If I recall the first southern-style biscuit I ate was during college when I went to the Cracker Barrel in Christiansburg, VA. To a northerner such as me, biscuits were not just a part of the meals whether at home or in a restaurant regardless of the time of day. The closest thing to biscuits growing up was quick drop biscuits made my mom from Bisquik. Not exactly the same thing as southern biscuit made by hand.
Twenty plus years of living in the south, I have heard a variety of tales and stories about biscuits. There is intense discussion on the use of lard or vegetable shortening and even a few that dare to use butter. Likewise, there are claims that southern self-rising flour, which contains less gluten, is critical to a perfect light biscuit versus all-purpose flour. Then there is the gender prejudice that claims that because a male’s hands are warmer than a female; that a man cannot make good biscuits because the heat of his hands will melt the fat when mixing with the flour. The best story that I have heard was from a good old boy from the heart of Louisiana who would never eat a biscuit that was not made by one of the women in his family. His reasoning was steeped in superstition that if you ate a biscuit made by someone other than a woman of the family you would be cursed.
I reviewed dozen or so recipes on-line and with only a minor amount of variation, they all said basically said the same thing; use cold shortening / lard, only mix in the wet ingredients right before baking and do not over mix. Based upon all that I read, the following is the list of ingredients and amounts that I chose for this first batch of homemade biscuits.
- 2 Cups of Flour, Sifted
- 3 Teaspoons of Baking Powder, Sifted
- ½ Teaspoon of Table Salt, Sifted
- 4 Tablespoons of Vegetable Shortening
- ¾ Cup of Buttermilk
- Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.
- Add the shortening and cut in until the mixture looks like loose crumbles. I used a spatula since I figured I had less chance of failure then using my hot hands.
- Make a small hole in the mixture and pour in the buttermilk and with a fork, lightly mix all of the ingredients together.
- On a lightly floured counter top / board dump the mixture and lightly knead for about 30 seconds.
- Lightly flatten out until the mixture is about a half inch thick.
- Cut out the biscuits using the rim of a glass (works really well).
- Place the biscuits on a sheet of parchment paper and bake in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for 12 – 15 minutes.
I had no idea if the biscuits were going to come out good or not, but 14 minutes later the tops were golden brown and the biscuits had risen nicely. For this first batch we had them with Chicken a la King, but then for dessert I also enjoyed a biscuit with homemade peach jam. They were really good and far better than any biscuit that came out of a can or was frozen baked from a large bakery. What was even more surprising was how simple it was to make these southern style homemade buttermilk biscuits.
As with most tales and folklore there is an element to truth that the right ingredients and techniques will help makes a better biscuit. With that being said, for my first attempt at southern biscuits, I am quite pleased with the results. Yes, there is room for improvement, but the true lesson learned is that it is possible to make homemade biscuits at home regardless of where you live and your gender for there are some things that just go better with homemade southern style biscuits.