Thursday, July 2, 2009

Buttermilk Biscuits the Easy Way

Buttermilk biscuits with homemade blackberry jam and "homegrown" honey

My husband has always wanted me to learn to make homemade biscuits, and I've resisted for more years than I care to mention. Years I tell you. I've tried lots of different frozen and refrigerated biscuits, and some of them are really quite good, but there is just some mystique about real homemade biscuits.

I blame my mother. Seriously. Because she was not really a biscuit maker, either.

My paternal grandmother made probably the best biscuits ever. Huge and fluffy white on the inside, brown on the top and bottom, they were the champagne of biscuits. Many years ago my dad even talked his mother into giving up her huge stoneware bowl that she mixed her biscuits in so that my mother could have it. My mom tried, and she made some good biscuits, but they weren't the same, somehow. My sister and I used that bowl to make many a batch of chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies, but neither we nor my mother ever became real biscuit makers.

I guess he thought the "biscuit magic" came with the bowl, but some how it didn't transfer with the bowl. It was all in her head and in her hands. Memaw didn't measure anything; when it was time to make biscuits, she took out her big old bowl full of flour, made a little well in the center for the wet ingredients, and stirred till it was right. If she needed more flour, she stirred a little more into it from the dry flour that remained all around the outer edges of the bowl. Once it was "right", she patted out her biscuits and put them in an iron skillet to bake. Then she took the bowl with the rest of the still dry flour around the edges and set it back inside her cabinet next to the stove, till the next time she wanted to make biscuits. I never understood how she kept that whole bowl of flour from turning into one big gunky mess--I think it was the "magic".

So it was with much trepidation that I decided to tackle the huge (to me) task of learning to make biscuits. After researching several different options, I sort of made up a recipe that works for me. I still have some tweaking to do, but this is it so far.



Ingredients:

  • 2 c self-rising flour (I know, it's pitiful, but it's just what I use!)
  • 1/2 t baking powder (just in case)
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1/2 c butter
  • 3/4 c buttermilk
Stir together dry ingredients in large mixing bowl. Cut in butter until all of the lumps are gone and the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add buttermilk and stir until a sticky dough forms.
At this point, most recipes tell you turn out onto a floured board and roll out, then cut with a biscuit cutter, or the top of a glass if you don't have a biscuit cutter. And you can do that if you want to. However. Everyone that I ever knew that made self-respecting southern biscuits formed their biscuits with their hands. So that's what I do.

Flour your hands, and work the dough in the bowl into a ball, adding just enough flour so that the dough loses it's stickiness, but not so much that it gets dry. I divide my ball of dough into half, then half again, and so on, until I have eight little wads of dough. Then I roll the little wads into little balls in my hands and pat them out, much as I do when I make hamburger patties. I put them into a well-seasoned iron skillet, and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, give or take a couple of minutes, or until the biscuits are lightly browned on top.


Now, these are still not the big fluffy biscuits my grandmother used to make. I'm still working on that. But I've made these twice, and they taste good. The batch pictured didn't rise as well as it should have, and I discovered later that the almost used up flour was a wee bit past it's usefulness for baking. Not bad or anything, but if you insist on using self-rising flour, as I do, you have to make sure it's the freshest self-rising flour possible. I just picked up the wrong bag out of my pantry. I also think that next time I'm going to increase the ingredients somewhat, proportionately, of course, so I can make these bigger and fatter, and hopefully, fluffier.

edited to add: You can substitute shortening for the butter, and what we in the south call "sweet milk" for the buttermilk, but if you use regular milk, I would add just a bit more baking powder--maybe another 1/2 teaspoon or so. 

I've made these many times since this was first posted, and they're always a big hit with my family! 


We ate these with the fresh blackberry jam I'd just made, and some wonderful homegrown honey from my brother-in-law's own hives. Ummmm... (yes, that's the same picture I used with my post about the jam!)
For links to more recipes see:
Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum
Recipe Swap at the Gorcery Cart Challenge
Tempt my Tummy Tuesday at Blessed with Grace
Tuesdays at the Table at All the Small Stuff
Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam
Until next time, good cooking, and good eating!

13 comments:

  1. Biscuits are one of my absolute favorite foods! Thanks for sharing your recipe and technique!

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  2. Hi,
    Thanks for visiting me. I would love to see your house number frame. It sounds like what I really wanted!
    And, I wish I had one of your yummy biscuits. I just found out that I am diabetic (Boo!) so I am painfully having to learn to say no! I miss them. Eat one for me!!!
    Rhonda

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  3. Hey Charlene, I spent 2 years finding the perfect recipe. I thought I was enslaved to self rising forever.
    However recently I have found a very good recipe, which I altered slighty. Check it out here if you run out of self rising one day and still want to make them. PS I use bread flour just fine.
    http://giddyrobin.blogspot.com/2009/02/best-biscuits-recipe.html

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  4. I love biscuits--and I am a secret self-riz gal, myself. Love your iron skillet. Have a great 4th!

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  5. I'm so impressed. I haven't made homemade biscuits in so long...I've given in to the frozen variety I'm afraid. I remember my paternal grandmother making biscuits every single morning for most of her life; they were sooooooo good. I'm sure the fresh cream and butter helped. I also have my maternal grandmother's biscuit pan. It was the one thing of hers that I really wanted after she died. It's a treasure of dents and black, but I love it. I hope you will join my beginning in August for Crock Pot Wednesdays on Diningwithdebbie.blogspot.com.

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  6. I, too, made buttermilk biscuits. In the South, you just have to learn how! I'll try yours. They look yummy!

    Christi

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  7. We just moved to the South, and daunting as the task will be for me, I must learn to make biscuits!!! Thanks for sharing.

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  8. Your biscuits look great!! Mine end up hockey pucks so I am going to have to try a new recipe.

    Check out my blog for a Christmas in July Giveaway.

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  9. Your story is pretty much identical to mine...but it's my husband's grandmother who made the little pieces of heaven. Really. Touched by an angel. She used only self rising flour, buttermilk and lard. She even did the little thing with the flour in the bowl like you talked about. Simple right? HA! I've been trying to duplicate them with no luck (not bad but not grandmother's). UNTIL SUNDAY! I made some that my husband said were very close. I need to make them in the cast iron skillet next time. I also use shortening instead of lard.....maybe that's the key :) I guess I'll just have to keep at it.

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  10. I'd love to have that recipe to try! I did find out that my grandmother also used self-rising flour and shortening, not butter. Not sure if she used buttermilk or "sweet milk", though.

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  11. Can't go wrong with a good southern biscuit! Thanks for sharing your recipe and joining us for the TMTT anniversary today.

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  12. My grandmother always made them with self rising flour, but I have never gotten used to buying it.

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