My mother makes two kinds of biscuits: cheese drop biscuits and flaky cut-out biscuits. Her technique is effortless -- she makes them without a recipe, by muscle memory. I never considered them to be intimidating, but rather the opposite. They come together in minutes and use only a few ingredients. When done well, the end result is light, airy, and buttery, but in order to achieve that perfect texture, you simply need to use a very gentle touch.
Don't overwork them. Don't knead them too hard. The flaky layers form when you coat small nubs of cold butter (pea-shaped in size) in flour. The butter lumps melt individual flakes when the biscuits are baked, so overworking the dough will warm the butter too much and the dough will become homogenized, resulting in dense, leaden biscuits.
The basic recipe is easy to adapt. If you want to make drop biscuits, just add more liquid so the batter is spoonable. You can change the flavor profile endlessly: Stir in chives and cheddar cheese, or rosemary and pine nuts, or grated Parmesan and thyme and black pepper. I've often made them sweet by adding a tablespoon of sugar to the dough, using only a pinch of salt, and sprinkling cinnamon sugar over the top before baking.
Once I made a batch, split it into two bowls, made one savory (cheddar) and one sweet (cinnamon sugar) and had them as a two-course dinner. Classy, because that is how I roll.
This recipe is for basic biscuits. I've included some suggestions for varying the flavors below. If you'd rather not mess with butter, you can make them with Greek yogurt instead. They won't be quite as delicate but they are still fantastically good and I would not kick them out of bed. Literally, I'd happily eat them in bed. Too much? Here's my very detailed explanation of how to make yogurt biscuits on Food52.
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 T. baking powder
4-5 T. butter (very cold! in cubes)
1 cup milk or buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. **If you are making sweet biscuits, add a tablespoon of sugar.**
Cut the butter into the flour with a fork or a pastry cutter until it resembles a coarse meal and the butter is in pea-sized lumps. (I realize that it is not the world's most appetizing phrase, but it's factual, so roll with it.)
Slowly add your milk, and stir until the dough just comes together. You really want to be gentle here -- folding it all together and gently kneading helps, but it's okay if there is a little bit of flour that doesn't seem to be incorporated. It should look messy. You'll fold it in as you knead.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it together (aim to knead about 12 times or so). You should be folding the dough over onto itself to incorporate any extra dry ingredients that haven't gotten mixed in, rather than kneading hard the way you would with bread dough.
Once your dough comes together, pat it into a large disc -- the thickness is up to you, but I like to do about 1 1/2 inches high for fluffier biscuits. You can roll it out if you want them to be more uniform, but I rarely do. Again, be gentle! It's ideal if you can still see little chunks of butter -- they will turn into layers when baked.
Cut out your biscuits using a floured biscuit cutter. Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake for 8-15 minutes, or until golden brown. (The baking time really depends on the size of your biscuits).
Variations: If you want to make drop biscuits, add more milk (up to 1/2 cup more) -- stirring -- until the dough resembles a wet, not-too-loose batter. Drop the batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto your parchment-lined sheet and bake. If you want to add in fresh or dried herbs or cheese, mix those in after you cut in the butter but before you add the liquid.