Okay, since November I’ve continued to play with my biscuit recipe and process. So here is a better and more convenient version of my earlier recipe.
After reading some historic cookbooks I decided to try lard as the fat instead of butter and shortening, and I must admit, it made a big difference in texture and form (rose higher and was easier to handle). Tasted just as good, too.
To make things easier I pre-measured my own “self-rising” biscuit mix, which basically means I stir together 2 cups flour, 3 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. baking soda and 1 scant tsp. salt together and put the mixture in an airtight container in the refrigerator until I am ready to bake. The refrigerator keeps the ingredients cool, which is a plus when baking biscuits. I’m also keeping my lard there, too.
So here is what biscuit making looks like for me now.
What you’ll need (plus you’ll need a biscuit cutter, which I forgot to put in the picture):
Preheat oven to 450.Dump pre-measured dry ingredients into the food processor and pulse a couple of times just to mix them. Then scoop out 5 tbs. of lard and put those into with the dry mix.
Put the mixture into a mixing bowl and pour a scant cup of plain yogurt on top (you can also use buttermilk, but this is what I had). Then mix it with a fork or spoon until the mixture comes together to make a shaggy dough that looks like this:
Dust flour onto your kneading surface (John bought this handy skimmer that works really well for dusting). Dump your dough onto the surface and knead it no more than 10 times. To avoid handling the dough too much (and sticky fingers), you can use a bench scraper to fold the dough onto itself.
I love the bench scraper. It also helps with cleaning the flour off of the counter later. Add a little more flour to the surface and your hands if the dough is too sticky.
Roll or flatten dough with your hands until it is about ¾ inch thick. The marble pastry roller stays cool (thanks for the tip, Beth!) and because it is heavy only requires a few strokes to get to the dough to the right thickness.
If you want biscuits that rise in the oven, cut them with a sharp, stiff, straight-sided biscuit cutter. Dip the cutter in flour and then push straight down on the dough with no twisting. I finally broke down and bought some good biscuit cutters at William Sonoma. Oh, and once a biscuit is cut, gently place it on the ungreased baking sheet – no shaping the biscuit to make it more round, or whatever, since that will gum up the sides and keep it from rising evenly. (I had a few biscuits that rose on one side and not other because I was too handsy.)
Brush the tops of the unbaked biscuits with milk or melted butter. I used melted butter this time. (John got me this silicone brush for Christmas and I love it – no more bristles on my food and MUCH easier to clean).
Pop those babies in the oven (middle rack) and don’t open the door until the tops are good and brown (ovens are different, so times are different). 8-10 minutes? While biscuits are baking, put together a mix of the dry ingredients and put them back in the refrigerator so they’ll be ready for next time.The finished biscuits should look something like this:
Nothing healthy about lard, but it sure made for some flake-tastic biscuits. Oh, and if you can, buy lard where people buy lard frequently so you know you are getting fresh stuff. Our nearby Hispanic grocery replenishes its stock often. My friends in Indy and in Arkansas shouldn’t have to worry too much about whether the lard at their stores is fresh. If you live in New England, you may want to check the date.