My husband has a memory of his Southern grandmother who made biscuits every day of her life. He remembers well the visits to the farmhouse in East Tennessee, sleeping in a feather bed under six or eight quilts, waking up to fluffy biscuits made on a wood burning stove, served with homemade pear honey and apple butter.
I talked about this a little bit when I shared a flaky biscuit recipe, which is delicious, but as my husband’s brother pointed out after he read the post, that flaky biscuit is not Meemaw’s biscuit. She didn’t make flaky biscuits. Meemaw made fluffy biscuits. I stand corrected. After many dozen biscuits, trying this and trying that, this is that biscuit that he lovingly remembers and has yearned for.
Biscuits and pie dough can either bring a baker or home cook down or make then legendary. There is this myth that our Southern grandmother’s came out of the womb making biscuits and pie dough from scratch without a recipe and they always came out perfect.The truth is that they started very young, had instruction and learned a little more every day. Baking fluffy biscuits or flaky pie dough became second nature just as walking and talking. During their childhood, they weren’t stressed in the kitchen trying to reinvent the wheel. They were picking up cues about flour, shortening and milk and how to balance them out, only they didn’t know it at the time. It was simply kitchen time with good smells and the excitement of a hot biscuit with jam or honey only fifteen minutes away.
So I did some kitchen time.
Finally, after many tries of other recipes, I came up with this myself. It felt right to me. Although these are made with butter , not lard or shortening, this is the biscuit that most takes him back to his childhood.
I have made these biscuits six times in the last two weeks. Well, in truth, one day two five year old twin boys made a batch without me touching the ingredients. I can’t count how many biscuits with cinnamon pear jelly the one on the left ate.
I trust this recipe, because it’s my own, and I finally have the “feel” of the biscuit in the same way I’ve mastered the “feel” for pie dough and homemade pasta. It was worth the time and worth the mistakes along the way, and far better than anything that pops out of a can.
A few biscuit making tips (this list keeps evolving).
- Use all purpose White Lily Flour, which is 100% pure soft white winter wheat. If you don’t have access to soft wheat flour, you can still use all purpose flour. It will be good, but perhaps not as soft. If you do use AP flour, add in extra buttermilk. The heavier grain requires up to 1/3 cup more. Start tablespoon at a time. (Some bakers use self-rising flour; I don’t, and I’m not opposed to it, it’s just the way I do it).
- Crumble ice cold butter into the flour mixture until you have medium sized crumbles (not too big, not too small) and freeze for 15 minutes. This takes the butter back to cold and keeps it intact. As the biscuits bake, the butter melts.
- Real buttermilk awesome, but if you don’t have it on hand, make your own buttermilk. I always make my own with white vinegar. 1 tablespoon of vinegar into cup. Fill the cup with milk. For this recipe, use 2 teaspoons vinegar poured into cup. Fill to 3/4 cup with milk. Wait 15 minutes. It will become thick.
- Whisk the dry ingredients before adding the butter.
- Put a pinch of baking soda into the buttermilk. I’ve seen this tip in several recipes and adapted it for my own.
- Don’t expect biscuit dough to look like bread dough or pie dough. That would make for a very tough biscuit. The dough should be wet. Wetter than your intuition tells you. Once you flour the counter and flour your hands, it all comes together.
- Don’t roll with a rolling pin. Simple form into a ball, and pat down in the same bowl you’ve mixed it with.
- Use a sharp biscuit cutter, an up and down motion, not twisting.
- Biscuits should kiss, which means they touch in the pan. This helps them to rise as they bake.
- Bake at a high heat. I bake at 450 for about 15 minutes for a medium sized biscuit. Check at 13 minutes.
- Don’t worry that they don’t all look alike. These are homemade, not out of a can.
- Make a double batch and freeze. Believe it or not, they are good popped into the microwave. If you know you’re going to freeze them, bake them a few minutes under and then bake them right from freezer.
- Feel free to add in herbs (but add it to the dry ingredients before you add the butter). Try these cheddar bacon chive.
- Add in fruit, such as berries, but flour the fruit first so it doesn’t turn your biscuit purple. Try these blueberry thyme biscuits.
- Turn biscuits into dessert. Try these chocolate chip cookie biscuits or these classic shortcake biscuits.
- Make my husband’s favorite biscuit, the sweet potato biscuit.
- Serve with the very best jam or jelly you can find.
Make several dozen biscuits and get to understand biscuit dough. Then you can tailor the recipe to your own specific taste. Your own hands, eyes and taste buds will tell you what to do. I will go so far as to say that you might follow this recipe exactly and not be happy with your biscuit. But, hold on, keep trying. It might be that second batch that you added a touch more flour to, or took out of the oven one minute earlier and you found your perfect biscuit. For example, Mr. ST likes these biscuits two minutes less baked than I do. We are both right.
Come back tomorrow to find out how to make Valentine’s Day Biscuits with Chocolate Gravy.
- 2 cups White Lily flour all purpose (softened wheat flour) NOT self-rising
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- pinch baking soda for buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 6 tablespoons unsalted cold butter
- ¾ cup buttermilk (see note on how to make your own)
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 2 tablespoons milk (for brushing on biscuits)
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar.
- Cut butter into flour with pastry cutter or simple use hands to mix in, but not smear.
- At this point put the flour and butter mixture into freezer for 15 minutes.
- Make homemade buttermilk. Pour 2 teaspoons white vinegar into measuring cup. Fill cup with whole milk up to ¾ cup. Let sit until milk thickens.
- Take cold flour mixture. Add in buttermilk, Stir with a spoon. Mixture will be wet.
- Flour the counter or mat. Flour hands and form into a ball. Knead no more than 8-10 times with hands. Less is best. Pat down to an inch and a half thickness. Using a biscuit cutter, cut biscuits with up and down method. Do not twist.
- Place on baking sheet or cast iron pan, touching. Brush with milk.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes. Check at 15. All ovens are different.
- Brush with butter when they come out of oven.