Holle loves to cook. She creates a lot of delicious recipes and enjoys sharing them.
Biscuits: Are They the Number One Food?
I’m sharing a wonderful biscuit recipe with you here, and I think you’ll really like it. We certainly do. I love biscuits. In fact, they might just be my number one food weakness. It’s not really my fault. I inherited it from a long line of biscuit lovers—on both sides of my family. My maternal grandfather always said there was no such thing as a bad biscuit, and my dad never met a biscuit he didn’t like. I sometimes think that biscuits are ambrosia for the southern soul.
Think about it—they go with practically everything. They can be eaten with breakfast, stuffed with ham for a sandwich, or smeared with jelly or jam as a simple dessert. And, of course, they’re the perfect bread to serve with traditional southern food: fried chicken, country fried steak and gravy, pork chops, turnip greens, etc. When my brother and I were kids, we used to crumble up a couple of homemade biscuits and cover them with melted butter and syrup. Who needs cake or pie when you have scrumptious biscuits?
Anyway, stay tuned for a great biscuit recipe!
I’ve always felt that there was something extremely homey and cozy about making homemade biscuits. Maybe that’s just the nurturing “earth mother” side of me. I don’t make biscuits every day as my grandmother did, nor do I make them several times a week as my mother did, but sometimes I feel an overwhelming urge to go to the kitchen and make a pan of homemade biscuits! I feel right at home with flour up to my elbows, on the counter, and dusting the kitchen floor.
Oh, and the aroma—it’s utterly tantalizing. Even if you’re not particularly hungry, a biscuit fan will have the sudden urge to make a dash for the butter and jelly when he or she gets a nose full of the delicious smell of homemade biscuits.
How to Make Biscuits
If you were to ask ten different cooks how to make biscuits, you’d probably get ten different biscuit recipes. Basically, a good basic biscuit recipe includes flour, some type of shortening or oil, some type of milk or cream, and baking powder and/or baking soda. The ingredients are no big secret. What’s important is the ratio of ingredients, the handling of the dough, and the baking.
For example, if too much shortening is added, the biscuits will be too hard. If not enough is used, the results could be dry and tasteless. If the biscuits are baked too long, they’ll be too dry, and if they’re not cooked long enough, they won’t be golden brown. If the dough is handled too much, the results could be tough and chewy. See? How to make biscuits isn’t as simple as you might have assumed. We southerners take biscuit-making seriously!
Okay, back to some specifics on how to make biscuits. First, find a good biscuit recipe and gather all your ingredients together. Go ahead and preheat your oven to the required temperature. Grease a biscuit pan with solid vegetable shortening, like Crisco, for example. I prefer to use a dark pan for my biscuit-making. Why? Because the bottoms of the biscuits brown better on a dark pan.
Next, you’ll probably be instructed to place the flour in a bowl. Based on my experience, White Lily is the best flour for biscuits. If you’re using all-purpose flour, you’ll be told to mix or sift the dry ingredients together, including baking powder, baking soda, and/or salt. I never use the sifter for biscuits. Instead, I combine the dry ingredients with a wire whisk. Next, you’ll be told to cut in the shortening with a pastry cutter. I rarely use such a device. I do it first with a fork, and then I use my fingers to break up the clumps of shortening so they’ll blend better with the flour. At this point, the mixture should resemble a coarse meal.
The milk comes next. You can use practically any type of milk, but whole milk or whole buttermilk works best, in my opinion. You want to add the milk gradually as you mix it with the flour until a dough begins to form and all the ingredients are moist. Don’t work the dough any more than you have to.
Next, sprinkle your kitchen counter lightly with flour. If the dough sticks to your hands, dust some flour on top of the dough. Knead the dough three or four times, gently, folding it over onto itself in the process. Dust a rolling pin with flour and roll the dough to the desired thickness. You can use your hands to pat out the dough instead if you wish. In fact, you don’t have to roll or pat the dough at all. You can pull off pieces of the dough and shape them with your hands.
I usually place my biscuits close together on the greased pan, just barely touching or almost touching. Most biscuit recipes require baking at a fairly high oven temperature, between 400 and 450 degrees. If you’ve used the correct temperature, your homemade biscuits will be golden brown on top and bottom and soft and tender on the inside.
