So goes one of the slogans for the fictional product sponsor, Powdermilk Biscuits, of the radio show "A Prairie Home Companion."
Tasty and expeditious indeed! There's almost nothing better than homemade buttermilk biscuits to add a little sparkle and joy to a plain meal. The biscuits I make have to be one of DS's top 5 favorite things in the universe, so he is a happy person whenever they are on the menu.
I have vague memories of my mother making biscuits, but I can't remember what they tasted like. Now I hate to admit this, but as a kid I would not eat biscuits. I have no idea why, but I detested them!
Now of course, I pray daily that Fannie Flagg's fictious headline (from her Original Whistle-Stop Cafe Cookbook) would come true: "Doctors Discover Eating Hot Buttered Biscuits Is Actually Good For You."
Unfortunately, there is just no way of getting around FAT if you want to make a good biscuit. And not just any fat, but shortening (yup, chock-full of transfats). And, if you want them to be at the absoute zenith of deliciousness, heavy cream. Weighing the joy-to-danger ratio, I make biscuits only occasionally. But seriously, there is absolutely no point in making biscuits if you aren't going to go whole hog, so to speak-- and relish every delicious, trans-fatty and cholesterol-filled crumb.
The absolute best biscuits in the entire world are Shirley Corriher's Touch of Grace Biscuits. They are so good, in fact, that the White Lily Flour Co. has posted Shirley's recipe on their site. Except I think there are one or two little errors in their post. So use my version below! :)
Anyway, this is how I make Shirley's biscuits. I hope you will try making them at least once-- no one should exit this world without having tried a real, authentic, Touch of Grace Biscuit.
As Shirley explains in her amazing book, Cookwise, the secrets to these toothsome delights include a wet dough, a very hot oven, and the use of Southern soft wheat flour. You really do need to use a Southern-milled soft wheat flour like White Lily, Red Band, or Martha White for these to be at their tender best. And please, don't skip the cream!
Shirley Corriher's Touch of Grace Biscuits (Makes about 12 biscuits)
1 1/2 c. White Lily Self-Rising Flour (my preferred brand)
1 T. sugar
1/8 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
3 T. vegetable shortening (I like to use the Crisco sticks for easy measuring), cut into small cubes
3/4 c. cultured buttermilk
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 c. all-purpose flour for shaping (don't use self-rise here or you'll have bitter biscuits :( )
2 T unsalted butter, melted
Heat the oven to 475 F.
Spray an 8" round cake pan with non-stick spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the self-rising flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt to blend thoroughly.
With a pastry blender, 2 knives, or your fingertips, cut the shortening into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse, lumpy meal: it SHOULD be lumpy, but you want the lumps to be no bigger than a baby pea. These lumps are important, as they will help to make the biscuits light and tender.
In a glass measure, combine the buttermilk and heavy cream.
Stir the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture and let it stand for 2-3 minutes. Don't worry if the dough seems wet-- you aren't supposed to roll and cut it.
Place the all-purpose flour on a dinner plate.
With a spoon or an ice-cream scoop, spoon a biscuit-sized lump of dough into the all-purpose flour. Sprinkle some of the flour over the dough. With floured hands, pick up and shape the dough into a soft round and shake off any excess flour.
Place the biscuit in the cake pan.
Continue shaping biscuits this way, pressing the biscuits against each other in the pan so they won't spread out.
Brush the tops of the biscuits gently with the melted butter.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned.
Remove the biscuits from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 1-2 minutes in the pan.
Turn the biscuits out gently and cut them apart. Serve immediately.
For a real treat, try serving the biscuits with Shirley's Cherry-Chambord Butter (Deep South meets Haute Cuisine!). Or follow Nathan's example and just eat them with cream cheese and guava paste ;D !
Cherry-Chambord Butter1/4 lb. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 8 oz. pkg cream cheese
2 T Chambord or other raspberry liqueur
1/2 c. confectioner's sugar
1 small jar (5 oz.) good cherry preserves
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
Process the butter, cream cheese, liqueur and confectioner's sugar in a food processor until smooth. Stir in the preserves and the zest by hand. Chill well before serving. Will keep several weeks in the refrigerator.