Warning: Biscuits are not health food!
There’s nothing more Southern than homemade biscuits and while seemingly simple, scratch made biscuits are often difficult to master. It took me many, many years and multiple pans of sub standard biscuits before I could achieve consistency. Here’s how I do it and the tips I’ve learned along the way.
- Self Rising Flour
- Extra Rich Buttermilk
- Animal Shortening, Butter or Coconut Oil (no vegetable shortening or vegetable oil)
In most foods, choosing the ingredients is key to success. Biscuits are no different. Biscuits are not health food, so don’t try to use health food ingredients. It is possible to use vegetable oil and low-fat buttermilk, but your results will be sub standard. Don’t use vegetable shortening. Vegetable shortening contains partially hydrogenated oils which are chemically produced in factories and are completely un-natural to the digestive tract and other parts of the body. Also, vegetable oils begin to burn at temps above 325 F. Animal fats and tropical oils can endure the much higher temperatures at which you will cook your biscuits.
Preheat your oven to 375 – 450 F. The exact temp depends on how fast you want them to cook. I’m usually cooking other things at the same time, so I judge how long those things will take so my biscuits come straight from the oven to the table.
First, biscuit making is a process and an experience. I do not measure my ingredients for biscuits. If you’re a newbie, I’ll try to give approximate amounts. Along the way I’ll tell you how the dough should look and feel. If you get the ingredient amounts close, your dough will be ok.
Put some flour in a large bowl (3-4 cups). Add to this a couple of scoops of the fat you chose. I usually grab a large table spoon out of the silverware drawer and dig into my shortening. If you’re using butter, start with 3/4 of a stick. A half-cup of coconut oil should be enough.
Cut your fat into the flour. Keep working the mixture until it is the consistency of corn meal. If its too flour-y, add some fat; if too lumpy, add some flour and work some more. I use a dough cutter, however a knife and fork work as well, but will take longer.
Pour in some buttermilk. Slowly and gently mix the milk into the flour mixture. I use a fork to do this part. Make sure you dig down deep into the bowl to get everything moist. It is important to not overwork biscuit dough. Biscuits should be crumbly like cake. If you work the dough too much, you will have bread.
I usually start with less milk than I need and continue to add a little more as I mix. Stop adding milk when the dough is thoroughly moist, but reasonable stiff. The dough will glisten, but not be runny. Your fork should stand up in the dough and not fall over.
Prepare a large baking pan by lightly greasing it with a little of the fat you used in the biscuits. You can use a spray, but why would you? If you use a non-stick pan without greasing it your biscuits won’t be as brown on the bottom.
I make drop biscuits, but if you want to cut your biscuits or pinch them off, then so be it. Just make sure you don’t overwork your dough. Drop biscuits aren’t as pretty as cut or pinch biscuits, but they are a lot faster to prepare and you won’t get dough all over your hands.
For cut biscuits, prep your cutting surface with a light dusting of flour, dump the dough on the flour, dust the dough with yet more flour and roll the dough until it is about an inch thick. Cut with a cup, glass or other cylindrical object. Re-roll any scrap dough and repeat until its all used.
For pinch biscuits, prep your surface as for cut biscuits, dump the dough on the surface and dust it and your hands with flour until you can handle the dough without is sticking. Pinch off a ball of dough about the size of a racquetball, roll it a bit and flatten it into a disk about an inch thick.
For drop biscuits, take a table spoon and scoop out a ball of dough. Use your fork to push the ball of dough out of the spoon and onto your greased pan. See how easy this is?
Put the pan in the oven and let bake for about 12 minutes. When they are done, they will be a medium brown color on top. Don’t overcook your biscuits or you’ll be able to use them for hockey practice. If they are not medium brown on top, leave for another 3-4 minutes and repeat until they look right. When they get done, serve hot with butter, molasses, corn syrup, gravy, sausage, jelly, etc.
Remember: Biscuits are not health food!