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SOUTHERN Flaky Biscuits

March 13, 2011
Buttermilk biscuits
Image by pierrotsomepeople via Flickr

As with any baking of biscuits the measurements may need adjustment for your area.  By this I mean altitude and humidity which translates into how much liquid to add to the dry mix and how long to let the biscuit dough rest.  Don’t discount this.  It is worth the effort to find out what baking adjustments are needed for your baking zone.  High up in the mountains of Colorado or North Carolina to the coastline of California to the South Carolina/Georgia line to the flat plains of Wyoming to the Ozarks in Northwestern Arkansas this recipe has been adjusted. My family is pretty spread out! Distance makes the heart grow fonder.

Don’t be alarmed if your Southern biscuit skills are not where you wish them to be. And, please do not give up! My first biscuits were as hard as boulders and as dry as sawdust. In fact, if I had dropped one I’m sure I’d have made a dent in the floor. Then my aunt took me to the side and taught me “this here biscuit making” so, according to her, “I would not embarrass myself” in the future. Aunt Oneida, I owe you a deep debt.  Aunt Oneida turns 100 years old this year (November, 2011) and over her time she has turned out millions of these delights.

Southern Biscuits so flaky you’ll want them more often than toast!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup chilled lard (or Crisco) broken into bits
  • 2 tablespoons chilled sweet butter (or what we call unsalted butter)
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk (or heavy cream)

Preparation:

Turn oven to 450 degrees with the rack in the center of the oven to allow for even toasting of the biscuit on top, sides and bottom. (Aunt Oneida’s first requirement)

Get out a large bowl and place a flour sifter into it! Place the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt into the flour sifter and sift into the large bowl. (using a flour sifter is Aunt Oneida’s second requirement for a lighter biscuit).

Cut in the bits of chilled lard (or Crisco) and butter until the chilled lard (or Crisco) and butter are the size of a small pea. Do not let the chilled lard (or Crisco) and butter get too warm from over mixing.  (keeping the chilled lard and butter cool is Aunt Oneida’s third requirement – note: it took a kitchen war to get her to switch from lard to Crisco but as this is her recipe I included the word lard but I use, and encourage you to use, Crisco)

Then make a well in center of the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk (or heavy cream). With a wooden spoon (Aunt Oneida’s forth requirement is to use a wooden spoon!) push the dry ingredients into the buttermilk (or heavy cream) and combine until it is clumping together. This is where you adjust the liquid, if necessary, by adding a small amount more buttermilk (or heavy cream) until the mixture pulls away from the sides and forms a soft ball. When this happens stop mixing. Do not over mix!

Here is the trick.  Leave the dough alone for at least 1/2 hour! Cover it with a damp cloth but don’t mess with it! Let it rest. (Hint: I have stopped at this point and put the bowl into the refrigerator over night; taken it out the next morning and let it stand on the counter top for up to 1/2 – 1 hour to soften before finishing it off)

After the dough has rested tip it out of the bowl onto to a lightly floured cutting board and  pat it down with the palm of your hand to ready it for cutting or roll it with a rolling pin, if you like, to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut out. Circles or squares.  (hint: if you do squares you have less waste) But, here is where you can have some fun! I’ve even done Christmas trees or bunny rabbits by using a deep sided cookie cutter to wow my kids on a given holiday.  Hint: The smaller the biscuit the higher it will rise but if you like those great big biscuits go for it!

Place cut out biscuits onto the baking sheet (you don’t need to grease the sheet but you may if you wish) or into a cast iron skillet (lightly grease bottom, please).  Experiment.  Each way creates a different biscuit because the edges will be more crusty on the baking sheet where you usually do not butt the biscuits up against each other or more soft if baked in the skillet where you usually do butt them up against each other.  You get to decide what you like best.  Either way these biscuits are excellent and are worth the time involved to make.

Now, for a really great Southern biscuit after cutting them out let them rest a second time for another 1/2 – 1 hour and then brush each one with some melted butter and bake.

Letting them rest a second time makes them all that more light and fluffy inside.  But you can skip this step and they will still be a very good biscuit. My feelings are: Don’t rush a good thing; to have a great honest to goodness Southern biscuit give it a little nap, twice – which is the last of Aunt Oneida’s requirements.

Bake: 10 to 12 minutes until browned to perfection on the top.

Yield: A dozen or so depending on the size of the biscuit.

You can thank my Aunt Oneida for this recipe and the baking lesson.

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One Comment
  1. This is great stuff, so funny. My wife and I have a love-hate relationship with making biscuits. Ours are good, but she swears they’re not as flaky as her grandmas. (Both were southerners.(

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