Biscuits!

Biscuits

I don’t know about your family, but it seems that many families I know have developed a traditional weekend morning breakfast routine. It is a special time to celebrate a bit of leisure after a harried workweek. Something made from scratch will fit the bill, perhaps waffles or pancakes with strawberry and banana-decorated faces. Our tradition was quickly and firmly established while the children were still toddlers. We made biscuits almost every Saturday morning. Everyone liked them.

My earliest family biscuit memories are filled with the sound of a chair clattering across the tile kitchen floor as Casey (now called by her given name, Katherine), probably not older than three, shoves it up against the counter and climbs up to help. It was nerve-racking the first few times. Flour dotted the counters and floors and misshapen biscuits randomly lounged on the baking pan. Casey required constant surveillance to keep the damage under control and her out of the oven. But the biscuits turned out, especially with a little coaxing song of Raffi’s, “Biscuits in the oven, gonna watch them rise.” 

Max joined the biscuit crew as soon as he could stand. His pudgy hands seemed made to pat the dough. He assured me it was his favorite part of baking biscuits. Casey, on the other hand, when asked what part she liked best, replied, “Eating them.” The girl has never failed to understand the bottom line.

Max and Casey, no matter how we tried to stop them, just kept growing up. There always seemed to be a few extra mouths at the table when overnight friends started to show up. Patrick Forquer, Max’s best buddy from the time they were in nursery school, was a regular. They were like littermates, curled up on the sofa together, all wrapped in a quilt, watching the Saturday morning cartoons. They’d jump up when it was time to cut the biscuits, ready to count the total and boast about how many of them they were going to eat. 

Casey often sleepily appeared just in time to eat them. She’d taken to asking for a little coffee too.  Occasionally, she and a friend would do most of the baking themselves. 

Saturday morning breakfast conversations certainly evolved as well. One Saturday morning, with each of us full of our share of biscuits, I listened to the lingering table chat between Buck and Casey and Max. The topic was “being cool.” Casey was urging her father to have one of his ears pierced. Just a single stud or small hoop would do. She pointed out, with great certainty, that none of the other things that he might do look cool would be as effective.

Max, who also agreed that his dad should get his ear pierced, weighed the arguments against it. Buck explained that his need to do business with a variety of lawyers, bankers, and investors might be impaired if he showed up in the wrong “uniform.” We all knew he was working on selling his company and this earring business could be a problem. I piped in, explaining that in certain situations, we dressed to make others feel comfortable. I added that we should never get confused that any clothing is actually more than a costume. I then smiled smugly at this iteration of one of my favorite parental adages.

Finally, Max pronounced quite authoritatively, “You should wait until you close the "Eest" deal, then get your ear pierced.” I caught Buck’s eye as he burst into hysterical laughter.  The biscuits were gone, only a few crumbs left lonely in the bottom of the basket. It was time to clean up, start the day in earnest, the smell of biscuits and the image of gold studs lingering gently like our smiles in the kitchen.

Fast forward 20 years...

                                                       "Biscuit"Asher Morrison

This summer Katherine and her husband, Travis Morrison brought us Asher, our first grandchild. Of course there were lots of things to do to get ready. Travis, in addition to assembling baby furniture and cooking and shopping for the mom-to-be, took up biscuit making as a serious pursuit. I remember the first weekend he spent in our summer home and Katherine was quite adamant that I show him how to make biscuits. That was a couple of years ago.  Her pregnancy certainly seemed to inspire a new round of devotion to the task. I sent him a copy of Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart’s  Southen Biscuits. http://www.nathaliedupree.com/southern_biscuits_120102.htm  He already had my recipe, but I wanted to offer a few options. He is such a creative guy.

White Lily FlourNext thing I knew, Travis had ordered a case of White Lily Self-Rising Flour, a key ingredient to any real southern style biscuit. It’s hard to come by in Brooklyn. By George, I think he’s got it. Now there will be a third generation of Southern biscuit eaters.  And guess what is the first and favorite nickname for our little melt in your heart bundle, Asher? "Biscuit!"




Biscuits

We only use White Lily Self-rising for our biscuits.  We learned from Shirley Corriher, an award winning Atlanta cookbook author, that the softer wheat found in these brands works like a charm.  Her suggestion led to my first big breakthrough in biscuit making.  I got the basic recipe from the White Lily package and a lot of inspiration from Nell Adderley, who always made the very best ones at Buck's house while he grew up.

 Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.

 2     cups self-rising flour

¼     cup solid shortening (I have used Crisco, Nutive and or try combining either with a portion of chilled unsalted butter)

2/3-3/4  cup milk

Blend the flour and the shortening together either by hand between your fingers or with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles course cornmeal.  Gradually pour the milk into the bowl while you stir.  Don’t add all the milk if the dough seems very liquid and sticky.

Place the dough on a floured board or counter and knead several times by folding the dough, flattening it with your palms, and folding again.  Keep your hands well floured if the dough is sticky.

Flatten dough to about 3/8 inch thick and cut with biscuit cutters or a sturdy inverted glass about 1.5 or 2 inches in diameter. Place on ungreased baking sheet in upper third of the oven and bake 6-8 minutes, until the tops just begin to color.

To serve, split each biscuit and butter while hot.  Serve with jam or honey.  Makes 12 biscuits.

 

Two Ingredient Cream Biscuits by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart

Click here for a charming slide show with the authors making cream biscuits. I tried these this week and felt like it was a good first attempt at mixing and folding.  I did the patting out of the dough on a kitchen towel topped with waxed paper. These are a winning melt in your mouth experience.

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