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Flaky Sourdough Biscuits

Flaky Sourdough Biscuits

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Don’t waste that sourdough discard! Instead, use it it to make these wonderfully flaky, yeasty biscuits, baked to perfection in a cast iron skillet.

Replacing the buttermilk in a traditional biscuit recipe with sourdough discard results in a biscuit that is noticeably yeasty, almost like a buttermilk biscuit slash dinner roll hybrid (and the result is delicious!)

Sourdough Biscuits baked in a Lodge cast iron skillet

Seeing that my sourdough cracker recipe has become one of the most visited posts on this blog, it seems you all are really looking for ways to use up that extra sourdough discard!

And I totally get it. Discard seems like such a waste, especially when you feed your starter a few times to revive it (assuming you refrigerate your starter between bakes like I do, it usually needs a feeding or two to wake back up), and then start the process of making the levain (some of which also gets discarded) prior to mixing up your final dough.

What I’ve started doing is putting the discard from each feeding as well as any leftover levain in a single container, and setting that aside for either a big batch of crackers, or now a skillet full of these wonderfully flaky sourdough biscuits.

Tall, extra flaky sourdough biscuits

The recipe itself isn’t that complicated, I basically just swapped the buttermilk I normally use in my biscuits for mature sourdough starter discard leftover from my breadmaking process (with some quantity adjustments to make sure the consistency of the dough is right).

The result is a lovely, flaky biscuit that has a slightly yeastiness to it, making it taste like a biscuit/dinner roll hybrid of sorts. They aren’t quite as light and fluffy as traditional buttermilk biscuits, but they still have a lovely lift and perfectly flaky layers.

Flaky sourdough biscuit split in half with a pat of butter

These towering, flaky biscuits traverse the line between sweet and savory. Drizzle them with honey or slather them with butter and/or your favorite fruit jam for a breakfast treat worth devouring.

Or maybe you’re in more of a savory mood… in which case go big for breakfast with slices of thick smoked bacon and scrambled eggs with gooey sharp cheddar cheese on top (Mc-what, you say? This is so much better!)

Do lunch right and sandwich them with a dollop of stoneground mustard, thinly sliced country ham and a pickled green tomato, or how about some shaved Pecorino with a ribbon of cured pancetta.

Needless to say I can think of a million different ways to eat a biscuit like this one.

Sourdough Biscuits drizzled with golden honey

The sourdough discard I used was 1 to 3 days old; I set aside the discard from the initial feeding as well as the levain, combining both in a container and refrigerating it until I was ready to bake (having the starter cold is important here for the same reason you use cold butter).

I used an all white-flour starter at 100% hydration. If your starter is more wheat flour, you’ll likely have a slightly denser biscuit though I imagine the flavor would be particularly lovely with a bit of sprouted wheat or rye flour in the mix.

Depending on the consistency of your discard, you may need more or less milk to bring the dough together: just add it a tablespoon at a time and stop when it comes together into a shaggy dough (it should stick together but not stick to your hands).

How to make Sourdough Biscuits: Cut out with a biscuit cutter without twisting.

For the loveliest layers, fold the dough once or twice as you pat it out to about 1-inch thick. Then, when you’re cutting out your biscuits, be sure you don’t twist the cutter! Twisting will actually ‘seal’ the layers of flour and butter and your biscuits will not rise quite so dramatically.

How to make Sourdough Biscuits: Place in a buttered cast iron skillet for even baking.

When it comes to baking biscuits, my vessel of choice is a cast iron skillet, like this new lighter weight Blacklock skillet from Lodge. I’ve found that baking sheets will often produce biscuits that are too dark on the bottom, whereas cast iron cooks the biscuits much more evenly.

If you used the slightly smaller, 7-inch Blacklock skillet so all the biscuits were touching, each biscuit would support each other and they’d rise even taller.

But personally, I like crispy edges to my biscuits and cooking them with a bit of space between them is ideal, even if they do go a bit topsy turvy as they bake.

Sourdough Biscuits before and after baking in a cast iron skillet

Tall, flaky sourdough biscuits on a cooling rack with butter and marmalade

You’ll need about a cup of sourdough discard to make one skillet worth of biscuits. If you don’t have enough discard, you can add equal parts flour and water (by weight) until you have 250 grams. Let it sit for a bit until bubbly – the longer it sits the more pronounced the sourdough flavor will be.

