When I say, “biscuits,” what do you think about? Maybe the kind the doughboy puts in the can? What if I told you that you could make biscuits from scratch in less than half an hour? You can absolutely do it, even if you don’t consider yourself a baker. Think how accomplished you will feel when you bring your own hot biscuits to the table. If homemade biscuits are old hat for you, take this as a reminder of how good they are and make some soon.
When I was probably eight or nine, Dad decided he was going to learn to make biscuits. He attempted time after time to make biscuits like he remembered his mother making. We always thought they were pretty good, though there was a learning curve – some flat biscuits, and some crunchy biscuits, but we always happily ate them. Somehow Dad’s biscuits became the menu for Sunday mornings. Every week Dad made biscuits, eggs and sometimes sausage or bacon. Later, as we all became more health conscious, we had fruit more often than breakfast meat, but the biscuits were ever present.
Dad usually uses shortening in his biscuits, and so did my grandma. I used to use shortening too, but lately I have started using butter in my biscuits. There is the trade-off between the saturated fat of butter, the trans fats of shortening, or the palm oil they use to make the new trans-fat free Crisco. I am currently trying to avoid palm oil since I read a few too many articles about the rain forests they are cutting down to plant palm oil plantations. Not that my efforts are going to save one scrap of rain forest, but you do what you can live with, right? The long and short of it – you can use butter or shortening in these and they will work just fine.
Dad always bakes his biscuits on two cast iron flat griddles. I have one that he gave me that was my grandma’s (of course there is a story). This recipe makes enough biscuits for two 10-inch griddles, so I use a cast iron skillet for the other half. Or I use my 14-inch cast iron pizza pan. You can always use a regular baking sheet, of course, but if you have a cast iron pan, use it. The cast iron makes the bottoms of the biscuits extra crispy. We coveted biscuit bottoms when I was a kid. I still eat the tops first and the bottoms second, to save the best for last.
Whether you like crispy biscuit bottoms, with butter and honey soaking through, or if you prefer the fluffier middles, make some biscuits soon. And be sure to post in the comments about your biscuit making adventures.
From the Cook’s Life
Makes 9-12, depending on size
1 cup white whole wheat flour*
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
4-6 tablespoons butter or shortening (the larger amount makes a richer biscuit)
¾ cup buttermilk
2-3 tablespoons buttermilk, regular milk or water (if the dough is dry)
*You can substitute all-purpose flour for the white whole wheat if you would rather. You probably won’t need the extra buttermilk/milk/water if you do this.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease a baking sheet or one large or two medium cast iron skillets or flat griddles. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix together white whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
Cut in butter or shortening until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center and add the buttermilk all at once. Mix well, but gently, until dough forms.
If there is still dry flour, add buttermilk, milk or water, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together and there are no dry patches.
Lightly flour the counter or a large cutting board and turn dough out of the bowl. Sprinkle dough lightly with flour and knead it gently, about ten times – fold the dough in half, turn it one quarter turn and repeat the folding, pressing down gently each time. Add flour if the dough sticks to your hands.
Pat the dough into a rough square.
Use your floured hands, or a rolling pin, to pat or roll the dough about ½ inch thick. Use a round biscuit or cookie cutter to cut out biscuits. After you have cut as many biscuits as possible, remove them to the prepared pan. Place them about a ½-inch apart if you want them to rise together and have soft sides, or farther apart for crispier sides.
Push the scraps together so the cut sides stick together. Gently press the dough together until you have one solid piece again. Press or roll dough out to ½ inch again. Cut out as many biscuits as possible and place on the pan.
Or you can cut the biscuits in squares or triangles and completely eliminate any scraps or the need to re-roll. I sometimes do circles for the first cutting and squares with the scraps, as I did here.
Bake the biscuits for 10-12 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned and the bottoms are deeper brown. Serve immediately.