Buttermilk Biscuits

Homesick… it comes and goes a few times a year.  That is the part of leaving the place where you grew up, that no one really explains to you, that there will be days that you remember home with a smile and some days that smile has a slight tinge of sadness, a melancholy about it.

You’ve left and you are experiencing so much, growing and changing and laughing and loving, and you wonder if everything back “home” is changing too. Does the breeze still smell the same and does it blow lazily through my Mother’s curtains the same way?  Who will be popping over for a visit at her house this afternoon?  What juicy stories will they share with one another? What will she offer them? Sweet tea, cookies, cakes?

Oh, more than likely she will offer them biscuits. My very first memories of food involve biscuits; my mother had these bready little delicacies at every meal. I guess my obsession with food, could all be traced back to my mother’s tiny little kitchen and those ever present buttermilk biscuits that I smothered in cane syrup so thick it takes a week to dribble out of the jar.

It only seems right that the first recipe I would learn as a girl of 8 or 9 would be my family’s biscuit recipe. After my Mom worked the dough to the point of forming the biscuits, she would have me stick my hands in it to understand the perfect consistency of a well made biscuit.

After I started preparing biscuits for my family, my dad would claim in whispered tones that my biscuits were better than my mother’s, a lie, perhaps, but sweet none the less. Regardless, I can still remember feeling very proud and confident in any cooking endeavor because of my parents constant enthusiasm for my cooking, starting with those simple little biscuits. Here’s to fond memories and beautifully simple food that takes us back.

My Mother’s Buttermilk Biscuits

Biscuit Sandwich
Biscuit Sandwich

2 cups White Lily All Purpose Flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

¼ cup shortening

2/3  to ¾ cup buttermilk

A few tabs of butter

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Whisk together all dry ingredients. Make a well in dry ingredients and put clump of shortening in the middle. Pour buttermilk into moat around the shortening. Mix with hand by squishing the shortening and buttermilk and incorporating the flour. Only mix until dough is still very soft in middle but well coated on outside with flour. There will still be quite a bit of flour left. Roll into 1 ½ inch balls and place in a thick oven safe pan, such as crockery or cast iron. Gently pat down with hand. Add a tiny dab of shortening and a small tab of butter to the top of each biscuit. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. This will make 5-6 biscuits.

Biscuits can be eaten in many ways. Biscuits served in the morning are traditionally eaten with meat sandwiched in butter and jelly. Meat options include ham, bacon, sausage, fried chicken, and country fried steak. However, they can be served with eggs and cheese, sausage gravy, cane syrup, and honey.

Biscuit Recipe Without White Lily Flour

Having grown up in the Southern part of the United States with White Lily flour as a staple, I was pretty surprised to find out that this is a regional brand.  I was also astonished to find that my biscuits were hard and unappetizing  using other brands. Without getting too technical, I found out that White Lily flour is made from 100% soft winter wheat which has a much lower protein content than other brands of all-purpose flours. In order to replicate the biscuits of my youth without White Lily flour, I prepare them using a ratio of cake flour to all purpose flour now.

Biscuits
Biscuits

1 1/4 C. cake flour

3/4 C. all-purpose flour

3  t. baking powder

1/4 t. baking soda

1  t. salt

1/8 C. butter, cut into small chunks

1/8  C. vegetable shortening, cut into small chunks

3/4 C. buttermilk

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Prepare ingredients: Cut butter into small chunks, place in a bowl and return to fridge. Measure out buttermilk and set aside. Sprinkle flour on a work surface and have extra flour nearby for your hands and biscuit cutter. Have biscuit cutter and a cast iron skillet handy. In a medium-large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt until very well blended. Add fats and cut into flour using a pastry blender, two knives or your fingertips, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pour in buttermilk and stir lightly until dough comes together in a ball.  Dump dough mixture out onto floured work surface. Pat out into a circle, 3/4 – 1 inch thick. Dip cutter into flour and cut biscuits without twisting the cutter. Form the dough scraps into an extra biscuit-like shape instead of re-rolling the dough. Place cut biscuits together in a cast iron skillet so that the sides are touching. Brush tops with melted butter, if desired. Place skillet in the middle of a preheated 500 degree oven and bake for 8-10 minutes until they are golden brown. Remove biscuits to a wire rack to cool for a few minutes.

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