Image via WikipediaFrom Denny: OK, yum! We Southerners love our biscuits which to the uninitiated or folks in Britain, Australia, India and the like, these are little breads not the sweet cookies you call biscuits. What a confusion! :)
Usually, they are basically a baking powder-risen (though some versions are risen by yeast) quick bread cut into 3-inch rounds. They are a close cousin of the scone and can take anything on them but most often it is butter and jam of choice. At our house we even enjoy them with lemon curd!
Southern biscuits are the stuff of legends in many an eatery across the Southeast of America. Few homes make them any more so most people go out to eat them at breakfast with a side of ham or sausage and over-easy fried eggs.
Well, I do know how to make them and quite well. No one else in the family ever got the hang of it. This recipe is a bit different than what I use because I don't use lard but rather clarified butter or canola oil for the cholesterol benefit. But lard, well, it tastes divine and you ought to try the original version at least once in your life! :)
When I make them I often pop the unbaked extras into the freezer. They live to feed us the Divine for another day, baking up beautifully from freezer to oven!
The bonus in this recipe too is that it teaches how to make your own baking powder - which is a first for me, cool!
Kneading Note from Denny: Since he does not mention here, and I rarely see it in biscuit recipes, is a trick I learned a long time ago. When making this bread you don't want it to be too tough but rather light and fluffy. To achieve that, when kneading the dough, slowly and carefully flipping it over, gathering it up and folding down onto itself, make sure you don't allow but a sprinkle of flour to be found inside that fold.
Many people put too much flour into the fold and then wonder why their biscuits are hard as rocks and tasteless. Less is definitely more! I don't use a rolling pin either, too much work, just use my hands like most cooks as it gives you that tactile awareness of how the dough is developing and when to stop working the dough.
From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution they offer a version closer to the historical. Here's Scott Peacock's comments from the article: "Biscuits are the stuff of legend. The mere mention of them conjures images of hearth and home, kindly grandmothers and good-smelling kitchens. A particularly well-made biscuit has been known to inspire proposals of marriage.
People love eating biscuits. They love talking about biscuits.
But when it comes to making them, the sad truth is that many people, even Southerners, are often too afraid to try ...
Experience has taught me that, in the end, a good biscuit really boils down to a few basics: mainly a hot oven, cold fat and a gentle but knowing hand.
But it’s the details that make a great biscuit, and simple as they are, they are important and should be followed closely.
To my taste, a biscuit should be crusty and golden brown on the top — and even lightly browned on the bottom — with an interior that is soft, light and tender but not too fluffy. It should be slightly moist, but not so moist that it becomes gummy when you eat it, and dry enough to absorb a pat of good butter as it melts. It should be flavorful and well-seasoned, with a slight buttermilk tang, pleasing on its own but an excellent vehicle for other flavors as well.
Ratio of crusty exterior to soft interior is important, and I’m no fan of those big, Hollywood-pumped-up-on-steroids-looking biscuits. I prefer a biscuit no larger than three inches or so in diameter and not much more than an inch in height."
Hot, Crusty Buttermilk Biscuits
From: Scott Peacock
Hands on time: 10 minutes
Total time: 22 minutes
5 cups sifted White Lily flour (measured after sifting)
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons homemade baking powder (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 cup packed lard, chilled
1 3/4 cups chilled buttermilk, plus a few tablespoons more if needed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Preheat over to 500 degrees. Put the flour, homemade baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Whisk well to thoroughly blend. Add the lard and, working quickly, coat in flour and rub between your fingertips until about half the lard is coarsely blended and the other half remains in large pieces about 1/2 inch in size.
Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the buttermilk. Stir quickly, just until the dough is blended and begins to mass. The dough should be soft and a bit sticky and there should not be large amounts of unincorporated flour in the bowl. If dough is too dry, add a few tablespoons more buttermilk.
Turn the dough immediately onto a generously floured surface, and with floured hands knead briskly 8 to 10 times until a cohesive dough is formed.
Gently flatten the dough with your hands so it is of an even thickness. Then, using a floured rolling pin, roll it out to a uniform thickness of 1/2 inch. (If the dough begins to stick to your rolling pin, dust the pin — not the dough — with flour. Flouring the dough at this point will result in dusty-looking biscuits.) With a dinner fork dipped in flour, pierce the dough completely through at 1/2-inch intervals.
Lightly flour a 2 1/2- or 3-inch biscuit cutter and stamp out rounds. (Do not twist the cutter when stamping out biscuits.) Cut the biscuits from the dough as close together as you can for a maximum yield. Arrange cut biscuits on a heavy, ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheet so that they almost touch. Do not re-roll the scraps. Just bake as is and enjoy as a treat.
Bake in upper third of the oven for 8 to 12 minutes until crusty golden brown. (Check about 6 minutes into baking and rotate the pan if needed to ensure even cooking.) Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter. Serve hot.
Homemade baking powder recipe: Sift together three times 1/4 cup cream of tartar and 2 tablespoons baking soda. Transfer to a clean, dry, tight-sealing jar. Store at room temperature, away from direct sunlight, for up to four weeks. Use in any recipe calling for commercial baking powder.
Per biscuit: 234 calories (percent of calories from fat, 38), 5 grams protein, 31 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 10 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 14 milligrams cholesterol, 553 milligrams sodium.
Yet another easy version of the famous humble biscuit: