Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Art of Making Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

Biscuits are a long-time staple of Southern U.S. cuisine and are often made with buttermilk. They are traditionally served as a side dish with a meal. As a breakfast item they are often eaten with butter and a sweet condiment such as molassses, light sugarcane syrup, maple syrup, sorghum syrup, honey or fruit jam or jelly. With other meals they are usually eaten with butter or gravy instead of sweet condiments. However, biscuits and gravy (biscuits covered in country gravy ) or biscuits with sausage are usually served for breakfast.

Many southern women recall that their introduction into the world of baking came through the preparation of biscuits, almost as a rite of passage. Mothers and grandmothers taught young girls how to mix and prepare biscuits, measuring by "pinches" or through the "feel" of the dough.

And biscuits makers are particular about their flour. Up north 'hard flour' is made from wheat grown in the Midwest. But for southern baking, you need to use a 'soft' flour.
White Lily and Martha White, both produced in the South, continue to rank among the most popular flours used in biscuit making. Southern flour brands are softer than typical all-purpose flours because they have less protein, which in turn makes for a more tender, flaky biscuit. You can make biscuits with all-purpose flour, but use less of it or cut it with lighter cake flour.

There is certainly an art to making biscuits. While you don't have to be Southern to make a fine biscuit, Southern cooks have historically known "what they're aiming for" in that pursuit: the lightest, fluffiest, softest biscuits possible. I have discovered there are classes and workshops on how to make the perfect biscuit.

The Art of Biscuit Making Tips:
  • Flour—Stir the flour before measuring to fluff it up, which will help make the biscuits light and fluffy.
  • Shortening—Cut in shortening with a pastry blender or fork until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. "Cutting in" distributes bits of shortening throughout the flour before liquid is added. As the biscuits bake, the shortening melts in pockets, which produce tender, flaky layers. For extra flaky biscuits, leave the shortening in larger-pea-size chunks. Lard or butter may be substituted for shortening.
  • Mixing Ingredients—When combining ingredients, make a well in the dry ingredients and add the liquid all at once. Stir with a fork only until a soft ball of dough forms and leaves the sides of the bowl. The dough should be soft. If dough is dry, add an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons milk. Using buttermilk instead of milk will give the biscuits a tangier flavor and moist texture.
  • Kneading dough—Knead by turning the dough out onto a floured surface or pastry cloth. Roll dough around to lightly coat it with flour. Knead gently and just enough to form a smooth ball, 10 to 12 times. The technique for kneading biscuit dough is much more gentle than kneading yeast dough. Overkneading will make biscuits tough.
  • Rolling dough—Roll dough with a rolling pin to an even 1/2-inch thickness. Biscuits will double in height during baking. You might want to experiment with the thickness of the dough depending on your preference for thick, cakey biscuits or thinner, crisp ones.
  • Baking—Bake in a preheated oven on a shiny, lightly greased baking sheet for a golden crust. Dark cookie sheets absorb heat and cause the biscuits to over-brown on the bottom. For crusty sides, place biscuits 1-inch apart. For soft sides, place biscuits close together. Brush hot biscuits with melted butter, if desired.
Cook's notes: So after delving into the subject; I checked my baking powder expiration date and made sure it was "aluminium free', purchased White Lily Flour and circled on my sheet the most important direction The key to real biscuits is not in the ingredients, but in the handling of the dough. Make sure not to overprocess the flour and butter, mix in the buttermilk gently but thoroughly, and form the biscuits quickly so the gluten doesn't have time to activate.
The difficulty in choosing a recipe was each recipe said their completed biscuits were bigger, better, higher, fluffier than the other. 
I picked Southern Buttermilk Biscuits  from because there were 495 reviews and the ones I read (not all 495) were positive. There were are you ready for this!!~21 helpful hints listed for this recipe.
So the burning question is... Can a northerner successfully make southern biscuits that are soft, tender and flakey?  
The answer: Perhaps it is possible with practice but I know this northerner definately needs more. The biscuits tasted fine but looked more like English muffins. Until I can perfect this recipe I will refrain from posting it :) 

check out this link to view a recipe I submitted Bailey's Irish Cake

Parchament paper is an undervalued cooking staple for the pantry.
1. Line cooking sheets and baking pans 
2. Use in place of a bowl when sifting dry ingredients
3. Wrap leftovers and prevents sticking
4. Make a dinner-parchment wrapped chicken or fish
5. Use as disposable placmeat for crafts
6. Use to cover dishes in a microwave 

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