PROVO, June 20, 2014—Bread is an essential part of a southern dinner. Thin slices of white Bunny bread, cornbread and icebox rolls all take a turn, but for many a hot fluffy biscuit is the ultimate item at the dinner table. There are many different types of biscuits served up in the South: sweet milk biscuits, buttermilk biscuits, angel biscuits (with a touch of yeast for lift), and cat head biscuits to name a few. Don’t fret, they aren’t actually made from cat heads. The name refers to the shape.
Being able to whip up a batch of homemade biscuits in a few minutes comes with some added benefits. Your mad kitchen skills will be showcased when serving impossibly tall tender biscuits that do not have that canned taste. They also have the dual-purposed functionality as soppers of pot liquor, and receptacles of all of that jam you will make this summer. A pile of hot fluffy biscuits on the table will bring everyone running at suppertime, and if there are leftovers (not likely), you can cram them full of eggs and bacon and have a breakfast sandwich better than anything from a fast food joint.
This recipe is for buttermilk biscuits, although you can substitute kefir or Swedish filmjolk for the with fantastic results. Use cultured buttermilk if you can find it because the culture provides better flavor, and more rise.
With this recipe, there is no reason to chill shortening, sift flour, or spend an eternity mashing globs of shortening into to the flour. All of that fretfulness has been done away with because we’re making biscuits folks, not puff pastry. Thoroughly cutting the flour into the shortening is an important step to perfect biscuits. Use a food processor with a sharp blade, or stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Just let it whir until fine crumbs appear.
The finished dough should have the consistency of stiff mashed potatoes, but it will be stickier. If it is too wet add a touch of flour, too dry, add a bit more milk. The biscuit cutter used is also very important. It must be metal and sharpish. The duller your cutter, the flatter the biscuits will be. If you don’t have a round cutter, use a sharp knife and cut square biscuits.
When making biscuits, touch the dough as little as possible, and do not stir it once the liquid is added. Knead it only a few times, and pat the dough gently.
Southern-style Buttermilk Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
¾ cup buttermilk
¼ cup milk + extra if needed
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Grease a 9×13 baking dish or large round cake pan.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of a large stand mixer and stir to combine. Add the shortening to the bowl and with the whisk attachment, cut the shortening into the flour mixture. Mix it on medium until fine crumbs appear and all lumps of shortening are incorporated.
Remove the bowl from stand mixer. Pour in buttermilk and milk, and toss with a fork. Do not stir. When the buttermilk and milk are combined with the flour mixture, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
Flour your counter top generously. Scrape the lump of dough from the bowl into the middle of the flour and sprinkle more flour on top. The dough will be sticky so flour your hands as well. Pat the dough down into a thick flat disk. Don’t worry if it is oddly shaped and lumpy. Fold in half, and pat down again. Repeat until you have folded it about 5 times.
Pat the dough into a smooth circle about 1 inch thick. Flour your biscuit cutter or knife and start cutting biscuits. Place the biscuits in the greased pan. It is ok if the sides of the biscuits touch. When there are only scraps left gather the scraps, and pat them into a circle. Fold the circle in half, pat it down, and then repeat once more. Cut more biscuits until all scraps of dough are used.
Bake the biscuits for about 12-15 minutes or until tall, fluffy, and golden. Turn the hot biscuits out onto a clean dish towel.
Serve with just about anything and enjoy.