A Good Biscuit

Contrary to popular ideas about the South, the inability to bake the perfect biscuit won’t diminish one’s social standing in the community. If for no other reason, hardly anyone bothers to make them from scratch anymore. In the age of baking mixes and downright decent frozen grocery store biscuits*, actually whipping up a batch yourself is fast becoming a craft you’ll soon have to travel to a History Center to observe in progress. If you struggle with some besetting sin, however, listen up, because serving a hot and tender homemade biscuit can keep your social stock out of the gutter pretty much no matter what you’ve done. “She works her kids like a mule-skinner, but she bakes a decent biscuit. “Biscuits are not hard to make. I’m sure mine (a combo King Arthur, Mark Bittman and Mom technique) aren’t the best, but here’s a basic recipe if you want to give them a try. The key is gentleness, a sharp biscuit cutter (no inverted drinking glasses unless you like flat biscuits, some do I think) and a hot oven. My cousin Odell, who is probably baking biscuits with Jesus right this very minute, when she was alive told my mom to get her oven good and hot (450 degrees) so that the biscuits nearly fried when they baked.Biscuits (Makes about 9)2 cups flour (cake flour if you have it, all purpose will work fine)3 tsp baking powder1 tsp baking soda1 tsp salt (scant)5 tbs butter (cold and cut into small pieces)7/8 cup of buttermilk or plain yogurt (Mark Bittman says yogurt is better)Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put a baking rack in the lower middle position.In a food processor, mix dry ingredients together. Sprinkle butter pieces over dry ingredients and pulse until butter is mixed in and mixture looks like cornmeal.Put mixture into a medium bowl and with a large spoon stir in buttermilk or yogurt just until liquid is incorporated and dough forms a ball. Dough will be a little loose.Dust a surface with flour, put a little flour on your hands and knead dough no more than ten times. Use extra flour only to keep your hands from sticking too much to the dough. The final ball of dough should be like a baby’s bottom. Pat dough into a rectangle about ¾ inch thick. Cut with a sharp edged biscuit cutter (this will allow the dough to rise better when baking). Place biscuits one inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet.If you have the time, freeze the biscuits for 30 minutes (or longer) before baking. This will help their chances of rising during bake time.Place on lower middle rack for 7-9 minutes. Serve hot.  (Update: I’ve made some improvements to this recipe, which you can find HERE.) *In her cookbook Paula Deen and Friends, Paula has an entry for biscuits. In it she suggests readers save themselves some time and go buy a bag of frozen biscuits.   


6 Responses to “A Good Biscuit”

  1. November 8, 2007 at 8:23 pm

    You need to stop making me hungry while I’m at work. Vince and I were just discussing the need for a biscuit recipe – did you overhear us?

  2. November 8, 2007 at 9:43 pm

    I need to watch you make these…Indy, here I come!

  3. November 8, 2007 at 9:54 pm

    Oh, and you said Mark prefers yogurt, but which do you prefer?

  4. November 8, 2007 at 10:14 pm

    I can go either way. They taste similar to me. I was just glad to learn I had another option if I happened to be out of buttermilk. The texture of the yogurt biscuits might be a little more velvety, but that could be my imagination.

  5. November 9, 2007 at 2:20 pm

    This makes me want to try to bake biscuits and as you know, I sooooo don’t do anything in the kitchen. Do you remember the scene in the movie, Places In the Heart, when Sally Field’s daughter Possum says, “Right on my biscuit.” when her Dad plops mashed potatoes on top of her biscuit. My sister loves that line.

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