Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sop It Up with a Biscuit

Picture this. I'm in my early twenties and out with some friends when I'm approached not with a simple 'hello' but with this: "Girl, you look so sweet I wanna take you home and sop you up with a biscuit." I kid you not. He said that. Did I run away?  yes! Not immediately, and you know why? Because there's something kind of endearing and flattering about being considered as delectable as the queen of all comfort foods: a biscuit.
I mean, really...What says 'Southern' like a good ol' fresh biscuit?  Biscuits ARE the ultimate Southern comfort food.  After I found an Alton Brown recipe for Southern biscuits that received rave reviews on the Food Network's website, I couldn't get biscuits off my mind!  And if it's food and it's gonna be on my might as well be in my tummy, too!  That's when I made the decision that making biscuits would be my next cooking disaster adventure. It seems fairly simple.  It can't be that hard, right????  So, for all you health-conscious folks out there, I'd like to ask you a HUGE favor.  Just for a moment, throw your diet du jour out the window, grab your rolling pin, put on your fat pants, and embrace your Southern heritage!
Honestly, before this experience I've never cooked a biscuit that didn't come in a can.  I agree they are convenient and delish, but I can't shake the thought that being able to cook a made-from-scratch biscuit is the essence of being a true Southern woh-man.  Bebe would be so proud (I REALLY wish I could convey my Southun' drawl in my writing!).  
For my first try, I actually decided to combine two recipes I found--and still did my own thing a little bit, too.  I used Alton's biscuit recipe, but I used a co-worker's tip to roll out the biscuits with my hands, and finally (phew!) a different recipe for the cooking directions.  Confused yet?
There are several reasons I decided to bypass the rolling pin. 1). I thought it would be quicker to roll them with your hands, 2). I thought the mess would be reduced by not having dough and flour all over my counter, and the main reason: 3). I only own two cutters--both technically cookie cutters--one of which is in the shape of a male body part, which I'm pretty sure is not quite suitable for a family style dinner where small children and proper adults will be in attendance. What?  I know. I know.  It sounds strange, but in my defense I purchased that particular cookie cutter for a bachelorette party several years ago and used it to make ham sandwiches.  Yummy! I DO love a theme!!   

Anyway, back to the point: my goal is to discover the easiest way to create the best Southern biscuits.  Rather than make an extra trip to the store to buy a cutter, I ended up taking a co-worker's advice for rolling out biscuits.  She said once you make your dough pinch off a half-dollar size ball roll in hands, set on cookie sheet (or iron skillet) and gently mash the top.  This brings up another point:  almost every.single.recipe. I've found for biscuits holds the disclaimer: "Don't overwork your biscuit dough!"  My question is how do you know if you've overworked it?  I'm having a really hard time finding an answer to this question.  It's not like the dough is going to jump out of the bowl, join a union and go on strike if you work it too much! 
I decided to ask my grandmother, Bebe--a biscuit-making machine—how you know if your dough is overworked.  Her response to my question: "Way-ull...the dough get's hawrd,       Ay-un-deh."  What's that, you say?  Let me interpret for you: "Well, the dough gets hard, Andie." So, it's that simple?    Guess so.  Basically, you just work as little as possible to mix ingredients and roll out your dough.  The more you work it, the tougher it becomes.  And...make sure you keep your hands good and floured so the dough doesn't stick to your fingers.  I learned the hard way, see??

My first attempt tasted pretty darn good, but to be honest, they were U-G-L-Y.  So...I took round two of my biscuit-making saga on the road to Bebe's house. Her recipe for dough was very similar, but MUCH easier.  Instead of using all-purpose flour, baking soda, and baking powder, you can just use self-rising flour.  She did roll her dough--which really took less time than rolling them in my hands--onto a piece of wax paper to minimize mess, and cut them with a cutter.  Since I don't have a cutter, when I made these by myself I used a kitchen glass as a cutter.  Worked like a charm as long as there was plenty of flour on it to keep it from sticking --THANK YOU, DEAR LORD JESUS IN HEAVEN I THINK I'VE FIGURED IT OUT!!! 
Bebe's mad dough-mixing skillz.

