Butter Together: Biscuits? Everybody's got time for that

 

Amelia Plair

Amelia Plair

 

 

Amelia Plair

 

 

First of all -- and I hope this goes without saying, but I'm going to say it anyway just in case -- I would never wish COVID-19 on anyone. I'm sorry that it's here and I would make it go away if I could.

 

However, this quarantine has taught me a lot of things. There are things that felt important before that no longer feel important now. And there are things I treasure now that I never did before.

 

One of those things is making biscuits. I know, I know ... it sounds stupid. Really stupid.

 

 

But I can remember a friend once asking if I had any biscuit-making tips. I laughed and said I'd never make biscuits because it's far too easy to buy a bag of frozen Mary B's or Pillsbury biscuits for me to bother making my own.

 

Fast forward a few years. These days, I cook breakfast for my family every morning. Panic-buying resulted in biscuits flying out of coolers, so I was able to buy flour but no biscuits. Suddenly, Mary B's looked a lot less convenient.

 

Luckily, I had a few aces up my sleeve. I'd watched my friend Michelle -- the Biscuit Lady herself -- cut out a batch of biscuits once, and I knew her dough was far wetter than I otherwise would have tried. I also watched a video of an older Southern lady making biscuits and discovered the technique for mixing the buttermilk into the flour.

 

I also live next door to the biscuit master -- my mama. She's perfected her technique and recipe over many years. But I'll be honest with you: I didn't ask her for tips. I knew learning her recipe the way she does it would probably require my standing next to her in her kitchen. But we are practicing strict social distancing, primarily in an effort to keep her and Daddy safe.

 

So I decided to try a simple recipe I thought I could pull off on my own. I plan to learn hers when it's safe for me to be at her elbow again. In the meantime, I turned to my old friend, the back of the flour bag.

 

So the recipe I started with came from the back of the White Lily self-rising flour bag. I've made some adjustments for taste and ease, per my usual. Ordinarily, I'd suggest trying other types of flour as well, but White Lily is made from a variety of wheat that is ideally suited for biscuits, so if you have access to it, use it.

 

Amelia Plair is a mom and high school teacher in Starkville. Email reaches her at [email protected]

 

 

BEGINNER'S DROP BISCUITS

 

 

2 cups White Lily self-rising flour (you can use other types, but White Lily is best for biscuits)

 

4 tablespoons solid fat (shortening or lard)

 

Approximately 2 cups full-fat buttermilk

 

2-3 tablespoons butter, melted

 

 

  • Preheat oven to 425 F. Grease a 10- or 12-inch cast iron skillet or round cake pan. In a medium mixing bowl, pour flour.

     

  • Add the shortening. Use a pastry cutter, two knives, or a fork to work the fat into the flour. Do not use your fingers, even though you may be tempted to do so. You do not want the fat to get warm enough to melt because those little chunks of fat will make the biscuits light and airy. When the fat is fully incorporated, the mixture will resemble coarse sand.

     

  • Use a wooden spoon or silicon spatula to push the flour to the edges of the bowl and create a hole in the middle of the bowl. Pour buttermilk into the hole until it reaches the very top of the hole. Place spoon in the middle of the buttermilk. Working from the inside out, begin working the flour into the buttermilk. Try not to retread an area where you've already mixed. The easiest way to do this is to work in concentric circles that get larger as you go. Stop when your mixture resembles cottage cheese. Yes, cottage cheese. Not cottage cheese covered in flour, but literally so close to cottage cheese that your child might think that's what is in the bowl. If the outside edges of the bowl still have dry flour on them, that is OK. Toss it out when you are done.

     

  • Begin dropping biscuits into the prepared pan. They will look funny. You will doubt me. But I promise they will taste great. I use a large cookie scoop for this. An ice cream scoop or quarter-cup measure would also work, as would two large spoons.

     

  • Try to space the biscuits evenly around the pan; I usually get eight biscuits around the edge and two in the center. Be aware that the biscuits will rise and probably run together as they cook; this is fine. When all the dough is in the pan, pour a tiny bit of melted butter over the top of each pile of dough. Place the pan in the oven. Mine take about 15 minutes to cook through; start checking around 13 minutes. When they are done, they will appear pale on top but dry. The bottoms will be golden and taste a bit fried. Serve hot.

     

     

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