Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Grandmama's Biscuits

**Note: This recipe has been updated and, hopefully, improved in a new post, here.

Much like Harry’s grandmother’s pumpkin pie recipe, her buttermilk biscuit recipe is perfectly delicious. It’s old-fashioned and unpretentious and leaves me with little desire to try any other biscuit recipes.

I thought I would have so much to say about Grandmama’s biscuits when I finally got around to posting their recipe to The Messy Apron. The words I can come up with just aren’t enough, though. Even the thousands of words painted by these mediocre photos fall short. No, I would have to make these biscuits and feed them to you while they’re warm, the aroma of their baking still floating gently in the air, for me to get my point across. I really, really wish I could do that.

I don’t know what makes these biscuits special. I suppose in a bygone era, they weren’t special, just the food that someone who loved you made on a regular basis, the food that you didn’t even know was an endangered species of sorts, doomed to fall to whole grains and omega-3 fatty acids. But special they are now, special enough to make only once in a while so their fluffy, refined flour and copious amount of butter don’t completely annihilate our higher WFQ* lifestyles.

Much like with a decadent dessert, the deviation from a high WFQ is totally worth it when it comes to these biscuits. They’re soft, layered, flaky and buttery. They’re slightly tangy from the buttermilk, sufficiently neutral to accompany just about anything, just as a good biscuit should. I recently baked them to serve alongside this stew and was reminded just how wonderful they are, just how perfect Grandmama’s baking must have been.

Okay, may lightning strike me down, but I did change one thing, kind of a big thing, in Grandmama’s recipe. The original called for “yellow Crisco,” which I never have on hand, so I use butter. I’m sure that back before shortening was believed to be the cheap and easy (and, erroneously, healthier) alternative, butter would have been the preferred fat for homemade biscuits. Either that or lard, and I never have lard around either. Anyway, the butter is great and I won’t apologize for using it.

These biscuits are best served shortly after they come out of the oven, but they’re fine the next day after a bit of refreshing in the microwave. I rarely serve stews without them and they’re quite nice with a bit of jam the next morning (if you can manage to keep from eating them all right away.) They’re also not too shabby as the base for strawberry shortcake. Well, I just made myself hungry for biscuits all over again, and wish I had enough buttermilk left to make more. Then I’d have you over for a snack and you could get a genuine appreciation of what I’m trying to tell you about how great Grandmama’s biscuits are!

* WFQ: Whole Food Quotient

Grandmama’s Buttermilk Biscuits

3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon fine salt
5 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup cold butter (1 stick)
1 ½ cups cultured buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 450 F. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Sift or whisk together to combine.

2. Cut the butter into small chunks. With a pastry blender or knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it is well-distributed and the butter pieces are smaller than peas and coated with flour. (I usually end up using my hands to work in the butter satisfactorily.)

3. Add the buttermilk and stir gently until all of the flour mixture is moistened. Gently knead in the bowl a few times to get the dough to come together and incorporate all the buttermilk.

4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently pat it out to about 1 inch thick. Cut the dough into about 12 biscuits with a round cutter or an inverted glass. (I used a 2 ½-inch biscuit cutter.) Place the cut biscuits on a baking sheet. (I line my baking sheet with a silicone baking mat.)

5. Bake at 450 F for 10 minutes or until just beginning to brown. Serve as soon as they are cool enough to eat. Leftovers are nice when warmed in the microwave. The biscuits also freeze well.

Makes about 1 dozen biscuits.

Other recipes like this one: Sour Cream Drop Biscuits with Lemon and Thyme (flavorful, but not as good as Grandmama’s), Spinach and Feta Scones with Dill

One year ago: Hummus

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