I recommend chilling the discard for at least a few hours before you use it. One of the keys to fluffy, flaky biscuits is keeping everything very cold (not unlike pie crust), and starter, especially active, recently-fed starter, can be on the warm side.

Sourdough Biscuits served as part of a full breakfast

Don’t have a sourdough starter? Now’s the perfect time to start one yourself! It’ll take anywhere from 5 to 15 days to mature. Here’s a great article for beginners on how to make your own sourdough starter from my friend Kristin (she’s got a ton of sourdough resources if you’re ready to dive down that particular rabbit hole).

My starter, Jane Dough, is version 3.0 (the first two I started with various wheat flours turned real stinky, real fast. Jane prefers 100% organic all-purpose flour (King Arthur is her favorite but she’ll tolerate Bob’s if that’s all I can find).

Using organic flour for a sourdough starter really does make a difference, as it’s processed differently and is more appealing to the yeast.

But for the biscuits themselves, my preferred flour is a bleached soft wheat flour like White Lily, either all-purpose or self-rising (I’ve made notes on how to adapt if you’re using self rising flour below).

The reason I prefer soft wheat flour is the lower protein content produces a lighter, fluffier biscuit. Especially since we’re using sourdough discard here, which is made with a higher protein flour and sometimes even a little whole wheat flour, the soft wheat flour will help to offset that (these biscuits are definitely a bit denser than non-sourdough biscuits for this reason).

How do you know if your flour is soft wheat? Check the protein content. Typical all-purpose flour will have about 3 to 4g of protein per cup (brands like King Arthur tend to be on the high side). White Lily all-purpose, on the other hand, has 2g.

You can also use a mix of all-purpose and cake flour (which is a bleached flour much lower in protein), which will approximate something similar to White Lily.

(At this point your pantry probably looks a lot like mine, with various bags and tubs of at least 8 or 9 different kinds of flour, actually more like 12 if you count things like rice flour and almond flour. Such is the life of a baker…)

Sourdough Biscuits

Sourdough Biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups (281g) bleached all-purpose flour OR self-rising flour*
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder (omit if using self-rising flour)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (omit if using self-rising flour)
  • 6 tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
  • 250g (about 1 cup) mature sourdough starter at 100% hydration, chilled
  • 1/4 cup whole milk, more or less as needed
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter, for brushing

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly butter the bottom of a 10-inch cast iron skillet.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder, baking soda, and salt (if using self-rising flour, omit the baking powder and salt). If it’s particularly warm in your kitchen you can chill the bowl and flour mixture before continuing.
  3. Add cold cubed butter and cut in with a pastry blender or two knives until butter forms pea-sized pieces coated in flour.
  4. Add sourdough starter and 2 tablespoons of milk and mix with a fork until dough starts to come together in a shaggy dough. If dough seems particularly dry (this will depend on the maturity/hydration of your starter), you can add more milk as needed. I found about 1/4 cup of milk was just about right.
  5. Knead and fold the dough in the bowl a few times to incorporate any remaining dry crumbs (just until it comes together, you don’t want to overwork it).
  6. Turn dough out onto a work surface. Press into a circle about 1 inch thick.
  7. Cut into rounds using a 2 1/4 to 2 1/2-inch circle cutter or biscuit cutter. Dip your cutter in flour then press it straight down into the dough and lift back up without twisting (twisting will ‘seal’ the layers and prevent the biscuit from rising properly). Evenly space in prepared cast iron skillet.
  8. You can press the scraps of dough together once more and cut a few more biscuits from this, just know these re-rolled biscuits won’t rise quite as high.
  9. Brush tops of biscuits with milk.
  10. Bake for about 15 minutes or until tops of biscuits just start to turn golden brown.
  11. Remove from oven and immediately brush with melted butter; serve warm.
  • If you are using self rising flour, omit the baking powder and salt (still add the baking soda as this helps with browning).
  • If you are using regular all-purpose flour, I recommend a soft-wheat flour like White Lily or Martha White; the soft wheat makes for a more tender biscuit. Regular All Purpose will work but the biscuits will just bit a bit denser.
All images and text © Lindsay Landis /

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40 Comments Leave a Comment »

  1. These look incredible! We totally need to make these ASAP!

  2. these bring me back decades, forget discard, I’d make the dough just for these, but only on the weekend when I allow myself anything from made from dough of any kind! Needless to say, thank you for another wonderful recipe!

