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Friday, April 23, 2010


“Mmm, baby, this is the recipe!”

When Kaytie said that, I knew I’d finally made a great batch of biscuits. Off and on, I’ve been working on a recipe and learning the process of biscuit-making over the past year. I grew up with biscuits of the drop or canned variety, but now that I live in Mississippi, I wanted to learn to make the classic Southern biscuits that we have here.

Lots of people claim to have a great biscuit-maker in their family, and in the next breath, they tell me there’s no recipe. You have to watch someone to learn to make biscuits. But nobody ever invited me to watch.

So, I played. I looked online. I picked up some tips along the way. The fat needs to be cold. Kneading too much creates a tough biscuit. Don’t twist the biscuit cutter when you cut the biscuits out. White Lily is the best self-rising flour, and the recipe on the bag is the best. (Not all of the tips panned out. My attempt at the White Lily recipe was a flop. White Lily’s supposed to be good because of the low protein content, so I decided to use cake flour in my recipe. So, some good came out of that batch of tiny hockey pucks.)

These biscuits are soft and light and taste like butter. Good luck!

Classic Southern Biscuits
(makes 10-12 2-inch biscuits)

2 ¼ cups cake flour, plus some extra
2 Tbs double-acting baking powder
1 ¼ tsp salt
½ cup unsalted butter, cold
½ cup butter flavor shortening, cold
1 ¼ cups buttermilk

Put the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and whisk until well-mixed.

Slice the butter and shortening into quarter-inch slices. Toss the slices in the flour mixture to coat them. Use a pastry blender (or two knives) to cut in the butter and shortening. If you’re using knives, move them towards each other through the flour so that they criss-cross in the middle of the bowl like scissors. The point here is to cut the chunks of fat into smaller pieces. You should cut in the butter and shortening until you have pea-sized pieces throughout.

Put the bowl in the fridge for about 10 minutes. You want the butter and shortening to stay cold. I forget why, but it’s important. While you’re waiting, preheat the oven to 450.

Mix in the buttermilk until everything is just combined.

Get yourself a little bowl of flour. Dump the dough onto a floured surface. Liberally dust the top of the dough with flour. Knead it a couple times, adding more flour as necessary. You want the dough to be sticky, but not too sticky.

Pat the dough into a rectangle that is about 3/4 inch thick. Dust the top lightly with flour and fold the rectangle in half. Pick up the dough and smack it back down. I’m not sure why you have to be so rough with it, but Kaytie’s dad thinks the smacking is important, and I did it, and the biscuits turned out well.

Pat the dough back into a rectangle. Repeat this dusting, folding, and smacking process two or three more times.

Pat the dough down to about ¾-inch thickness. Cut biscuits with a two-inch biscuit cutter. (I use a drinking glass.) Do not twist the cutter. Press straight down and pick straight up. Go ahead and cut all the biscuits that can fit before you pick any of them up.

Peel away the extra dough, pick up the biscuits, and place them on a cookie sheet that you have lined with parchment paper. The biscuits should be just touching, side by side.

Mush the extra dough back together. Flatten it out, fold it over, and smack it down. Flatten back out to 3/4 inch thickness. Cut more biscuits, and repeat this process until all the dough is gone.

Bake for 13-15 minutes or until lightly browned.

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