Wednesday, October 6, 2010
The first time I encountered a good Southern biscuit was in 1977. I remember it very clearly. My wife and I were still 'young marrieds', and we had gone on a road trip with her parents to Atlanta, GA. Well, what can I say. Here I was, a country mouse in the city. As you can imagine, I had never really experienced large American cities before. Sure we had visited Baltimore, where she grew up, but Atlanta was just huge. I had never seen anything like it. To top it off, there was this accent, which to my Eastern Canadian ears was some kind of lingua incognita... what was that!! The first morning, at the hotel breakfast bar I was introduced to the Southern biscuit. When, out of curiosity I asked the waitress what kind of biscuits they were she replied in her best Southern "I dunno, dey's jest biscuits!".
Now in the South, they take their biscuits seriously. Every self-respecting cook has his/her own recipe and everyone claims to be the champ. This is not anything like a Northern biscuit and is not cake-like at all. It is a combination of a bread using both chemical leaveners (baking powder and baking soda) along with yeast. The result is light and fluffy, flaky, bready and just plain delicious. In the Old South the fat of choice was usually lard - good quality lard. Most modern cooks as well as hotels, have long ago abandoned it in favor of butter or margarine. Since I will not accept the responsibility of recommending a cardiologist, I have done the same. You must try these, they will change your idea of biscuits forever.
Here's What You'll Need: (for about 25 biscuits)
5 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbs. sugar
3/4 cup margarine
2 cups buttermilk (or 2 cups milk and 2 Tbs. vinegar)
2 1/2 tsp. to 1 Tbs. yeast dissolved in 1/2 cup water
Here's What You'll Need to do:
1. Mix dry ingredients together.
2. Cut in margarine until well mixed.
3. Add buttermilk and dissolved yeast all at once. Stir until all flour is moistened.
4. Store in container in refrigerator at least 2 hours before using. (Better to wait one day.)
5. On floured board, roll out desired amount of dough and cut with 2 inch biscuit cutter.
6. Brush with melted butter just before placing in oven.
7. Bake at 400 degrees (preferably on a preheated cast iron baker) for 12 minutes or until golden brown.
8. Brush with melted butter immediately after removing from oven, if desired.
These biscuits dry fairly quickly so keep them well covered. Actually, you'll find they are gone before you have to worry about that, but still...