Here's to the Southern treat that can't be beat - September is National Biscuit Month.
There's just something about a biscuit. Scratch that - there is everything about a biscuit. In a skilled set of hands, a humble meld of flour, fat, liquid and leavening are transformed into something that sustains both body and spirit through the toughest times. But honestly, even a so-called "cheater" biscuit from a box mix, can (a.k.a. "whomp biscuits") or freezer is better than having no biscuit at all.
Chill the flour and sift it before you measure it. This keeps fat cold and helps make the end result much fluffier.
Whisk dry ingredients rather than stirring to work out clumps and add airiness.
Don't omit the salt - it's a key ingredient that brings the flavor together. A pinch of sugar helps form a slightly crunchy crust, without adding a whole lot of sweetness.
Play around to find the fat combination you like best for both flavor and texture. I prefer a 50/50 blend of lard and unsalted butter, but then again, a biscuit is a highly personal thing. In any case, chill whatever fat you're going to use to help form light, flaky layers.
Cut the cold fat into butter-pat-sized pieces, then rinse your hands under cold water (or handle an ice cube for a minute or two), dry them and use your fingers to rub the fat and dry ingredients together. You're working toward a texture where half the mixture is like meal, and the rest is in pea-sized lumps.
Whatever liquid you use (I swear by buttermilk) make sure it's cold, and that the dough is fairly wet, so steam can help fluff the layers.
Some people beat, roll or drop, but I knead my dough a little, then pat it into a long oval, then prick lightly with a fork before cutting.
If you decide to cut your biscuits, try not to twist the cutter as you raise and lower it, so the sides don't seal and they can rise higher. Then, let the sides touch a little when you place the biscuits on the pan, skillet or cookie sheet (lined with parchment paper), so some portions crisp up and others remain fluffy when they break apart.
Use the top couple of oven racks and let the temperature reach 500°F before putting the biscuits in. Brush the tops with melted butter as soon as they leave the oven.
And if you'd care to take biscuit matters into your heart as well, here are a few stories worth sinking your teeth into:
Down South, it's not breakfast without flaky, fluffy lard biscuits born of a cast-iron skillet. They are more than just morning fare; they're time machines that transport some of us back to years far leaner.
My old man was a Baptist preacher's kid, during the Great Depression. He grew up poor.
He had an enormous appetite, and enjoyed all kind of new and exotic foods. I like to think of him as a sort of proto-foodie. He would always clean his plate and proudly slap me on the back when I was able to inhale everything served to me and still ask for seconds. It wasn't until I was older that I understood that when you go to bed hungry as a kid, you grow up making sure you eat every single morsel presented to you. Because you never know when it's not going to be there. (Read more)
Biscuits. Everybody has an opinion on them – particularly in the South where nary a country breakfast spread exists without a steaming batch fresh out of the oven.
They're also served hot with a side of controversy: lard versus butter, White Lily flour versus run-of-the-mill, twisting or not twisting the biscuit cutter. Generations of home cooks, like Lisa Fain, have sat around the table buttering up their own version and debating the right way to make them.
Fain – a Texas native-turned-New Yorker – writes the Homesick Texan food blog, and has now compiled those nostalgic recipes she grew up with into “The Homesick Texan Cookbook.”
She's not claiming her biscuits are the end-all be-all, but you can bet your cowboy boots they're pretty darn delicious. (Read more)
Let's say for the sake of argument that you've been drinking. For a day or two. Possibly three. It's the holidays (which you loathe), you've been hanging out with family (who loooove themselves some holiday cheer), and your home borough (hundreds of miles away and to the North) has suffered a snowpocalypse that has inspired every national newscaster to tell you, with no small measure of glee that all your worldly possessions, neighbors and colleagues have likely been consumed by yeti. (So sorry.)
You probably would not mind a biscuit. Oh, who are we kidding? In order to survive the next hour of your life, you're going to require the ingestion of a biscuit roughly the size of a hassock, ideally with some manner of viciously salty pork nestled within its floury depths. (Read more)
I do like me some biscuits. I've never tasted any finer than Granny's. I kin imagine these would come close.
oops, with a blush. I'm sure she's a fine biscuit too. I meant to post this.
I made peach butter this weekend and on Tuesday, my coworkers and I bought a dozen biscuits from the local chicken place down the street and had peach butter and biscuits for lunch. It was quite tasty.
How do you make a better biscuit? Bacon!
Oh you silly – that's ham. But it's still a breakfast meat ... so, yeah! Go for it.