Thursday, January 7, 2010


The biscuit, such an icon of American cooking, and particularly Southern cuisine! For a long time truly good biscuits eluded me. They would be hard, or flat, or crumbly instead of flaky. What's a girl to do when her biscuits aren't quite right? Well, in my case, I asked someone in my husband's family who is legendary for her baked goods: Grandma Nellie.

She told me she uses White Lily brand self-rising flour, and adds a couple tablespoons of powdered sugar for sweetness. She also drizzles melted butter on top of each biscuit as they come out of the oven. No wonder my husband raves about her biscuits!

I tried the self-rising flour, and it did improve my biscuits significantly. However there came a time when I didn't want to buy a separate bag of flour just for biscuits. I don't use self-rising flour or cook things that require it very often.

Here is how I make biscuits:

2 cups all purpose flour (I use unbleached, personal preference)
1 TB Baking powder
2 TB powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt

Mix together in a large bowl.

Cut in 1/2 cup real butter (one stick) until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. If you have a Kitchen Aid mixer, you can just stir up the dry ingredients with the regular beater, then slice the butter into the bowl and turn it on. It will be coarse crumbs in a minute or less.

Add 2/3 cup cold milk or buttermilk all at once. I like to sour the milk if I don't have buttermilk by putting about 1/2 tsp. lemon juice at the bottom of the measuring cup, then pouring the milk in. Sour milk reacts with the leavening agents in the baking powder to make the biscuits fluffier.

Stir dough JUST til moistened. This is important, do not overbeat!

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface, knead by very gently pressing and folding dough 8-10 times. You just want to smooth the dough out just a bit, but not make it tough. Not kneading it at all will tend to produce crumbly biscuits, over-kneading will make them hard.

Gently pat or roll to 1/2" thickness. Cut with a floured biscuit cutter. Place biscuits 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until they are golden brown. Drizzle tops with melted butter if desired. Serve hot.

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