  3. What is discard and what do you mean by 100% hydration? Thank you – these look wonderful 💖

    • Sourdough discard is what is leftover after a sourdough starter is fed (you have to discard some of the old starter before feeding it to keep it at a mangeable size). 100% hydration just means the starter is fed with equal parts (by weight) of water and flour (so 100g flour and 100g water).

  4. These flaky sourdough cookies look absolutely scrumptious. My cookie game is very weak and I can barely make the basic ones but this one looks so tempting I am gonna try it once for sure.

  5. I’ve made these biscuits a few times now, the last time with half whole wheat pastry flour and they are fantastic, taste just like buttermilk biscuits and the instructions are right on.

  6. Hello. I am living in Mexico, from florida. I made biscuts all the time in fla. with no problems. I have been trying for 3 years to make them here with no success. They are always dense and heavy. I recently started my sourdough starter to try something differently. Do you have any advice that may help me in a humid environment?
    Thank you for the great post. By the way I think I should call my starter DESPARADOUGH..

  7. Can I sub in oat flour or other types of flour for white?  I don’t have much white right now and given the mad dash for everyone to buy it it’s hard to get!  I have a lot of gluten free flours and should be getting rye and whole wheat soon.  Thanks for any suggestions.  

    • Unfortunately I don’t think oat flour will work here, nor would whole wheat: the biscuits would be far too dense. I haven’t tried it personally, but that’s my assumption.

  8. Honestly, probably the best biscuits I have had, let alone made. Easy and absolutely perfect. No changes.

  9. I made these using White Lily self rising flour. My discard consisted mainly of rye starter so my biscuits weren’t white but they rose and were light and airy. I loved the flavor. This recipe has been saved for future use. Thanks for sharing. 

  10. Oh, wow, are these ever good! I’ll use this recipe over and over. Thank you!

  11. Thank you for this great recipe! These were some of the tastiest biscuits I’ve ever made and I thought they were quite light and fluffy using King Arthur all purpose, which is what I have in the house right now. I’ll definitely be making them again and again. 

  12. Made this yesterday… BEST homemade biscuits I have every had. Great recipe, great use of discard!

  13. I am always looking for things to do with leftover starter and this was perfect! So happy to have found your recipe. Biscuits turned out great (much better than my other recipes).

  14. Made these for the first time! How do you get such a beautiful rise on yours? I’m guessing practice makes perfect

    • It’s definitely all about the technique! Don’t overmix, also I always have to remind myself to leave the dough thicker than I think it should be. Also, when you cut the rounds, don’t twist the cutter as that will ‘seal’ the layers together and the biscuits won’t rise as much.

  15. Can you omit the milk and sub water in a pinch? Trying to avoid going to the store…

    • I’ve never tried this personally, but the milk here is just adding some additional moisture to bring the dough together. The biscuits probably won’t be quite as rich, but I think it should work in a pinch! Or if you happen to have some dry milk powder, using that with a bit of water would be the best substitute!

  16. Hi Lindsay! 
    I can’t wait to make these with my discard sourdough, but i also love the buttermilk flavor on them, i wonder what would happen if i use the sourdough discard, and buttermilk instead of regular milk? would this affect the density if them also? of course we all like fluffy flaky biscuits; i was curious what you thought about that 
    I will make this biscuits just the way you mention first though, since they sound so good! 
    Thank you again for sharing your thoughts 
    -Itzel

    • I found the sourdough starter works the same way as buttermilk to make the biscuits tangy. I don’t think switching to buttermilk vs milk will affect the texture, but your biscuits will be extra tangy.

  17. Excellent! Very soft, fluffy and great flavor. I will keep this recipe and send it to my daughter.  She keeps a starter batch of sourdough in her refrigerator because she uses it so often. 
     I will try some of your other recipes. This one was very well written and easy to follow.  

  18. I made these!   They were fabulous and turned out perfect as written.   My hubby said they were the best he has ever tasted 

  19. These are, hands down, the greatest biscuits I’ve ever made or eaten. I keep recommending this recipe, and everyone who tries it *loves* it!
    For fun, I tried once adding in cubes of cheddar and some green onion, and oh mama, were they delicious!
    This recipe is one I’ll pass down to my kids and beyond!

