Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Biscuits like Mama made

I  married a Southern boy who was raised by his grandma (though he called her "mama").  She made homemade biscuits for every single meal.  Didn't use a recipe, just "knew" how much of everything to throw in.  Sadly, she passed away five months before we married and I never had the opportunity to have her teach me her secrets to making biscuits (or homemade dumplings or fried chicken, or chicken fried steak, etc.).

A year or two into our marriage, my husband found his mama's biscuit bowl.  You know, those highly coveted wooden bowls that were used for generations for making homemade biscuits.  We thought the bowl could magically help us make biscuits.  Boy, were we wrong.  We bought all of the exact ingredients that she used and they all managed to taste slightly better, though drier, than a hockey puck.  We'd add more shortening, less buttermilk or less shortening and more buttermilk.  Nothing worked.  We gave up.

Fast forward 18 or so years later and I came across a recipe for homemade biscuits on Mrs. Happy Homemaker's blog that looked so good and had some great reviews. I gave them a try.  I won't say that I hit the ball out of the park on my first try, but they weren't bad.  I left the butter out because my husband swears that his mama never put butter on the top of her's and I was afraid to do it.  They came out soft, but crumbly.  They broke up too easily.  A few days later I gave it another shot.  This time I added a tiny bit more shortening in hopes of making them less crumbly.  They were definitely better, but still not a home run. I didn't tell him what I did this time, but he said they tasted a bit too "lardy".  Over twenty years since his mama died and he still knew they didn't taste quite like hers.   Tonight I decided to give it another shot.  This time I did use some butter (3 tbsp, to be exact).  I brushed them lightly before baking them and used the rest when they came out of the oven.  I also used more buttermilk (but no additional shortening).  Well, this time they really turned out well!  The hubby went to bed early so he didn't get to have any fresh out of the oven, but my daughter and I agreed that they are the best of all.  The buttering of the biscuits before baking given them a smoother look to them and made them more golden.  I think the additional fat and buttermilk gave them a slightly spongier texture and they held together well.  They were soft throughout and did not crumble at all.

I feel so satisfied that I finally accomplished making a good biscuit.  Sadly, when I tell my husband about it, he will probably believe I am exaggerating.  After all, nothing can compare to his mama's!

I have managed to master the fried chicken (thanks to a former neighbor) and the chicken fried steak (thanks to a Southern Living recipe).  Still gotta work on the dumplings, but from what I understand, if you can get the biscuit thing down, the dumplings will come easy.

Recipe

2 Cups self rising flour (I used White Lily)
1/4 cup vegetable shortening (Crisco only - other's aren't always as good of quality)
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp buttermilk*  (I use reduced fat - gotta try something semi-healthy)
3 tbsp. melted butter

The original recipe called for just 3/4 cup buttermilk.  Maybe it is because I used reduced fat, but it wasn't enough for mine.  Also the original recipe call for 1/2 stick of butter and I used a bit less.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Crease a round cake pan.

In a medium bowl, add your shortening to your flour.  Using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut your Crisco in until it is broken down evenly throughout the flour. The recipe I used said it will look like small peas, but mine didn't really look like that.  The key is that you just want the Crisco evenly distributed.

Stir in the buttermilk.   You want to start being gentle at this point.  You want to thoroughly incorporate the buttermilk, but you don't want to start "toughening" it up.  Once the flour is completely incorporated (this is an important step that I learned - you don't want dry flour left in the bottom of the bowl.  Make sure everything is mixed well) dump the dough onto a really well floured surface.  At this point you DO NOT KNEAD it.  That was always my husband's and my mistake.  Once the buttermilk is mixed in, the more you work the dough, the tougher it will get.  Just pat it into a rectangle.  If it is a little gooey, add a light dusting of flour on top so you can pick it up.  Grease a knife or pizza cutter with Crisco and cut the dough in 6 or eight squares.  Put them in the cake pan and brush them with 1/2 of your melted butter.

Bake for 8-12 minutes (12 works perfectly in my oven).  Remove from oven and brush with the remaining melted butter.  Dear Lord, if you are smart, go get some Shedd's Spread honey butter (really margarine) and put some on these.  It is divine!  If you are a Southern girl, you will know a 1000 other things to do with them, like make some sausage gravy or add some country ham and cheese to them, etc.!


*The original recipe called for just the 3/4 cup of buttermilk, but since mine kept coming out crumbly, I added the extra two tablespoons. I can't say if this was because of the reduced fat milk or not.  The dough was a lot wetter with the extra two tbsp., but the biscuits were awesome, so I didn't mind the messier dough!  Please click on Mrs. Happy Homemaker's link above and see the original recipe.


Yum!




Thank you Mrs. Happy Homemaker!


I am linking up to:

homework

shabby creek cottage




Fridays Unfolded


Liz Marie Blog


The Shabby Nest

5 comments:

  1. mmm

    i can just imagine
    the delicious aroma
    wafting out of the oven
    whilst these are baking

    thanks for sharing
    at Fridays Unfolded!

    alison

    ReplyDelete
  2. Found you via Shabby Nest. Was waiting on a recipe! Please post as we southern girls like to cook like Mama! I never got my husband's aunt's recipe for chicken n dumplings. My mom always made what hubby calls "sad dough" dumplings. Aunt Shirley made the light and fluffy kind I'd never had.
    You are so sweet to keep trying over the years. Please post your biscuit recipe.
    Thanks and happy baking

    ReplyDelete
  3. I grew up with a grand mother that made biscuits doe every meal. One of the things that I had to do when I was a little girl was learn how to make them. Sadly, if you don't make them all the time you lose the "touch". I have tried and tried and just haven't been able to get the right combination. I just might have to try your recipe and see how it goes. I remember when my grand mother and I made them we always used a cast iron skillet and used the "pinch and pat" method instead of cutting them. The skillet was greased with Crisco so they never stuck to the pan (and according to my husband - everything always taste's better out of a cast iron skillet!).
    Thanks for sharing.
    Hugs -
    Carol

    ReplyDelete
  4. YUM! These look delicious! I need to try this recipe.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Seriously yummy looking biscuits! I think I could live on biscuits...I just love them. I'm still learning all the traditional southern foods and there are so many I still have to try. I couldn't cook my way out of a paper bag, but since I love biscuits so much, I think I'll give these a shot...cross my fingers!

    Kristen

    ReplyDelete

 
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