Biscuits…mmmm…biscuits!


Buttermilk biscuits

My husband was whining for biscuits and gravy. To be specific, he actually wanted sausage gravy with lots of chunks of meat in it, and biscuits. Before I hear from all the states below the Mason-Dixon line about what should go into this glorious, fattening, sinful dish, remember that this is a baking blog and the subject is:

BISCUITS, Y’ALL!

Biscuits should be fluffy, flavorful, and fresh. (Yes, I love alliteration.) Oh, and large! Burly, not dainty. There are as many opinions about what makes a perfect biscuit as there are people who bake them, from: “I prefer my biscuits to pop out of a can”, to: “I only use leaf lard and whole organic buttermilk.”

If you’ve read my other blogs, you know that I don’t always follow the rules when it comes to baking. I’m going to backpedal just a bit here, and say that if you want light, tender biscuits, your results will be better if you conform just this once. If I can, you can! Use very cold ingredients, don’t over-mix, and try to cut the biscuits out with surgical precision.

Would you like to know what not to do? Don’t accidentally use 4 teaspoons of baking soda instead of baking powder. The first time my son-in-law came for dinner I proudly served biscuits. Very pretty biscuits. One by one I watched each person take a bite and then return the biscuit to their plate with a pained look on their face. When I tried one for myself I quickly realized my mistake. We probably looked like a support group for hydrophobia sufferers. He has never let me forget those poor biscuits.

My experiments with fats in biscuit recipes have included bear fat, lard, butter, and shortening. They all worked well, though I didn’t get as much “loft” with the butter. Since many people have an irrational dislike of lard, and you might not find bear fat on the shelf at the grocery store, (I rendered it myself. Seriously! Gross and stinky, but the end product is a beautiful white “lard”) you will probably decide to use shortening, butter, or a combination of the two. As much as I hate to use “vegetable” shortening, I’ll admit it makes flaky biscuits and pie crusts. And face it, we’re not going to pass these babies off as healthy, any way you look at it!

If you insist on having biscuits that are perfectly smooth and uniform (bless your heart), by all means get out your rolling pin, but I prefer to handle the dough as little as possible, patting the dough into the desired thickness. This makes a more rustic looking biscuit, but  I’ll choose texture over appearance any day. Remember: a light hand makes a light biscuit!

I really, really suggest you buy a biscuit cutter if you don’t already have one. Drinking glasses are a nuisance; they suck your dough up and you have to pry it back out, which is very traumatic for the biscuit dough. If you must use glassware, use something thin, like a wine glass or crystal goblet. Whatever you use, the most important thing to remember is to press the cutter down and lift it up. Don’t twist, or you’ll make it harder for the dough to rise.

Biscuits never taste as good the next day, even if you reheat them. The recipe I’m going to share with you makes twelve jumbo biscuits, so if you don’t need that many, put some uncooked biscuits into a heavy zipper bag and pop them in the freezer. You can bake them without thawing if you’re in a rush – just give them a few extra minutes.

Hopefully I haven’t scared you off. Hello? Hello? Please come back, it’s not that complicated! Try this recipe once and you’ll be hooked, and never buy those nasty rolls in a can again. You will add five years to your life by not waiting in suspense for the “POP!”  I read recently (and don’t remember where…so much for giving proper credit) that opening up a can of dough is the adult equivalent of a kid’s jack-in-the-box toy. Cut back on the adrenalin rush by making your own biscuits!

BUTTERMILK BISCUITS

3 cups all-purpose flour (a good quality flour is best, like “King Arthur” brand)
1 tablespoon sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening, chilled!
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup milk
1 egg

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the shortening and cut it into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter. (You can also use 2 knives or even your finger tips. Just dip them into ice water before blending so you don’t melt the shortening.) So many recipes say it should look like “coarse meal.” Since I don’t know what they’re talking about, I just cut it in until you don’t see any chunks of shortening bigger than a pea. Good enough.

Cutting the shortening into the flour mixture.

In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, milk, and egg. Pour it onto the flour mixture and stir until it’s consistently moist, with no big pockets of flour.
Drop the dough into the center of a heavily floured board or counter. Flour your hands and turn the dough over a couple of times to cover with flour. With your hands, gently press the dough to a 3/4 inch thickness.
Flour your biscuit cutter. Press down, then pull straight up. Repeat, cutting the rounds as close together as possible.

Cutting out biscuits.

With a spatula, move them, almost touching, onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Don’t re-roll the leftover dough. Just bake the scraps. Calories don’t count if they’re just scraps!
Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the tops are a rich golden brown.

Serve ’em hot with butter, honey, fresh jam, or…

SAUSAGE GRAVY

1 pound bulk breakfast sausage
3-4 tablespoons flour
2 cups half and half
Pepper to taste
1 cup milk (if needed)
Brown the sausage on medium heat, crumbling it as you stir. Add 3 tablespoons of the flour and cook for a minute. If you can still see grease, add the other tablespoon of flour. Lower heat to medium low and stir for 2-3 minutes to cook the flour. Slowly add the half and half, stirring constantly. Add the pepper and cook gently on low for at least 30 minutes. If it starts to get too thick, add milk a little at a time.

Sausage gravy – heavy on the sausage!

4 thoughts on “Biscuits…mmmm…biscuits!

  1. You make it look so easy! I’ll try it! My usual biscuits are like little lumps, so I am looking forward to using your recipe.

    btw King Arthur Flour sells a Hexagon Biscuit Cutter that cuts six at once with no wasted dough. It seems to me a single cutter would be more versatile (you could use it for cookies, too, yes?), but if you make a lot of biscuits it might be handy.

  2. Thanks, Mary Rose! I just saw that biscuit cutter and was lusting after it. In fact, I think I’d better move the entire King Arthur Flour catalog to my “When I Win the Lottery” category. Sigh.

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