KEEPING SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY ALIVE IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM

Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Biscuits

Difficulty Level is 4 (on a Scale of 1 to 5)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 rounded teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup chilled shortening
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 Tablespoons melted butter (optional)

EQUIPMENT

Here is a list of essential baking tools that I recommend based on my 40+ years of kitchen experience:

A sifter like Mrs. Anderson's Stainless-Steel Crank Flour Sifter has been used in my kitchen for over 25 years. It's lightweight, sifts quickly and holds 5 cups of flour.

An inexpensive but good quality Set of Biscuit Cutters comes in handy. I use the 2-1/2" size for my regular biscuits, and the 1-1/2" size for making bite-size mini biscuits for tea sandwiches or appetizers. The Fluted Edge Set adds a dressy touch to scones and cookies.

This simple Pastry Blender is the only one you need for making biscuits, pie crusts, and pastries. The longer, flexible blades are helpful when cutting shortening or butter into flour. Mine has helped me make thousands of delicious baked goods and is still in great shape.

Purchase a Wooden Rolling Pin like this maple one made in Vermont. With proper care (hand wash only!) it will last for decades. Mine has been passed down to me from my grandmother.

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut shortening into flour mixture until it resembles large, coarse crumbs.

Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk all at once. Stir with a fork by going under batter and around until you have a nice mound. DO NOT overwork the batter at this stage or your biscuits will be tough.

Turn mound onto floured surface and knead 5 or 6 times. Take your rolling pin and make an X impression in the dough. Roll with light strokes from the center point out until you have a nice circle about 1/2" thick.

Cut out biscuits with a floured, round biscuit cutter (mine is 2-1/2" in diameter) or cookie cutter. Place on an ungreased baking sheet with the sides touching (this keeps the sides soft while the tops get browned) and let rest 10 to 15 minutes.

Optional: Brush tops with the 3 Tablespoons of melted butter. Bake 'til lightly browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and pass the apple butter!

Makes about 13 biscuits, 2-1/2" in diameter.

BOWLS and BISCUITS

Wooden biscuit bowls were standard items in every southern kitchen and Miss Abby's was no exception. When I was a newlywed learning how to cook, she was an in-law who became a fast friend. Miss Abby turned out a pan of buttermilk biscuits from scratch every morning, and nearly wore out her biscuit bowl in the process. Her hands made sweet music as she sifted, kneaded and rolled out these flaky delicacies. Each time I watched she would explain to me each step and then I would go home and try again and again. My husband's waistline finally told me to stop. He loved biscuits more than anything and I loved making them, but my biscuits never measured up to Miss Abby's. Years later I inherited my grandmother's old wooden biscuit bowl and my biscuits seem to have taken on a real old-fashioned flavor. Maybe it's my imagination or maybe the years of practicing have paid off, but I'll never use any other bowl for my homemade biscuits.