  20. I’m definitely going to give these a try today! Especially, after the delicious results of your cracker recipe my family devoured yesterday.

    I love that you’ve named your starter Jane Dough!! You’ve inspired me to call mine Sour Joe ;)

  21. If you’re using a convection oven, lower heat to 425. Cut baking powder in half; doubled baking soda since the starter is acidic and would give the same effect without the metallic taste of baking powder. They rose beautifully.

  22. Wonderful biscuits! I make biscuits all the time and these are the best!

  23. I’m a beginning baker. I made these and my wife (accomplished baker) couldn’t stop saying how amazing they were. (She wondered why I wanted some of her discard) It was hard to tell what she was saying because she was talking with a mouthful of biscuit, but I’m 100% sure that she loved them.

  24. Came out great! The best biscuits I have ever made.

  25. Thanks, sounds delicious and will try. However, you recommend organic AP flour – then you say Bleached AP flour in the recipe. No such thing as bleached organic APF!

    • I use organic AP flour to feed and maintain my starter. But when actually making biscuits, bleached flour has a lower protein content and results in a lighter, fluffier texture!

  26. I made these last weekend and they turned out great! Thank you for the recipe – great use of discard! Have you ever tried freezing the biscuits just after cutting and then taking them out and baking from frozen at a later date? I am going to try, but just curious if you had already had success with this. 

  27. This recipe is so good, thank you! 
    I personally never have discard. 
    I have a bowl in the fridge which i feed about once a week, and then i take a very small amount out, 25g, when i want to bake. I feed those 25g with 100g water and flour and in 8-10 hours I usually have the most active starter. I learned from Jake the baker on youtube, he has a similar method with no discarding called the scrapings method. 
    Thank again for the delicious biscuits 🌸

  28. these are delicious! what a great and easy way to use sourdough discard. I made them dairy-free by using oat milk and vegan butter and they still turned out great.

  29. I have a trusty biscuit recipe I love, but my attempts to convert it to sourdough haven’t been successful (can’t get the proportions right). This recipe is so close to the one I use but with sourdough. I tried the King Arthur Flour recipe and it was an epic fail. I tried your recipe this morning and…they were awesome! They rose beautifully (just like my old trusty recipe). I did bake them a little too long (my bad). They aren’t burned just a little tough on top, but perfect everywhere else. Actually, not sure if the toughness is because of the extra time in the oven or maybe a little too much flour when patting them out. I would add a little more salt next time. Anyhow, thank you for giving Wilson’s discard a place to go. LOL Thank you!

  30. Has anyone tried making these biscuits with an ancient grain?

  31. I wondered why my biscuits were not rising and now I know. I used a wine glass to cut the biscuits and twisted on the way down. I am going to make again following this recipe. Cannot wait. Thanks for the tips. 

  32. Found this recipe this morning. I wanted to make biscuits and sausage gravy for breakfast. The recipe called for 1 cup of started but I had a small amount and didn’t want to deplete what I had; my starter is 12 years old.
    I used 2/3 cup and 1 % milk for the remaining liquid. I only had salted butter so I reduced the salt to 1/4 teaspoon. Another webpage that had sourdough recipes suggested adding sugar. I added a scant 1 tablespoon. Then I pretty much followed my normal procedure : measure dry ingredients into chilled bowl and refrigerate measure wet and chill. Grate frozen butter into dry then stir to coat butter bits; add wet, adjust moisture if needed. Roll on to light floured surface lager than required size. Fold in 1/2; repeat dust, roll, fold. Dust last time and roll or pat to size. I just cut mine into 9 squares.
    I preheat my cast iron pan and removed it from the oven when the oven reached 400. The biscuits are placed in the heated t cast iron then into the oven. Although mine are not identical to yours I must say say that your recipe and webpage were the inspiration for me to expand the use of my starter to biscuits. They came out very good: light golden crispy on the outside and tender and flaky on the inside. I will definately make these again.
    Next on my to do baking list will be to try the sourdough cracker recipe.

  33. Oh so yummy!!! Quick and easy to make too. Will definitely be making again soon. 

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