Unless you don’t eat dairy, butter makes the best biscuits, so make sure to use it. Margarine doesn’t have the complexity of flavour or give such a crisp texture.
Biscuits don’t need to rise a lot and can become brittle and full of air pockets if you beat the dough with a handwhisk. Use a wooden spoon to combine the ingredients, or try a food processor – they’re great for mixing without aerating.
Do you find your biscuits spread too much? The dough is probably too warm. Nearly all biscuit and cookie doughs benefit from being chilled before they are rolled out or shaped. This helps to solidify the butter, meaning the biscuits hold their shape better during cooking. It also stops them from being too greasy.
Wondering why your biscuits are too hard? If you’re making shaped biscuits, don’t re-roll the trimmings too many times. Doing this develops gluten and makes tough biccies. If you find the dough is becoming elastic and hard to roll, wrap it in cling film and chill it for 10min to allow the gluten to relax.
Another reason your biscuits are tooth-breakingly hard might be that you might be cooking them for too long. Biscuits straight from the oven can feel a bit soft even when they’re fully cooked (they firm up as they cool), so that isn’t a good indicator that they’re finished baking. If the surface feels sandy and dry when you run your finger over them, that’s a better sign that they’re done.
Conversely you might find that your biscuits are too crumbly. The likelihood here is that your recipe needs a bit more liquid, or your recipe has too high a ratio of flour. Be sparing with any flour you put on the work surface to roll your dough too. Too much will dry it out and cause the cookie to crumble (so to speak).
If your freshly baked biscuits seem too soft after they’re cooled, then they‘re either under baked, or there is too much liquid in the recipe.
When stamping out biscuits with a cutter, you might find that they stretch as you transfer them to the tray with your hands, and become misshapen. Use a palette knife or fish slice to lift them instead. If you’re making cookies or drop-biscuits, use a small ice cream scoop to portion out the dough so they’re all exactly the same size.
Space biscuits well apart on the baking tray. This allows them to cook evenly, and if they do spread a little, they won’t join together.
If you want to make biscuits in advance, you can wrap and freeze the ball of dough, then defrost it and continue with the recipe. Alternatively, shape the biscuits, then open freeze them on a lined baking tray and bag up once solid. The biscuits can then be cooked from frozen as and when you fancy (just add a few extra mins on to the cook time). This works particularly well with sturdy doughs like choc chip cookies.
If you find your biscuits go too soft after baking, rethink your storage. Sugar attracts moisture and homemade biccies often contain a lot of it, so they are prone to losing their crunch. To stop biscuits getting soft, make sure your container is airtight and put a layer of dry rice in the bottom of it to absorb any rogue water particles in the air.
To rescue biscuits that have gone soft, pop them on a lined baking tray and bake at around 160°C (140°C fan) mark 3 for a few min, to try and drive some of the excess moisture out of them. Let them cool on a wire rack. It doesn’t work in all cases, but it’s worth giving a go if you’re thinking of disposing of them.