Friday, August 24, 2012

Not My Mama's Biscuits

As you know, I'm Southern.  I grew up on jambalaya and fried chicken, sweet tea and pecan pie.  I also grew up on biscuits.  No surprise, right?
Well, there's something you need to know.  The biscuits of my youth were not made from scratch.  There, I said it.  I feel better.

When I was a kid, we typically had one of two types of biscuits: the "flaky" ones out of the can or "homemade" ones whipped up from Pioneer baking mix (the Southern version if Bisquick) and milk.  It's just what we did.

Perhaps not ironically, it's living in New York that has stirred my passion for real homemade biscuits.  Or, maybe, it's just getting older.  It's like a vicarious nostalgia that makes me think fondly of a time and a place that isn't quite my past.  I could explore the psycho-emotional meaning of that.  Or I could make biscuits.

Let's make biscuits.

Since I don't have my grandmother's recipe, I use Alton's (I do want him to be my wacky uncle at least).  From it's home on the Food Network website:

2 c. flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
2 T shortening
2 T cold butter, diced
1 c. cold buttermilk
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using your fingertips, rub butter and shortening into dry ingredients until mixture looks like crumbs. (The faster the better, you don't want the fats to melt.) Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled buttermilk. Stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky.
  3. Turn dough onto floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold dough over on itself 5 or 6 times. Press into a 1-inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter, being sure to push straight down through the dough. Place biscuits on baking sheet so that they just touch. Reform scrap dough, working it as little as possible and continue cutting. (Biscuits from the second pass will not be quite as light as those from the first, but hey, that's life.)
  4. Bake until biscuits are tall and light gold on top, 15 to 20 minutes.
Literate Baker notes:  Although real buttermilk is best, you can fake it with a scant cup of milk and a tablespoon of vinegar.  That said, buttermilk freezes well.  I buy a quart and freeze it in 1-cup containers or baggies.

These are a little big; my favorite biscuit cutter has gone missing.

I firmly believe biscuits are best with a good dose of butter and your choice of honey, jam, or spicy breakfast sausage.  Or fried chicken.  If it's a good cause (or a good friend), I'll consider sausage gravy.  If possible, consume in bed or on the back porch with coffee and the Sunday paper.  Nary a grain of sugar, yet one of my all-time favorite ways to...

Keep it sweet.

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