Breakfast to a Southerner means a hearty meal with a skillet of hot-from-the-oven biscuits. When my mother made biscuits, she made so many that she fed some of the other families in the neighborhood. A lifetime friend, Norris Albea, still talks about my mother’s biscuits and how much he enjoyed them.
The secret to making light biscuits is to not work too much flour into the dough and then to be careful about the kneading process. It is best to use only the fingers when kneading biscuits. Kneading too much will produce a heavy biscuit. The dough should be very soft.
Mother always kept her leftover flour from making biscuits in her large wooden bowl, along with her pan sifter. She would just cover the bowl and, when it was time to make biscuits, she would resift the flour and add more if needed. She would fill the bowl and make a deep well in the center. She never measured the flour, and I don’t think she measured the other ingredients, either, but her biscuits were super good. She just had the special touch. My daughter, Debra, has it, too.
Old-fashioned biscuits had to be made with lard, which was later replaced with shortening, but there is a difference.
No “sweet” milk biscuits at our house. All our biscuits were made with buttermilk.
If you don’t want to try the old-fashioned way of making biscuits, perhaps you would like to try some made with club soda. These are amazing. I really didn’t believe that this would work when I noticed the recipe called “The Best Biscuits” in a cookbook published by the Congregational Methodist WMU group. I guess curiosity made me try them, and I am certainly glad that I did. They are wonderful and so easy to make.
Now that you are in the mood for making biscuits, how about extending the menu to include some breakfast meat, eggs, gravy and buttered grits? Makes me want to eat breakfast right now in the middle of the day.
OLD-FASHIONED SOUTHERN BISCUITS
2 to 2 1/2 cups sifted self-rising flour
1/2 cup lard (or shortening)
1 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet or iron skillet. Put the flour into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center. Add lard and buttermilk. Start working the flour into the milk and lard, squeezing the mixture through the fingers until a soft dough is formed. This will be a sticky dough. Lift the dough from the bowl and place on a well-floured surface. Sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough and start folding, gently kneading and turning the dough until it is no longer sticky. Pat or roll the dough to a thickness of about 1/2 inch. Cut with a 2-inch cutter. Place on baking sheet or in skillet. Bake for 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Yield 8 to 10 biscuits.
Note: Instead of cutting the biscuits, many Southern bakers prefer to pinch off portions of dough, making balls about 1 1/2 inch in diameter. These balls of dough are placed in the skillet and pressed gently with the knuckles to flatten slightly.
THE BEST BISCUITS(submitted by Carol Manning)
4 cups biscuit mix
8 ounces sour cream
3/4 cup club soda
1 stick margarine (or butter)
Mix first three ingredients. Turn onto lightly greased surface and knead gently. Flatten dough to about 1/2 inch. Cut out with biscuit cutter. Melt margarine (or butter) on baking sheet. Place biscuits on baking sheet. (I like to turn them over so that both sides are buttered). Bake in hot oven (about 425 degrees) until golden brown.