Blue Ribbon Buttermilk Biscuits

"Deliberation, n.: The act of examining one's bread to determine which side it is buttered on."
- Ambrose Bierce

When I was growing up, there were two things we had for breakfast:  buttermilk biscuits, and buttermilk pancakes.  Both were homemade by my mom, very filling, slathered with butter, and in the case of the biscuits, topped with homemade jelly (more on that later).  I attempted to learn to make biscuits as an early teen, but I just couldn't get the hang of it, got frustrated, and never really picked it up again until college.  I wrote my first paper for my EDU 103 class in the summer of 2003 on teaching my husband (then boyfriend) to properly "pat out" biscuits.  I still didn't have the finesse making blue-ribbon winning buttermilk biscuits until I spent 5 months caring for my dying grandfather.  It was then that I perfected a batch of a half-dozen biscuits, golden brown, steaming hot, and made with all the love I could muster.  To set the record straight, I do not measure my ingredients.  I make my biscuits in a Texas Ware bowl, just like my mom.  I eyeball it.  I understand that a lot of people simply cannot bake or cook that way, so I will also provide the recipe from the White Lily cook book I referenced in the Busy Day Microwave Mug Cake recipe.  I call these Blue Ribbon biscuits, because my mom actually won a blue ribbon (more than once) for a plate of these delicacies at our local county fair.

Buttermilk Biscuits

6 heaping 1/4 cup measures White Lily Self-Rising Flour
3-4 fork scrapes shortening (i.e., Crisco)
enough buttermilk

To make buttermilk alternative

If you do not keep buttermilk on hand (I don't), put 2 TB lemon juice or white vinegar in 2 cup glass measuring cup. 

Add enough whole milk to equal 2 cups, stir, let sit til milk coats a spoon. 

If your lemon juice or vinegar is not super fresh, you may need to add more, 1 tsp at a time, stirring between additions, until milk has thickened.  You may also use regular milk, but your dough will be stickier, and the biscuits will not taste the same (i.e., not as good).

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Gather your ingredients and the following utensils: bowl, pastry blender, fork, biscuit cutter, baking stone/sheet

1. Measure flour into ~10 cup mixing bowl.

2. Add shortening.

3. Using a pastry blender (or fork, or knife), "cut in" shortening into the flour until it has a slightly pebbly texture.

4. Using a fork, scrape down the blender, make a well in the middle of the bowl.

5. Pour enough buttermilk into the well to fill it almost to the top of the edge of the well.

6. Using the fork, stir slowly in the center of the milk to begin pulling in the flour/shortening.  Continue stirring slowly until all the flour has been incorporated into the milk.  The dough will be sticky.

7. Lightly flour your countertop or table and scrape all the dough onto the flour.  Lightly flour the top of the dough and make a shallow pile of flour to the side of the dough to dip your cutter into.  I used a silicone pastry mat to cut my biscuits on because I didn't want to scar my table.

8. My mom does not "knead" her dough so much as gather it together and flatten it.  I knead mine gently just to make it smoother.  Also, certain TV chefs tell you not to re-knead the dough in order to use the scraps.  I'm sorry, but where I come from, we don't waste "scrap" dough.  We carefully reshape it, cut it, and repeat.  The thing is, you don't want to touch the dough so much that the shortening starts to melt.  If it melts, you will not have a flaky biscuit.  Also, if you work the dough too much either in your initial knead or your repeat shaping, you will make the dough and resulting biscuits tough.  Another thing to remember - gently rest the cutter on the dough and then press straight down.  Do not twist the cutter!  Then pick it straight up.  Watch the video below to see how to "pat out" the dough and cut the biscuits.

9. Place biscuits evenly around ungreased baking stone (or cookie sheet), taking care not to let the sides touch.  I got 11 out of this batch (the little one is what my mamaw would call the "shoemakers last" because you can't pat it out and cut it again).  I typically make more (12-18) with a larger batch, or I make a half dozen.  However, I usually do not bake at home, I bake for the whole family (parents, brother, husband, kids, etc.) at my parents' house.  My mom has a scoop that I know 3 of gives me 6 biscuits.

10. Place stone on the center rack in a preheated oven, and time for 10 minutes.  Biscuits will be done when they are golden brown on top, and the sides are no longer soft or sticky.

11. In the meantime, save the leftover "buttermilk" you made for Buttermilk Pancakes or Cornbread.  Just make sure you put it in a container with a tightly fitting lid to avoid spills.

12. Remove biscuits from the oven carefully, they will be HOT!  Break one open to check the center for doneness.  If they are not completely done in the middle (doughy), return to the oven for 2 more minutes before checking again.

13. Butter for jelly (or homemade apple butter in this case), or head over to check out the recipe for Chocolate Gravy.

If you can't stand the thought of eyeballing it, here is the recipe I promised from the Great Baking cook book.

Famous White Lily Biscuits (actual recipe)

2 cups White Lily Self-Rising Flour
1/4 cup shortening
2/3 to 3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Place flour in mixing bowl; add shortening.  With pastry blender or blending fork, cut shortening into flour till mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Mixing by hand tends to soften the shortening, making a sticky, difficult-to-handle dough.  Blending the fat completely with the flour or using a liquid shortening produces a mealy biscuit rather than a flaky, tender one.  Gently push the flour mixture to the edges of the bowl, making a well in the center.  Blend in milk with a fork till dough leaves sides of bowl.  Too much milk makes dough too sticky to handle; not enough milk makes biscuits dry.  Do not overmix.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface.  Knead gently 10 to 12 strokes.  A short period of kneading develops biscuit structure and evenly distributes the moisture to make the biscuits more flaky.  On lightly floured surface pat or roll dough to slightly more than 1/2-inch thickness.  Cut with a 2- or 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter, dipping cutter into flour between cuts.  Press cutter straight down to get straight sided, evenly shaped biscuits.  Be especially careful not to twist the cutter or flatten the cut edges.  Transfer cut biscuits to an ungreased baking sheet.  For crusty-sided biscuits place about 1 inch apart.  For soft-sided biscuits, place biscuits with sides just touching.  Reroll scraps of dough and cut into biscuit shapes.  Bake in 500 degree oven for 6 to 8 minutes, or till golden.  (If sides touch, bake biscuits 8 minutes; bake 6 to 7 minutes if sides don't touch.)  Makes eight 2 1/2-inch biscuits or twelve 2-inch biscuits.

No comments:

Post a Comment