When I was a kid, sleeping over at my Mammaw’s house on Friday nights meant an evening of the TGIF prime-time lineup (back when Jaleel White was Urkel on Family Matters, not a cool dude on Dancing with the Stars), followed by the early-morning aroma of biscuits baking in the oven.
This kind of biscuits:
My little brother and I could easily split a whole can of these in a morning, slathered with Country Crock or split open and smooshed around some pan-fried sausage patties. I liked my biscuits a pale, goldish color, but Mammaw would always blaze them in her gas oven until they were as uniformly brown as a squadron of UPS delivery guys. Once Mammaw started letting me cook on my own, though, I would pop open the can all by myself and bake them to golden brown perfection.
I’d heard stories of people making biscuits from scratch. Like, mixing and kneading and stuff. Heck, I think I ‘d even read about the process in some historical fiction book or other. And of course I had experienced the euphoria of sinking my teeth into a crispy-crusted, flaky, fluffy homemade biscuit. Old people, other people’s grandmas, the ladies at the S&W Diner down the street or the Biscuit Barn here in Athens–they could craft these magical breakfast breads and all the fixins to go with them. But the only way I ever knew how to make biscuits was from one of these bright blue cans.
In fact, canned biscuits were the only kind I had ever made until about, oh, 2007. I was intimidated by real biscuits (and even a little scared to make ’em out of Bisquick, sure I’d figure out some way to ruin them).
One morning, back when we were still unmarried apartment dwellers, I woke up early on a weekend and romantically decided I was going to make Micah breakfast in bed. I found a biscuit recipe somewhere and set forth on my dough handling adventure.
Imagine a biscuit mating with a boulder and making little rock babies, and you’ll get a pretty good idea of how this batch turned out. They were so tough and dry that Micah not-so-subtly suggested that some gravy sure would be good. (My gravy was stellar, by the way…but it still couldn’t save those poor, dry, overworked biscuits.)
A few more biscuit attempts failed just as miserably. Gravy reinforcements were called in again and again.
Then I found this recipe on Food.com, and my life was forever changed.
These biscuits didn’t need gravy, sausage, Country Crock, or even jam. Somehow, they were amazing all on their own: crispy on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside, and dang near perfect.
What’s in it:
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons butter (the original recipe calls for 6, but I only had half a stick last time I made them and they were still great!)
- 1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk + 1 teaspoon lemon juice allowed to sit at room temperature for 5 minutes)
Step-by-step (another sitcom from the Friday night TGIF lineup!):
- Preheat your oven to 450°F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or lightly grease with cooking spray.
- Dump the flour, baking powder, and salt into your food processor and pulse a few times to mix. (Or, mix in a bowl.)
- Cut the butter into small cubes. Add it to the dry ingredients and pulse some more until it’s incorporated. (Or, use a fork or your fingers to work the butter into your bowl of flour.) The mixture will start to look and act a little more like Nickelodeon’s floam, with bigger grains than the powdery flour and a tendency to stick to itself if you smoosh it between your fingers.
- Add the buttermilk and process just until the dough starts to form a ball. (Or, add it to your bowl and mix until it’s incorporated.)
- Dump the dough out on a floured surface. It will be really, really sticky! Don’t mix in a ton of extra flour (as was my misguided instinct)–just sprinkle a little more flour on top.
- Lightly pat the dough down to about 3/4″ thick. The recipe says to press, fold, and repeat about five times, but I skip this step and my biscuits are still pretty darn good.
- Use a biscuit cutter, round cookie cutter, or drinking glass to cut out circles of dough. Don’t twist your cutter when you pull up–this apparently makes your biscuits a weird shape or something.
- Move these pretty little dough circles to your baking sheet. I like to put my biscuits far apart so that each biscuit has crispy edges, but you can put them closer if you like your sides fluffy.
- Bake for about 12 minutes, or until they’re golden brown.
Enjoy with your favorite biscuit toppings: gravy, bacon and eggs, sausage, cheese, smoked salmon, leftover barbecue, plain old butter and jam. Or serve them with a Southern-style dinner of fried chicken, collards, and black-eyed peas. Or just eat ’em plain, because they’re that good.
I love my Mammaw, and memories of those weekend sleepovers with her still make me smile.
But I do hope that, when my future grandbabies spend the night with me, they’ll wake up to the early morning smell of these delicious homemade biscuits.
“Did you really eat biscuits from a can?” they’ll ask.
“Yep,” I’ll say as I pat my sticky biscuit mess onto the cutting board. I’ll cut my circles, slide them into the oven, dust the flour from my hands. And those kids will marvel as I relate tales of blue cardboard tubs bursting with a soft “pop!” and bulging with pre-made discs of dough.