From the Castle Kitchen: Bewitching Biscuits

I love to bake. There is something about all that mixing, stirring, and kneading that relieves my stress. I can follow a recipe, but I am also unafraid to ad lib and experiment as I see fit. Cookies and breads are my favorites to bake. Cookies are always a great remedy for the blues and bread…Bread is life. It is actually alive and I think one cannot survive without it. Ask any French person and they will agree.

There i was, happily kneading bread dough in my kitchen one morning, and my husband says,”Why don’t you try making biscuits?” Biscuits. A Southern staple. His dad grew up eating them most mornings Down South. Sure, I think. How hard can it be?

My first batch tasted alright, but they had no rise. You know those flaky layers that seem to soar into the heavens? That is what I wanted. The next batch I made, I placed my biscuits closer together on the pan because I read the proximity would form steam and thus help my dough rise.

I had a little more rise with the next batch, but I was missing those layers of buttery goodness weaving their way throughout the dough. I switched from using vegetable shortening to lard. Yes, lard. If it worked for all of those Grand Mamas Down South, it could work for me. Healthy, schmealthy. I was making biscuits.

Lard was the right flavor, but I was still missing those layers. I consulted every one of my cookbooks and watched about a million YouTube videos on the proper way to add fat to biscuits. Some chefs prefer to add their fat with their fingers and gently rub it into the flour to form little balls. The problem with this method is that it is imperative  that the dough remain ice cold. I keep my lard in the freezer and only bring it out once I am ready to use it. I prefer to grate in the lard using a handheld grater. Genius.

When I am making bread, I can really knead like crazy and rid myself of any lingering worries or stress. With biscuits, if you knead too much, your biscuits will become too tough and dense. On the other hand, if you do not work the dough enough, you will not get those light, lovely layers of buttery perfection. You will have no idea of you did too much or not enough, until your take your biscuits out of the oven and cut into them.

Since baking is a science, I decided to systematically and scientifically tweak my biscuit recipe, each time only making minor adjustments. After literally hundreds of batches of biscuits, I think I have a recipe that would make Grand Mama proud.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (8.5 oz.) of White Lily Self-Rising Flour (White Lily Flour has the most decadent velvety texture. You need White Lily, just trust me!)
  • 4 oz. lard (keep in freezer until ready to use)
  • 2/3 – 3/4 cup of Buttermilk. (I have to use 3/4 cup because I live in a very dry climate.)

Tools:

  • The Drop Scale (This is the most amazing kitchen scale that uses an app on your Smart phone or tablet. It also has recipes! Yes, I am an affiliate, but it is also the product that has changed my life.)
  • Biscuit Cutter Set because I like experimenting with the sizes.)
  • Metal Bowl
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Handheld Grater like Cuisinart Boxed Grater
  • Metal Baking Pan

Directions:

      1. Preheat oven to 490 degrees. Your biscuits might like a temperature anywhere from 475-500 degrees. My biscuits like 490 degrees.
      2. Measure your flour into your bowl using the Drop Scale. Exact measurement is key because you can pack a measuring cup too loosely or tightly and it can dramatically affect your dough.
      3. Measure your lard using the Drop Scale and grate it into your flour. Save a little extra lard to grease your pan.
      4. Gently mix lard and flour with spoon. Then, make a well in the center of your flour.
      5. Add buttermilk. I usually have to add 3/4 of a cup plus a splash. You want your dough to “just come together”. It should not be too sticky or too dry, but somewhere in between.
      6. Turn your dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a rectangle, gently by hand. If you tend to have warm hands, you may want to rub them with ice before touching the dough.
      7. Fold like an envelope by taking the top to the center and the bottom to the center and pressing out. Flip and repeat. I repeat the process three times.
      8. Using floured biscuit cutter, press cutter down, but do not turn the cutter. Place dough circles onto greased pan.
      9. Place biscuits in pan with edges touching. This will help them rise. Also using a pan instead of a baking sheet helps trap the steam.
      10. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Check them after 8 minutes, but do not open the oven door! You want them to be a rich, golden brown.

 

Biscuits 2

Golden Bown, Flaky Biscuits

I like serving these with sorghum, which is like the love child of molasses and honey. While I admittedly spent too many hours working on this recipe, the results are delicious!