GRANDMA-STYLE BISCUITS

Over the years I have received numerous requests for my biscuit recipe. The art of true biscuit making is disappearing. That perfect combination of soft flaky insides with a nice golden top and bottom crust has been replaced by hockey pucks. So many of us were fortunate to have a mother or grandmother who knew the art of biscuitry. Sadly, it seems, most of the art was not passed down to posterity. In this article, we will get you on the road to breakfast revival.

You all know I never measure anything, but I’ve made an attempt to do so here. You can be over or under a little on all the ingredients except milk/buttermilk. Pay close attention to how I describe that part of the process. There are only four ingredients: flour, shortening, buttermilk and skill. It is important to note the main reason today’s biscuits do not taste like grandma’s is the type of flour used. There are two main types of flour you can buy at your grocery store and they are made of either hard wheat or soft wheat. Don’t expect them to be labeled as such. To make a traditional light Southern biscuit you must have soft Winter wheat like our Southern grandparents used. The difference rests mainly in the gluten content. Southern wheat has a lower gluten content and is usually ground finer. The brand I use is White Lily (self-rising) out of Tennessee. It is not the only brand, but it is easier to find than most.

The next important thing is a cast iron skillet. If you want a fluffy biscuit, do not make drop biscuits spread out on a cookie sheet. You need to fit a batch in a skillet that will rise to meet each other and keep the sides moist and relatively crust-free.

With the philosophy out of the way, let’s get started. I use a 10″ skillet and if any dough is left over I’ll put it in a smaller skillet. Start by smearing some shortening inside your skillet. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Put about 3 cups of White Lily self-rising flour in a mixing bowl. Take about 1/3+ cup of shortening and cut it into the flour using a fork. Be sure to get the flour on the bottom and sides. You know it is right when you see little flakes forming in the flour.

Next starting adding your buttermilk. Some folks make a hole in the middle of the mix and pour the milk in a little at a time, mixing as they go. The important thing here is to not pour in too much milk. There can be a fine line between not enough and too much. And here is where the fourth ingredient comes in: skill. I cannot tell you exactly how much buttermilk to add. Call it humidity, call it altitude, bad juju or whatever you want, but it never takes the exact same amount. For this recipe we use about 1 cup of buttermilk. When you first start out, begin by using less and adding it as you go. Once you start making these all the time it will become old hat. The key is this: the dough should not be not real sticky after you have mixed in the milk. If so, you have no choice but to slowly add more flour until the sticky is gone (not preferable). You will be kneading and forming the mix into a big ball. Do not overwork the dough! How do I define too sticky? The dough sticks to your fingers as you try to form it into a ball. Tacky is OK, sticky is not!

Now, spread a little bit of flour on your counter (I’m a messy cook, others might want to use wax paper). Flatten out the dough ball by hand using a twist-like motion with your palms then pat down with you fingers to get the consistent thickness. Do not use a roller! When you have the desired thickness (anywhere from ½” to ¾” depending on how thick you want them) then cut them with a biscuit cutter or round object with sharp edges (I cut mine with a 2¾” cutter). Merely press down with the cutter, do not saw or twist the dough. After you have pressed out all you can, remove the excess dough and lift out the biscuits to place in the skillet. Roll up the remaining dough and continue until your skillet is full.

John Cripps Biscuits

Sorry, I measured the ingredients, but forgot to time the cooking. I suppose it is about 10 minutes at 500 degrees. I never time them as you can always tell by looking at the tops as they begin to turn golden (you’ll see from the picture below that my children like a more crunchy crust and the biscuits are over an inch thick). If you have done things right you will have a light, fluffy biscuit that tastes like grandma’s. If not, you might have to tweak things a bit to your cooking environment. Not all stoves cook alike. If your biscuits are cooked well on the outside but a bit gooey inside, you might have to adjust your temperature and cook time, or roll them out a bit thinner next time.

There you have it. Biscuits like grandma’s are not as difficult to make as you thought. If you use the wrong flour, don’t blame me for the results!

GRANDMA-STYLE BISCUITS – PRINT & CUT

Ingredients:

8″ Skillet
2 cups White Lily Self-Rising Flour
¼ cup shortening
approx. 2/3 to ¾ cup buttermilk (or milk in a pinch)

10″ Skillet
3 cups White Lily Self-Rising Flour
1/3+ cup shortening
approx. 1 cup buttermilk (or milk in a pinch)
You may have dough left over to put in a second, smaller skillet.

My Family Batch – 2 10″ skillets:
4 cups White Lily Self-Rising Flour
½ cup shortening
approx. 1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups buttermilk (or milk in a pinch)

Get to it:
– Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
– Coat skillet in Crisco shortening
– Place flour in a large mixing bowl and cut in shortening. The mixture will resemble coarse crumbs.
– Blend in enough buttermilk to where you can roll the mixture into a ball and it is neither “sticky” or “cracked dry.”
– Knead dough on lightly floured surface – do not over-knead.
– Flatten Dough to about ½ inch thick or less (do not roll)
– Cut with biscuit cutter (do not twist cutter).
– Place cut dough in skillet with biscuits barely touching and one in the center.
– Bake for approx. 10 minutes or until they start to turn golden brown.

Notes:
Since all ovens cook a bit different (as well as folks living at different altitudes) – on your first try – check the bottoms of the biscuits before the tops begin to brown so you can verify that they are not burning on the bottom. You may have to adjust temperature and cooking time a bit. Some old timers store their shortening in the refrigerator to use with biscuit-making. Sweet milk can be substituted for buttermilk, with less of the taste of grandma’s.