100 Days to a Happy Housewife 24: Biscuits

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Thumbnail image for HappyHousewife.jpgAs I've mentioned, I don't much cook, but I do bake. While Mark handles all the major chef'ing at our house, I do the dessert. It's a good system.

One thing I have yet to bake to the satisfaction of my partner, however (and much to his chagrin), is biscuits.

Mark has a very specific idea about what constitutes a good biscuit. Buttery, tender, flaky, mile-high. Southern style, he says. Made to accompany fried chicken, or eat with ham. However, I grew up on a whole other type of biscuit. Being not from the South, but from the very rural West, my childhood dinners were often accompanied by baking powder biscuits (made pretty much like this). These are not buttery (and are, in fact, made with shortening), don't rise much, and harden into hockey pucks when they get cold. They are best served with fried venison and gravy. So, we have had, for many years, a biscuit miscommunication.

These past few times, though, I've made every attempt to make the type of biscuits Mark is craving. I've tried several recipes. And every time, including the the most recent (last night), they come out flat and hard. They just don't rise. Last night's were also completely tasteless and dry.

I followed Alton Brown's recipe. To the letter. To wit, I:

Ingredients

* 2 cups flour
* 4 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
* 3/4 teaspoon salt
* 2 tablespoons butter
* 2 tablespoons shortening
* 1 cup buttermilk, chilled

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using your fingertips, rub butter and shortening into dry ingredients until mixture looks like crumbs. (The faster the better, you don't want the fats to melt.) Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled buttermilk. Stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky.

Turn dough onto floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold dough over on itself 5 or 6 times. Press into a 1-inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter, being sure to push straight down through the dough. Place biscuits on baking sheet so that they just touch. Reform scrap dough, working it as little as possible and continue cutting. (Biscuits from the second pass will not be quite as light as those from the first, but hey, that's life.)

Bake until biscuits are tall and light gold on top, 15 to 20 minutes.

So help me! What did I do wrong? A friend suggested it might be bad baking powder, but I haven't noticed an issue with anything else I've baked, so I'm not sure that's completely likely. Any other possibilities--or tried and try recipes--would be much appreciated!

My apron is the Mod Bod Waistless/BBQ Apron from Modern Vintage Designs.

13 Comments

I don't know about biscuits except for the song, but you look so cute making them! Are you going to tell us what is in the Lush bag in the background? :drool:

Gracie, you need White Lily baking flour, self rising.

Cut in some butter, unsalted, then add buttermilk til it holds together into a gooey dough.

You dont even have to roll and cut. You can scoop them with a big spoon onto a greased baking pan, and then put a few drops of buttermilk on top and smooth the tops down.

You can also make these touching in a deep baking pan or cast iron skillet, like my mom does.

they are fluffy, tall, and while they dont look perfect, they are v. good.

1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c shortening
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 c. milk

Mix all dry ingredients. Using a pastry blender, mix flour, butter and shortening. Add milk, just a little at a time, til dough forms. Knead and cut with biscuit cutter. Brush them with melted butter and bake in a round cake pan at 325.

Mix as absolutely little as possible once you add the liquid. I think that helps.

The last time I made them properly was with a box of Bisquick. I love that stuff. I'm not really a mix type of girl but I think I grew up eating them that way so there is some nostalgia involved. Now I'm hungry. :-)

I'll second the self-rising flour. The only way I can get my Southern Granny's biscuits halfway right is with self-rising flour; baking powder added to AP flour just doesn't do the trick.

Of course, she never wrote down a recipe, so I'm trying to do it from memory every time. Always in a cast iron skillet, where you can turn the entire skillet over onto a dish in one piece, then flip them onto another dish, tear apart and tear into!

yeah i'd guess you're overmixing....

I kind of wanted to read your journey in order, but the title of this post caught my eye.

My family is from Oregon (and the time I spent on your blog yesterday makes me think you are, too -- unless I'm misremembering.) My mom's ideas of biscuits are Bisquick drop biscuits with some cheddar cheese thrown in for good measure.

My husband is from Kentucky and South Carolina via Virginia. He'll talk, in his low drawl, about Ma-Maw Lucille's art that were her biscuits, and how the whole family raved about Ma-Maw Lucille's biscuits.

Kind of makes a girl hesitant to cook her husband biscuits. Until I got a family cookbook that had a recipe titled, "Ma-Maw Lucille's Buttermilk Biscuits."

Score!

I've even made them for Great Aunt Grace, Lucille's oldest daughter, who has given me her approval.

I barely touch them. I almost don't roll them if patting them out will work just as well. That may be the secret. Or not. Who knows.

Here's a link to the recipe:
http://www.halleethehomemaker.com/2009/08/ma-maw-lucilles-buttermilk-biscuits/

Hallee

It's hard to tell from the pictures, but you may be pressing them out too thin to begin with.

Make sure they are good and thick when you cut them and they should at least double.

From the pic it looks like they are 1/4 or 1/2 inch thick. Double that and you'll be on your way.

I love Biscuits!

LOL I was introducing a Englishman the wonders of thanksgiving feast and my results were so bad he said they could be used as weapons of mass destruction. (We were about to invade Iraq at the time) I would have been insulted but he was right between over mixing, over baking and letting them get cold, and as bland as eating plain dry bleached flour they were terrible.

I said this elsewhere, but I recommend Shirley Corriher's Touch of Grace biscuits. Moist, light and fluffy. DO buy White Lily flour, though Gold Medal and cake flour mixed (2:1 proportions by weight) works okay (White Lily is hard to get up here).

Oh, and use half buttermilk half cream for really delicious biscuits. Yum!

White Lily. It's the thing.
http://www.whitelily.com

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