Can I just make a confession? Y’all before this week, I could not make a good biscuit. I mean I have been cooking since I was in second grade and have never managed to make a good biscuit. What in the world, right?
So a couple of weeks ago, my grandson, Peyton, told me “Gammy, you need to learn to make a biscuit like Bojangles”. Is that what are standards have come to – fast food? Well honestly Bojangles does make a great biscuit. So that is where the challenge I set for myself began. I decided I was going to try three different biscuit recipes in attempt to make a perfect biscuit. Well maybe not perfect but at least edible. Bless my heart.
I then posted this challenge on my social media and had so many people reach out with tips on making a good biscuit. Can I just say, Carolinians can make some awesome biscuits. Several people recommended grating the cold butter with a cheese grater and brushing the tops of the biscuits with buttermilk for a perfectly golden top. Also several people suggested refreezing the butter after grating. I took the advice of my fellow bakers and grated and refroze the butter. Another great tip I received was to keep your cutter floured and to not twist the cutter.
I another thing I learned, the most important thing that every cook emphasized – , NEVER, NEVER, NEVER overwork biscuit dough. Overworking and over-handling biscuit dough will result in tough, hard, and flat biscuits. Mix the ingredients together *just* until combined.
When planning this challenge, I ordered my biscuit cutter from Amazon. I actually went to three stores before ordering from Amazon and the cutters were out of stock at all three stores. I guess lots of folks in North Carolina are making biscuits. The cutters I ordered (which worked great by the way) were the RSVP Endurance Round Biscuit Cutters. This was a stainless steel set including four different size cutters and best of all they nest for easy storage.
The recipes suggested using a cast iron skillet. In full candor, I own a cast iron skillet but honestly I don’t use it often. I prefer using the enameled cast iron. Cast iron stresses me out. It takes years to season and then without fail someone in your family will use the skillet without cleaning it correctly and you have a rusty skillet. I know lots of cooks who love their cast iron skillets and my hat goes off to them. Actually I am jealous of them for doing such a great job with their cast iron. When baking my biscuits, I used the Lodge 3.6 Quart Enameled Casserole Dish.
Also I would like to share a couple of biscuit failures while making these biscuits. As some of you might know, I live with my daughters and change houses every two weeks (yes I know crazy). I thought I had done a really good job of stocking both houses with a good selection of kitchen gadgets. When I sold my house and moved to North Carolina, I found I had enough gadgets to stock two houses (okay I may have an obsession). I am at my daughter, Holly’s, house this week for this experiment. And what did I realize (in the middle of making biscuits)? I did not have a pastry cutter or a box grater (kitchen fail). In true home cook fashion, I emphasized. I used my Pampered Chef Salad Chopper (which I use to chop chicken, barbecue, and yes salads) and Pampered Chef Microplane Grater. (This is not a sponsored ad, I just have A LOT of Pampered Chef products).
The three recipes I used were totally different in elements, ingredients and fats. For all three recipes I used White Lilly flour (which is a local favorite among so many bakers), Land of Lakes unsalted butter (if butter was in recipe) and whole fat buttermilk.
The photo below shows a comparison of all three biscuits.
The biscuit on the far left was baked with 2 cups self-rising flour, 1/4 cup of Crisco shortening, and 3/4 cup of butter milk (no butter, no baking powder or salt).
The biscuit on the far right was baked with all purpose flour, 8 tablespoons of butter, 2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour, 1 tablespoon of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, 2 tablespoons of shortening, and 1 1/2 cups of whole fat buttermilk.
The biscuit in the middle which was my revised version was baked with 3 cups of flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt, 2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 3/4 cup of unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), 1 large egg, 1 cup of buttermilk, and 2 tablespoons of ice water.
While researching biscuits, I learned they really do have a history. Early Southerners actually considered the biscuit a delicacy. The term biscuit was originally coined by the British which referred to their thin cookie and cracker like biscuit. Much different from what it evolved into once it got into the hands of southern cooks. In the pre Civil War south the biscuit was regarded as a delicacy and usually reserved for Sunday lunch. Or dinner.
The first biscuits were born out of necessity, they had to get things done quickly, do it simply, make your biscuit dough, and then pull and drop huge clumps of the buttery dough onto your baking sheet. The biscuit was sorta built to last all day in your lunch pail. You could put it in your overall pocket. It was not nice and layered and fluffy like biscuits now, because it had to be durable.
Also soft winter wheat flour was really hard to come by for southern biscuit makers. They had to rely on the port cities on Mobile, and New Orleans, to bring in this product. But when White Lily started making white winter wheat self rising flour in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1983, it was pretty much a game changer for biscuit makers.
Here in the south you know, southern cooks kind of kept their biscuits really close to home. It wasn’t until the good Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame took the biscuits out of the south in 1952 when he opened his first franchise, in Utah of all places. Thus bringing the southern biscuit nationwide. Who knew there was so much history behind the biscuit?
