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.
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.
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