Once I take my biscuits out of the oven, I cover them with a dish towel or place them in a bowl, basket, or colander and cover them with a cloth or several paper towels to stay warm. The steam rising from the biscuits is trapped, which helps keep the bread soft and moist.
Most biscuit recipes use self-rising flour, or they use all-purpose flour and add baking powder and/or baking soda to make the dough rise. Yeast biscuits are different. They use active dry yeast, often along with baking powder or baking soda. In fact, some biscuit recipes use all three, and the results are usually light, incredibly fluffy biscuits. In my opinion, they’re the perfect combination of flour, shortening, buttermilk, and yeast.
If yeast rolls and good southern biscuits were to get married and have offspring, they’d be yeast biscuits. If you’ve never sampled these glorious examples of biscuitdom, you don’t know what you’re missing! I mean, I love regular ol’ biscuits, especially buttermilk biscuits, but the yeast versions are really something special. Give my biscuit recipe a try, and I think you’ll understand what I mean.
Like most older southerners, my mom always referred to her yeast biscuits as angel biscuits. And believe me—her angel biscuits were heavenly! Throughout a normal week, mom would make traditional southern biscuits with whole milk or buttermilk, but for special occasions, she’d make her awesome angel biscuits. They were reserved mostly for holidays or for times we had company for dinner.
Mom lost her ability to make homemade biscuits after she developed Alzheimer’s. I still remember the last batch she made. They were terrible. In fact, we couldn’t eat them. I think even my biscuit-worshipping grandfather would have agreed. Something Mom had done automatically for decades, thousands and thousands of times, was lost. Unfortunately, for some reason, she never taught me how to make her angel biscuits.
I tried numerous times to replicate her biscuits, but until recently, I was unsuccessful. I searched and searched the internet, cookbooks, and Youtube videos for biscuit recipes, and I can’t tell you many I tried. Some resulted in very good biscuits, but they didn’t have the exact same taste and texture as Mom’s. I remember standing in the kitchen with Mom as she made her angel biscuits, and I recall butter being somewhere in the equation. I tried using butter instead of shortening, but that didn’t turn out too well. I found several biscuit recipes that used yeast, shortening, and butter, but the butter was melted and used to brush the cooked biscuit tops. No, that wasn’t it, so I kept experimenting.
Finally, I had a eureka moment—a biscuit epiphany, if you will. I decided to try using shortening and cold butter in the dough, and I figured out I was on the right track. Then I just had to experiment with different ratios, and I found it. I was utterly amazed at what a difference such a small dab of butter could make!
Angel Biscuit Recipe
I used my angel biscuit recipe today. My husband isn’t a large man, but he ate eleven! Even my daughter, a skinny little thing who eats like a bird, had four. In my honest opinion, these are the best biscuits in the world, seriously!
|Prep time||Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
Makes about 4 dozen small biscuits.
- 1/4 cup warm water (110–112 degrees)
- 1 envelope active dry yeast (.25 ounce)
- 5 cups White Lily all purpose flour
- 5 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup Crisco solid vegetable shortening
- 2 tablespoons cold salted butter
- 1 1/2 cups whole buttermilk, at room temperature
- Pour warm water into a small bowl and sprinkle yeast on top. Let stand at room temperature for about 5 minutes, stirring once. The mixture should be foamy.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add Crisco and butter. Cut in with a pastry cutter, a fork, or your fingers. Stop mixing when the mixture looks like a very coarse meal. Add the yeast and water. Gradually add the buttermilk while mixing gently. Combine just until a soft dough forms. If the dough is too dry, add a little more buttermilk.
- Place dough on a floured counter and knead about four times. Pat or roll into ½-inch thickness. Use a small floured biscuit cutter, about a two-inch size, to make biscuits. Grease a dark metal pan with Crisco. Place biscuits on a greased pan, about ½ inch apart. Cover the pan with a dish towel and place it in a warm spot for the biscuits to rise. I usually turn on my oven to low heat and then turn it off. When it gets to around 85-90 degrees, I put in the biscuits. The dough needs to double in size. This usually takes about one hour or one and one-half hours.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place pan on the top rack and bake for 11 minutes. Remove the biscuits from the oven and cover them with a dish towel. Serve your homemade biscuits with butter, jam, jelly, preserves, or syrup.
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Questions & Answers
Question: Can you cook biscuits in a toaster oven?
Answer: I've never tried that, but if the oven has a thermostat and a "bake" setting, it should work fine.