Suzen and I are on a book tour. Not one where we travel. One where do each recipe, one by one. Biscuits by Belinda Ellis in one of the Savor the South cookbooks available from the University of North Carolina Press. It’s addictive.
Here’s our favorite recipe out of the ten [of fifty recipes in the book] we have done so far. These drop biscuits are easy and wonderfully simple. They are southern through and through so they are made with buttermilk and self-rising flour. They are not rolled out and then cut into perfect circles. Just make the batter and plop the biscuits down. Hence, Belinda calls them Lazy Biscuits although there is nothing pejorative here about the swiftness of mix and drop.
One great characteristic of these biscuits is the oven temperature: 500°F. The biscuits rise high and the top becomes firm and golden. The interior texture is soft and wonderfully pleasant to bite.
“How could you?” Suzen asked me. “These are fine by themselves.” She was eating her second one, very plain.
I was putting butter and elderberry jelly on mine. So, how could I do it: one pat of butter and one teaspoon of jam a time.
There are just three main ingredients here. Quite amazing as you will see at first bite.
Lazy Biscuits or Buttermilk Drop Biscuits
Yield: serves 8 biscuits
- 2 cups soft wheat self-rising flour
- 6 tablespoons vegetable shortening, unsalted butter, or lard, cut into ½-inch chunks and chilled for 15 minutes
- ¾ cup whole buttermilk, plus more if needed
- Melted butter for brushing the tops
Preheat the oven to 500°F. Use a nonstick cake pan or baking sheet.
Measure the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the cold chunks of shortening, butter, or lard and toss them in the flour to coat. Using a pastry blender or your fingertips, break up the chunks until they are about the size of peas.
Make a well in the center of the bowl and pour in the buttermilk. Staring at the sides of the bowl, use a spatula or a wooden spoon to toss the flour over the buttermilk. Continue to work in the flour from the sides of the bowl, just until the dough come together.
If the dough starts top pull away from the sides of the bowl, and sticks to your fingers, you have the right amount of buttermilk. If there are dry spots and dough isn’t sticky when you tough it, add more buttermilk.
Using an ice cream scoop or heaping tablespoon, drop the biscuits onto the cake pan or baking sheet. Since these biscuits are crisp, drop each scoop about 1/2 inch apart.
Bake the biscuits in the center of the oven until they are light golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Brush the tops with melted butter.
Source: Biscuits by Bellinda Ellis
Photo Information: Canon T2i, 18-55MM Macro lens, F/2.8, 1/100th second, ISO 800
f/2.8, 1/100th second, ISO 600
Belinda Ellis had the perfect job. For 15 years, she worked for White Lilly Flour, touring the country and showing people how to make biscuits. She’s traveling less but writing more. Biscuits, a Savor the South cookbook from the University of North Carolina Press, is her perfect tome, her lovely tribute with deep insights into biscuits. Biscuits, it turns out, are less humble than you might expect.
If you’ve ever had a White Lilly Flour biscuit, I need say no more. Light and flakey and flavorful. It’s a wonder.
If you know French, then you know that “biscuit” comes from “twice baked” just like biscotti. The original biscuits were like hardtack, designed for long lifetimes at sea. Not soft and flakey.
The key to great biscuits is the flour, particularly from soft winter wheat. That flour is very low in gluten. Gluten is what you want for a cake or a cookie. It is not what you want for a biscuit.
The combination of soft winter wheat flour and buttermilk is essential to making the classic Southern biscuits. Why did biscuits rise, no pun intended, in the South. The soft winter wheat was there. Buttermilk was aplenty. And biscuits bake quickly. In the rural and poor south, having to fire an oven for less time made biscuits the choice over bread.
Biscuits presents over 50 recipes. There is the classic Southern treat, rolled out and cut. There are drop biscuits [aka “lazy” because you don’t roll]. But, but in defense of dropping the dough, Belinda emphasizes that the best way to make a bad biscuit is to overwork the dough. Remember, gluten is not your friend. So, dropping the dough is fine. You should not feel guilt.
The chapter on flavored biscuits provides an abundance of combinations to make your morning. I’ve already posted this week about a Bacon Cheddar gem. Belinda offers more extravagant options:
- Gorgonzola, Walnut and Cranberry
- Fresh Garlic, Cheese and Herb
- Pimento Cheese
- Goat Cheese
- Black Pepper and Sour Cream
If you love biscuits so much you want them for dinner, you can do that. In fact, the biscuits don’t have to sit on the side of the plate. You’ll find recipes for:
- The Southern Reuben
- Chicken Pot Pie with Cheddar Biscuit Topping
- Chicken and Dumplings
- Lamb Stew with Caramelized Onion Mashed Potato Dumplings
It’s now officially fall. Biscuits was officially published on September 4th. The timing could not have been better. A cool night and warm biscuit are the ingredients for family memories that will never be forgotten.