Southern Biscuits

Below is a post that I wrote a couple of weekends ago, but for some reason it never actually posted to the website. Ah, technical issues. But no biggie. I happily share it with you now…provided that it posts this time around.

Yesterday morning, a Sunday, we woke up a little later than normal. This is actually somewhat of a miracle considering the wind picked up again last night after having been relatively calm most of Saturday. Usually we don’t sleep well in the wind, but after several nights of it, I guess we needed our sleep.

Biscuit ingredients, including flour, baking powder, baking soda, butter, bacon grease, salt, and buttermilk.

Biscuit ingredients, including flour, baking powder, baking soda, butter, bacon grease, salt, and buttermilk.

To be honest, we aren’t really breakfast people. We both enjoy breakfast foods, but usually don’t want them first thing in the morning. Today, though, we looked at each other and at the same moment asked “So, do you want breakfast?” That’s when we became aware of how bad the wind was howling (there had been a lull, I guess) and decided we really didn’t want to leave the house.

I have been craving biscuits and sausage gravy for a couple weeks now. In fact, last weekend I was ready to get in the car and drive an hour and a half to Talkeetna to get breakfast at the Talkeetna Roadhouse, home of arguably the best biscuits and gravy in the state. And they didn’t even pay me to say that…I just really love their breakfasts.

Anyway, today was the day I was going to satisfy that biscuit and gravy craving, so I gathered my ingredients and got work. Not that there is a lot of work to making biscuits. There was about 20 minutes of prep time, including 10 minutes where the fats for the dough were chilling in the fridge while I measured my other ingredients and pre-heated the oven (and took pictures for you). If a person were properly motivated, biscuits could be made from start to finish in half an hour. Maybe less.

I love the hands-on nature of making biscuits. There really are few more pleasurable feelings than cool flour flowing between your fingers. There there is also the “kid-playing-in-the-mud” feeling of bringing the dough together, followed by the feeling of setting everything right once more by gently cutting out the nice, round, and symmetrically placed biscuits. And of course there is the eating. It’s really a lot of fun, and a wonder I don’t make them more often.

biscuit mixing

Normally, those 10-12 minutes where the biscuits are baking are some of the hardest of life. However, I used the time to make the sausage gravy, and both were ready just in time to meet each other on my plate.

Give this duo a try the next time you have time for more than cereal or toast for breakfast but don’t want to go out. You can find the gravy recipe here, or feel free to play with whatever toppings or sauces you prefer. Eggs Benedict on a biscuit, anyone?

biscuit doughshaped biscuits

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup buttermilk
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ounce butter
1 ounce lard, bacon fat, vegetable shortening (or substitute another ounce of butter)

  1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Liberally flour a section of counter top or other work surface.
  4. Find your favorite biscuit cutter. This recipe makes 12 biscuits if you use a 2 inch cutter. I don’t own a 2 inch cutter, so my 2.5 inch cutter consistently produces 8 biscuits from this amount of dough, including the “cat head” (see below).
  5. Cut the fats into small pieces, and chill in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  6. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
  7. After combining, you can sift these dry ingredients if it makes you feel better about yourself, brings back happy childhood memories, or otherwise makes you happy.
  8. Remove the fats from the freezer and add to the flour mixture. If not, feel free to skip it.
  9. Using a pastry cutter, a fork, or your fingers (I prefer my fingers), cut the fats into the flour until the flour has the texture of course crumbs. (Try to work quickly in this step so the fats don’t warm up and melt.)
  10. Make a well in the center of the flour/fat mixture and pour in the cup of buttermilk.
  11. Use either a wooden spoon or your hands to gently combine in to a sticky dough. Do not over work the dough or the biscuits can come out tough.
  12. Scrape the dough out onto a well-floured work surface, using your hands to pat the dough into a rough circle about one-half to three-quarters of an inch thick. Flip the dough over to ensure that both sides are covered in flour.
  13. Using a biscuit cutter, small juice glass, or other cutter of your choice, cut out your biscuits by pushing straight down through the dough and turning the cutter 1/8 of a turn while keeping the edge in contact with the work surface.
  14. Brush away extra flour clinging to the biscuits, and place on the lined baking sheet so that it is just touching its neighbors.
  15. Once you have cut out all the biscuits you can from the round of dough, gently pat the scraps back together to make another round, and continue. Depending on your cutter size, you may have to repeat this step up to one more time.
  16. To make sure my biscuits brown well and have a more crisp exterior better able to stand up to gravy, I like to dip my fingers in the buttermilk clinging to the measuring cup and then wipe them across the biscuit tops, but this is an entirely optional step.
  17. Place the pan of biscuits in the oven, and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until risen and golden brown.
  18. Allow to cool for a few moments before breaking open and enjoying with butter, jam, jelly, gravy, or as the base for breakfast sandwiches.

finished buttermilk biscuits

Tips: If you are just cooking for a few people, eight to twelve biscuits may be a bit much. Feel free to wrap the extras in paper toweling and place in a zip-top bag to freeze. Or, cook extra sausage patties or other breakfast items that could work well on a sandwich and use these to build breakfast sandwiches to get you off on the right foot all week long. To thaw a biscuit in the microwave, heat while wrapped in a paper towel (see why I told you to include those when you freeze them?) for 30 seconds to 1 minute on HIGH. Heating a breakfast sandwich typically takes between 3 and 5 minutes on HIGH.

Note: If you use your hands to combine, as I do, please make sure you have already floured your work surface to receive the dough, as well as found your biscuit cutter and lined your baking sheet. I often forget to do this extra prep step before getting my hands covered in dough. Usually, as soon as I start mixing, I realize what I’ve done and send out the universal distress call in my kitchen – “Honey, can you help me with something?” May you either have a better memory than mine, or an equally accommodating spouse.

Odd cultural/family note: The final biscuit, for reasons I do not know, is called the “cat head” in many Southern families – mine included. It is formed by combining all the remaining scraps after the biscuits have been cut and the scraps patted back together for another cutting a couple of times. This mutant dough scrap ball is typically placed in the center of the pan of biscuits, is likely to dwarf the others considerably, won’t be pretty, and in my house was usually reserved for the biscuit maker – my dad. When I make biscuits at home now, I always think of him when I eat that one.

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One thought on “Southern Biscuits

  1. Pingback: Sausage Gravy | My Alaska Kitchen and Garden

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