Here are some pictures I took at Bebe's house while the biscuits were cooking for your viewing pleasure.  Starting at the top: An old pic of my sisters and moi in our dancing get-ups; pork n' beans???; Bebe's refrigerator of pics (she loves to brag on folks--too bad I have NO idea who most of those people are!!!); and lastly, various used twist ties--because one can never have too many.  Enjoy :)

In the words of the great Michael Jackson, “Have you seen my childhoooood?” ♫♫ Ok. Now, grab a tissue, dry up those eyes, and let’s get cooking!   Through this whole process, I have learned that there is an art to creating a biscuit that is both tasty AND attractive.  It takes practice.  I, myself, have made biscuits 47,000 many times in the past week trying to perfect it.  Don't stress so much about the beauty of them. To me, the real beauty lies in the taste.  Besides, I prefer to think that imperfections are what make them look home-made--it adds character.  I’ll keep telling myself that!
Here's the exact recipe I used. 
2 cups self-rising flour
2 T. shortening (AKA Crisco for those of you who are clueless like me and didn’t know what shortening is!)
2 T. butter
1 cup buttermilk, chilled  (+ 1 T. if you want to brush the tops of your biscuits with buttermilk)  

Step-by-step dummy-proof directions:
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Grease your pan with shortening (or Pam J).  I opted to use my iron skillet instead.  To prepare it, drop a large tablespoon of Crisco in the skillet and pop it in the oven while it’s heating. 
3.  Before your hands get messy, go ahead and get out your bowl for mixing, wax paper for rolling out your dough, a rolling pin, your biscuit cutter, and throw a little flour on your wax paper so you’re ready to go when your dough’s ready—I learned the hard way that it’s not easy to get all this stuff out when your hands are covered with sticky dough.  Learn from my mistakes. You’re welcome!
3. In a large mixing bowl, sift flour.  Using your fingertips, rub butter and shortening into dry ingredients until the mixture looks like crumbs.
4.  Make a well in the center and pour in chilled buttermilk.

Pouring the buttermilk in the well.
5. Stir with hands just until dough comes together.  It will be very sticky—don’t panic.
6.  Turn dough onto your floured wax paper (or whatever surface you choose).  Very lightly dust the top with flour and fold over 5 or 6 times.
7.  Roll out dough with rolling pin until it’s about one-inch thick. 
8.  Cut out biscuits with your cutter of choice, and place biscuits on baking sheet.  (If you chose to use your iron skillet, this is the point you pull it out of the oven—in case you didn’t figure that out! J)You can place the biscuits very close together; they don’t spread out—just UP. Reform scrap dough and continue cutting until you use up all your dough.
Cutting the biscuits with my "cutter."  Pay no attention to the
dough I rolled onto the table.  Hey, I'm new at this!

9.  Brush tops of biscuits with buttermilk.  I tried making these biscuits with and without the buttermilk.  The buttermilk way is WAY better.  It makes the biscuits nice and brown on top.

10.  Bake until biscuits are tall and golden on top, about 15 minutes.

So, if you're looking to add an element of nostalgia to your boring dinner menu, whip up a batch of these Southern biscuits--you'll LURVE them!  CAUTION:  Make sure your mama's not standing nearby when you taste them, because you'll definitely get the urge to slap her they're so good :)  
If you have any questions feel free to send us a message or email us!  Happy baking!! 



  1. I could really tell what a difference the iron skillet made! The bottoms of the biscuits were flaky and buttery...delish!!

  2. These sound so good; I can't wait to try them!

  3. Sounds great and P.S. I love your southern drawl!! Ay-yun-dee.

  4. Andie brought some hot biscuits over to my bridge party and got twelve positive votes from them! They were to die for!