Editor’s Note: Since this post, I have found what I believe to be the best buttermilk biscuit and wrote about it here.
It’s a triumphant moment when you can bake a good biscuit. Scratch that. It’s a triumphant moment, when you can bake a great biscuit that is fluffy and a little more than nostalgic, conjuring up childhood memories for your husband as he wishes he had just one more morning with Meemaw and her wood burning stove. She made a batch of biscuits every morning of her life.
I’m not from the South, and I never had Meemaw’s biscuits, so I got a little help from Maryann Byrd’s book, The Rise of the Southern Biscuit The Biscuit Dive GuideCooking, Food & Wine Books).
In the book, that serves as a companion to the PBS documentary, The Rise of the Southern Biscuit, Maryann chronicles several southern restaurants, cafes, diners, and dives that still make their own biscuits. She and I both live in Tennessee, and Ms. Byrd features several biscuit recipes served a mere few miles from me. When I opened the book, I was gleefully surprised to see this particular recipe, because a year ago I shared the good news about Aretha Frankenstein’s Pancake Mix. Aretha Frankenstein is a restaurant in Chattanooga that can brag about long weekend lines funky monster decor, and possibly the best pancakes and biscuits in the South, although there is lot of competition.
The pancakes are so good that they have packaged a mix and I was lucky enough to be sent a case that I shared with a few other food bloggers. We all agreed to their superior texture and flavor. Their biscuit is such a big deal (literally and figuratively) that it was featured on the food network. Part of the fame of their biscuit is it’s size and part of the secret is using sugar as an ingredient.
I served these with peach preserves from the Loveless Cafe, and you can see, we were at the bottom of the jar. The ingredients are simply peaches and sugar, and are fermented in such a way as to almost taste like a liquor. I’ve used this peach preserve to make appetizers with goat cheese, salad dressing and savory meat dishes. It’s not just for biscuits, but it does a biscuit good.
The Loveless Cafe, is, of course, nationally famous for its biscuits and while they are featured in the cookbook, the biscuit recipe is not. You won’t be disappointed I have several biscuit recipes to test drive, I’ve made the biscuits four times now using this recipe and liking it so much, I’m hesitant to move to the next one.
This is an all butter recipe that initially didn’t work for me because of its low baking temperature of 300 degrees. This is one of few recipes that calls for sugar and this explains the low baking temperature because sugar can cause the biscuits to brown too quickly. I changed the temperature to 350, used a cast iron pan, made sure the biscuits were touching (they rise better this way) and made them smaller in size. They are served in the restaurant nearly saucer size, and that is a bit too big for me.
If I’ve learned anything in the process, every biscuit batch will be different and every person will create their own unique touch and taste, even if using the same ingredients. The bigger thing I learned is that a batch of hot biscuits out of oven makes people really happy. You don’t have to be born in the South to make a great biscuit, but you do need to get that Southern something in the kitchen that Meemaw had that has kept her memory alive.
I aim to make other recipes from the book and share the results.
My Tips for Making Biscuits
1. Use a good tool to cut the butter into the flour. Do not use a food processor.
2. Freeze the butter and flour.
3. Make sure butter milk is cold.
4. Don’t go overboard on baking powder.
5. Flour your hands, allow the sticky dough to stay sticky. Cut biscuit quickly and do not turn cutter. Use a straight up and down method.
6. Bake biscuits touching. This helps them rise.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- 3 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2½ tablespoons sugar
- 2½ tablespoons baking powder
- 1 stick butter
- 1⅓ cups buttermilk
- Mix dry ingredients together. Cut in butter to pea size pieces.
- Add in buttermilk, and continue with biscuit cutter until all flour is incorporated. Dough will be wet and sticky.
- Place on floured board, and fold making sure dough is thoroughly mixed but do this gently.
- Form a circle about 1 inch high and pat down with hand. Use a pint glass to cut biscuits. I used a 2½ inch glass. Place in cast iron pan or baking sheet. Sprinkle with a little sugar. Biscuits should be touching. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown underneath.