We were lucky here in middle Tennessee to have a few snow days, and after spending much of the morning building our arsenal of snowballs, my 12-year-old son and I came inside to warm up. He found Bobby Flay’s Throwdown on Netflix, and while he settled in with a cup of hot cocoa, I took advantage of the “vacation” day by taking down the Christmas decorations while half-way listening to the TV.
One episode that piqued my interest featured the Loveless Café’s “Biscuit Lady.” This was the genesis of my quest for the perfect biscuit, and I headed to the kitchen as soon as the episode was over. Something I got from my mother is the knack for keeping a stocked pantry. Years ago, after a dinner party, a friend wanted to make Magic Cookie Bars, you know the Eagle Brand recipe with a graham cracker crust, coconut, chocolate chips and nuts. Yep…we had it all! So, I was pretty sure I could muster up a batch of biscuits without a trip to the store.
I wanted a biscuit that was flaky and buttery, with enough flavor to stand on its own yet able to step out of the spotlight if necessary, complementing other cast members, both savory and sweet, from breakfast sausage to jam.
One thing was certain, to get the flakiness I desired, I would have to start with a good Southern flour. I didn’t know until recently the differences in wheat types used in flour. Here in the South, generations of bakers have relied on Martha White or White Lily flours. They are made from soft red winter wheat that has less gluten and less protein than the hard red winter wheat found in typical all-purpose flours. National brands sometimes have a blend of soft and hard wheat, and if you can’t find a soft wheat flour in your area, Gold Medal Self-Rising Flour will suffice, but your biscuit won’t be quite as light and fluffy.
There is a simple recipe on the package of White Lily Self-Rising Flour that’s good in a pinch and inspired me to start with self-rising flour.
My mother used to make angel biscuits, which rely on yeast for rising. I tried a couple of her recipes, but they weren’t exactly what I was looking for, so I decided to incorporate yeast with a traditional buttermilk biscuit. Perfection!
I will probably get some grief about the butter-flavored Crisco shortening. To get more butter flavor, I tried mixtures of butter and Crisco, but Crisco provides a flakier biscuit than butter, so I made the call. You can, of course, substitute regular Crisco, but you’ll be missing that extra punch of buttery goodness. Keep your shortening in the refrigerator—it should be cold as you incorporate it into the flour mixture. Notice I provided the weight measurement on the shortening as I find it much easier to measure by weight than volume. Mom always filled a measuring cup with water and submersed the Crisco to get an accurate measurement. Sorry Mom, weighing is simply better.
Oh, one more thing—a word about oven temperature. Hotter is better. These cook quickly, so don’t leave the kitchen and start folding laundry and forget (I’ve done that far too many times). Place your biscuits on the rack just above the center of the oven, and they will cook perfectly. Five minutes into baking, I brush each with melted butter and put them back in the oven to finish baking.
I won’t bore you with all the variations I tried before getting to biscuit perfection. Just trust that this is it. Try my recipe, and if you don’t agree, feel free to experiment and make any adjustments to create your own perfect biscuit. Be sure to let me know in the comments what you discovered. I would love to hear about your journey and try your changes.
- 1 pkg (2¼ t.) dry yeast
- ½ c. warm (110-115 degrees) water
- 5 c. White Lily Self-Rising Flour
- 1 t. baking soda
- 1 t. kosher salt
- 3 T. sugar
- ¾ c. (154 gm) butter-flavored Crisco, cold
- 2 c. buttermilk, room temperature
- Melted butter (for brushing)
- Preheat oven to 500°F.
- Dissolve yeast in warm water, set aside.
- Mix dry ingredients together.
- Cut in shortening.
- Add yeast to buttermilk, then add to flour mixture.
- Mix until just blended (it will be sticky).
- Roll out onto floured surface and lightly knead several times, incorporating enough flour to make a soft dough that stays together.
- Roll with rolling pin to ¾” to 1” thickness and cut with small biscuit cutter.
- Place on greased cake pan, sides touching.
- Bake for 5 minutes, and then brush with melted butter.
- Return to oven for 3 minutes or until LIGHTLY browned.
- Serve immediately.
- To Freeze biscuits: place cut biscuits on greased pans, cover with plastic wrap and freeze. Move to zipper bags and keep in freezer for up to two weeks. Bake frozen biscuits on a greased pan at 400F for 11-13 minutes.