly biscuits.

Tip: It’s a better idea to lightly flour the work surface and then rub some flour on your hands and on the rolling pin. This way you won’t exaggerate with all the extra flour.

How do you soften hard biscuits?

If your biscuits are a bit hard, but not too hard, you can reheat them in the microwave for about 20 seconds. If the biscuits are very hard, wrap them in a damp kitchen towel before putting them in the microwave.

If you don’t have a microwave, put your biscuits in a plastic airtight container with a damp kitchen towel and leave them overnight. They should be soft the next morning.

You can also soften your biscuits in the oven. Put biscuits on a clean baking pan and cover them with a slightly wet kitchen towel. Put them in the oven, preheated to 200 degrees. Check their softness every 2 or 3 minutes. If the towel dries out, wet it again. If your biscuits aren’t soft after 20 minutes – give up. They won’t get any softer.

Why are my homemade biscuits hard?

Hard homemade biscuits can be the result of using the wrong kind of flour, using too much flour, or over-kneading the biscuit dough.

For the best results, always use the kind of flour the recipe calls for – in this case, the best choice is all-purpose or cake flour. Biscuits should be tender, airy, and flaky and to get the desired structure you’ll need flour with a low protein level. A low protein level means that less gluten will form and that is exactly what creates a light texture of biscuits.

Over-kneading the dough is directly connected to gluten formation. The more you knead, the more gluten will develop. That’s why biscuit dough requires as little handling as possible.

What can I do if my biscuits stick to the baking pan?

If your recipe calls for a greased pan, don’t forget to grease it before you place the biscuits in the pan. We recommend using shortening for this step, but you can also use butter or a cooking spray. Silicone math or parchment paper are also good ideas.

Keep in mind that using too much grease can cause biscuits to spread too much.

If your biscuits are stuck, you can use a spatula to “unglue” them. If biscuits are stuck on a baking paper, place them, along with the paper, on a warm damp kitchen towel (paper side down) and let them sit there for a few minutes. You should “unglue” them easily afterward.

How can I prevent biscuits from baking unevenly?

If some of your biscuits have a beautiful golden color and others are light and pale, maybe you didn’t portion your dough equally. Bigger pieces of biscuits will require more time to bake, while at the same time, smaller pieces will be overbaked. Portioning each biscuit equally will make them bake at the same time and have an even color.

Why are my biscuits greasy?

Either you’re using the wrong kind of fat (technically you can use any kind of fat for biscuits, but the cold, unsalted butter will give you the best results), or your biscuit dough is too warm.

Put your dough in the fridge for 30 minutes before rolling and shaping. Cooling it down will help solidify the butter so the biscuits will hold their shape while baking. Also, they won’t be too greasy.

How can I save soggy biscuits?

If your biscuits are all soft and moist, return them to the oven for a few more minutes. Line the biscuits on a baking tray and bake them at 320 degrees (160 celsius). Hot air in the oven should remove excess moisture from your biscuits.

How can I shape my biscuits if I don’t have a cutter?

This one is really easy. You can use a glass or a teacup instead of a cutter. Also, if you don’t have a rolling pin, use a clean wine bottle instead.

My biscuits have broken while I was removing them from the baking pan

Leave your biscuits to completely cool down before moving them from the baking tray. That way, the biscuits won’t break while they are warm.

What to do if I see my biscuits are underbaked after they are cooled?

Put them back in the oven for a few more minutes. After they are baked, leave them to cool down properly before serving to avoid breaking the cookies.

Can I open the oven while baking the biscuits?

It can be hard to resist, but you should avoid opening the oven door while baking any kind of cookies.

Why is that? Opening the oven allows the heat to go out and that will affect the baking. Biscuits could turn out too flat. If you want to check on the baking progress, a better idea is to use an oven light (or your cell phone battery light).