After making about 100 biscuits (or more), and after sharing biscuits with any neighbor who would eat them, I tweaked and revised the recipes to come up which I think is a pretty good biscuit which was confirmed by all my friends and neighbors.
One thing for sure, southern biscuits were and always will be a Southern delicacy. In the South, you can find them on any table for any meal of the day. Every time I use my antique rolling pin (which I purchased years ago at garage sale), I wonder the history the rolling pin holds. How many pies, biscuits and cookies did it make? What kind of memories does it hold and what kinds of things did it see along the way. How I wish the rolling pin could talk to me and tell me the stories it holds. Is that silly, probably. One of the reasons I really started my blog post is to carry on our grandmother’s recipes and what better way to do that than make a buttermilk biscuit.
Flaky Homemade Buttermilk BiscuitsCourse: BreakfastCuisine: Southern Comfort Food
These fluffy flaky homemade buttermilk biscuits are soft and buttery and the perfect comfort food!
3 cups all purpose flour (leveled), plus more for dusting
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cups butter (1 1/2 sticks), COLD or frozen
1 large egg
1 cup cold whole- milk buttermilk
1 to 2 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon butter, softened (for greasing pan)
2 tablespoons buttermilk, for brushing tops
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- In a large bowl combine flour, kosher salt, sugar and baking powder.
- Cut the very cold butter into thin slices or grate with a cheese grater. As per the recommendations of several people I grated the butter than put back into the freezer for 15 minutes).
- Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry cutter (or two knives) until the mixture resembles coarse pea-size crumbs, about 3 minutes.
- In a small bowl combine egg and buttermilk. Beat with a fork. Add ice and water to a small bowl, and set to the side.
- Make a well in the center of your flour, add the egg buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture, and fold using a rubber spatula, running the flat edge of it through the center of the mixture and then around the edge while you rotate the bowl. Keep at it, while being as gentle as possible, until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened—it will look wetter than you think it should. If there are still dry crumbly bits, stir in a tablespoon or two of the iced water. Add ice water a tablespoon at a time. You do not need much just enough to help the flour to absorb the wet ingredients.
- Lightly coat your work surface with nonstick cooking spray, then flour. (The spray keeps the flour in place.) Sprinkle a little more flour in the center of the board.
- Pour the dough and any dough crumbles onto the floured work surface and gently bring together with generously floured hands. The dough will become sticky as you bring it together. Have extra flour nearby and use it often to flour your hands and work surface in this step. Using floured hands or a floured rolling pin, flatten into a 3/4 inch thick rectangle as best you can. Fold one side into the center, then the other side like a letter. Turn the dough horizontally. Gently flatten into a 3/4 inch thick rectangle again. Repeat the folding again. Turn the dough horizontally one more time. Gently flatten into a 3/4 inch thick rectangle. Repeat the folding one last time. Flatten into the final 3/4 inch thick rectangle. It should no longer be sticky.
- Flour a 2-inch-round biscuit cutter and firmly press it straight down to cut the dough. Do not twist the cutter. Transfer the rounds to a buttered 12 inch cast iron skillet***, (make sure to butter the sides of the pan) placing the bottom side up. Repeat, cutting the rounds as close together as possible. The rounds should be touching each other in the skillet as this helps them rise. Place the pan into the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes. You want the rounds to hit the oven as cold as possible to achieve ultimate flakiness levels.
- Just before you place the biscuits in the oven, brush the top of each biscuit with buttermilk. This helps the biscuits have a golden brown top.
- Bake at 425 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tops are golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush the biscuits with melted butter. I love to serve my biscuits with honey butter. Oh so good.
- Butter: Keep butter as cold as possible until you need it. I grated my butter than I put it in the freezer for about 15 minutes before I started making the biscuits.
- Buttermilk: I always use a whole-milk buttermilk when a recipes calls for buttermilk. You can always substitute whole milk for buttermilk if don’t have buttermilk. However if you like the tangy flavor, you can make your own buttermilk substitute. Add 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice or white vinegar to a liquid measuring cup. Add enough milk to make 1 cup. Whisk together, then let sit for 5 minutes before using in the recipe. Whole milk is best for the DIY sour milk substitute, though lower fat or nondairy milks work in a pinch.
- Cast Iron Skillet: Most biscuit recipes call for using a cast iron skillet. Personal cast iron is not a favorite of mine. However, I love the enameled cast iron. I have several higher brand enameled cast iron Dutch ovens. I have researched the best enameled cast iron products and numerous reviews recommend the Lodge brand of case iron. I used the Lodge 3.6 Quart Blue Enameled Cast Iron Covered Casserole Dish to cook my biscuits in.