Cold winter mornings on the farm meant a hearty breakfast before heading out to feed the pigs and cows and work the fields. My grandmother would rise before dawn and fix eggs, bacon or sausage, maybe grits and almost everyday — biscuits. She kept the wooden biscuit tray underneath the counter, adding more flour when needed. The tray was covered with a towel and showed the nicks and crannies in its surface from years of use.
Though I watched my grandmother and my mother, who makes the same biscuits, many times as they added shortening, poured in buttermilk, then rolled the biscuits in their hands to place them on the pan, it took years of practice before I could perfect the method myself. And I still have to actually measure the ingredients, as I haven’t perfected the “just add it until it looks right” method. I have learned the feel of the dough, however, and this, I believe, is what comes from years of practice. You just know when the dough feels right. You know when it’s too sticky and you need to add more flour, or you know when it’s too dry and you need to add more buttermilk. The practicing is worth it — once you get it right, you can produce light, tender biscuits in minutes which taste so much better than anything from a can or freezer.
Here’s what you’ll need:
Note: I only use White Lily flour for biscuits. Usually all-purpose, but if you don’t have it then self-rising works just fine. If you use self-rising, skip the baking powder and salt as it’s already included.
- 4 cups White Lily all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 stick cold unsalted butter
- 1 ½ cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 500°. I don’t grease the pan, but you can if you want. In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and mix in using your hands or a pastry blender.
You want the flour and butter to become crumbly and well-mixed.
Make a well in the middle of your flour and add the milk, a little at a time, using a fork to incorporate flour from the sides of the bowl. Mix the milk until the flour is all incorporated and you have sticky dough.
Then you will sprinkle a little more flour until you can handle the dough without it sticking to your fingers. If the dough appears too dry and crumbly then you probably need to pour in a little more milk. Knead very, very gently. The more you work the dough, the more likely your biscuits will turn out like hockey pucks. When the dough is ready, it will be smooth and slightly moist. And, of course, I forgot to take a picture of what the dough should look like.
Pick up a handful of dough and roll slightly and place on pan, then flatten a bit until it’s almost an inch high. This will give you large, fluffy biscuits. You can also roll them out and use a biscuit cutter but that seems like too much trouble to me. Place the biscuits on the pan touching or almost touching each other.
You can let them sit out for a bit and continue to rise a little or you can bake immediately. I usually get everything else done and bake the biscuits last, so they are hot as soon as we sit down at the table. Bake 10-12 minutes until golden brown.
Now, grab some butter and jam and see if you can eat just one.