This post has been a long time coming. A real long time. As in years.
I know that I’ve admitted before that there are two things that are my biggest failings in the kitchen. One is pie crust. Can’t make one to save my life. It was a really big day for me when they came out with those nice ones in the dairy section at the grocery store. But pie crust isn’t such a big deal, really. Lots of people have trouble with pastry dough. I could get over that one. The other one, however, was my biggest shame. Biscuits.
Who ever heard of a Southern cook who couldn’t make a biscuit? It was just unbelievable. And it’s not like I haven’t tried. Over the years I’ve wasted enough flour trying to make a decent biscuit that you could have baked a dozen of the royal wedding cakes with it. Honestly. I tried every biscuit recipe I could find following each one to the “t.” I sifted my flour just so. Had the buttermilk at room temperature. Cut in the shortening till it was the perfect consistency. Nothing worked. They were a complete disaster every time. The tops cracked. They burned on the bottom. They were dry and they fell apart. And it frustrated me to no end.
The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that I was trying to make the wrong kind of biscuit. What I was longing for was the biscuits I grew up with. And they were nothing like the tall, flaky, light biscuits everyone raves about. Not at all. The biscuits that I grew up eating and which were produced by nearly every cook in my little corner of south Georgia were not light. They weren’t flaky and they surely weren’t tall. They were moist! They had an almost chewy texture and they never, ever fell apart. You could slice them open, put a piece of ham or sausage in them and close them back up like a sandwich. Those biscuits had substance!
After all these years I’ve finally realized what made those childhood biscuits different. The difference was oil. Believe it or not – oil. My childhood biscuits were not made with solid shortening at all. Our south Georgia cooks made up their biscuit dough using soft winter wheat flour, buttermilk and vegetable oil. There was no cutting in involved at all. They just dumped the ingredients into a bowl, mixed it up a little, formed the biscuits and popped them in the oven. And guess what else – I have made baking sheets full of perfect south Georgia biscuits! I cannot explain to you how relieved I am that I can now make a biscuit. Whew. I thought for a while there that I was gonna have to give up my Southern cook credentials.
If you’d like to try my version of buttermilk biscuits, one of the things I’d recommend is to try finding some White Lily flour. It’s a Southern flour made from soft red winter wheat and it makes a tremendous difference in your baked products. If it’s not available where you live, any self-rising flour will work. Your biscuits just won’t be quite as tender :-)
Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl (or not – most flours don’t really need sifting these days). Make a well in the center of the flour and add the buttermilk followed by the oil and the salt.
Mix the ingredients together just until all the flour is moistened. Try to avoid over mixing. You’ll have a fairly rough, shaggy dough. That’s okay – it’s supposed to look like that.
Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface and gently knead it just 4 or 5 turns. That’s all you want to do – just enough to bring the dough together.
Now, for these biscuits instead of using a cutter, you’re going to roll them like you would a yeast roll. Just pinch off a portion a little larger than a golf ball and roll in between your palms a few times. Be gentle. Then flatten it into a disk.
Place the biscuits on a greased baking sheet with the sides touching. That will help them rise a little more.
Place the baking sheet in the upper third of the oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes. Check a couple of minutes before the end of the cooking time and if the tops are not quite brown enough, turn on the broiler briefly to finish browning.
While the biscuits are cooking, melt a little butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove the biscuits from the oven and brush immediately with melted butter.
If you really want to experience a south Georgia treat, split one of these biscuits open while it’s still good and warm. Add a pat or two of butter and drizzle it with a little cane syrup. Oh, yeah.
And there you go – the biscuits I remember from childhood. I was afraid I’d never figure out how to make them. I feel all grown up and everything :-)
Other biscuit recipes you might enjoy from around the internet:
- Ezra Pound Cake’s Hot, Crusty Buttermilk Biscuits
- Touch of Grace Biscuits from White Lily web site
- King Arthur Flour’s Angel Biscuits
- Sweet Potato Biscuits from The Kitchn
- For the Love of Cooking’s Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits