Greg Bales

Biscuits

Long ago, when I could eat anything at all, I very much enjoyed biscuits and gravy. I don’t say I was a connoisseur of the dish; slathered white sausage gravy on quickbread is not the sort of thing that lends itself to gourmet subtleties. I ordered it every week at Bobby’s, one of that class of county-seat diners that specializes in steak and eggs, cheap coffee, and early morning shit-shooting, when I would meet my grandparents for breakfast. I remember the gravy being served on the side, in a bowl. I usually reserved at least one biscuit to eat with butter and jam, or with honey; I dumped the gravy on the rest. The last time I ordered it was at the Hamburg Inn, more than ten years ago, before I got married (and certainly before I discovered Hamburg’s sweet potato pancakes). When I became a vegetarian—for me, a gradual process that involved a lot of internal debates about my health and my ethics—I avoided all thought of biscuits and gravy lest I be tempted and backslide. Some years later, I realized that I had never really ordered the stuff for the gravy; after all, it was about the same at one restaurant as it was at another. It was the biscuits I had always wanted.

Biscuits, up close by mollyali, on Flickr
Biscuits, up close by Flickr user mollyali, used with permission granted by a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 license

So I started baking biscuits. My primary recipe came from The Ozarks Collection cookbook, a spiralbound book published in Forsyth, Missouri.1 The biscuits were unremarkable, but they were easy to make and didn’t require any ingredients I didn’t already have around the house, such as buttermilk. They also had a consistency and flavor that I liked with butter and strawberry jam. But K never much liked them, not because of their flavor, but because they were dry. “I can hardly choke the things down,” she said. This made me sad, and out of deference to her palate, I suffered, biscuitless but for a few occasions, for years.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to try biscuits again with a different recipe. We had purchased Shirley Corriher’s Bakewise, so I looked up her biscuit recipe. I was intrigued by the confidence with which she declared that they were the best biscuits in the world.2 Unfortunately, Corriher’s recipe depends on self-rising flour and a lot of buttermilk, neither of which I had on hand. So I adapted her recipe to mine. K approved of that first batch, as did G; a few dozen more biscuits later, and their reviews were even better. With so much positive feedback, how could I not share the recipe with you?

Biscuits

Ingredients
Quantity Ingredient
2 c flour, plus extra set aside3
½ tsp salt
⅓ c sugar
4 tsp baking powder
½ c (1 stick) butter, cold
1 egg, beaten
⅔ c milk
1 c plain yogurt or buttermilk
Preparation
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Butter a couple of pans. Corriher recommends using round pans and placing the biscuits up against each other as tight as can be so they rise up and not out. This is good advice: I’ve been using two 9-inch cake pans; the recipe makes enough to fill one pan and part of the other.
  3. Mix the dry ingredients well. Use a whisk. As with all breads, you want to be sure the leavening is thoroughly and evenly spread throughout the flour.
  4. Cut the butter into the flour like you would cut it into pie crust, with a pastry cutter or fork. You want to have small chunks spread throughout the dough.
  5. Mix together the egg, milk, and yogurt or buttermilk, and then add the mixture to the rest. As with in Corriher’s recipe, the consistency should be like cottage cheese.
  6. Scoop the wet dough into a ball. (I use an ice cream scoop.) Drop the ball into a the set-aside flour. Make sure it’s coated all over in flour, shake off any excess by juggling the dough between your hands, and drop the dough into a pan. Don’t let there be any space between the biscuits.
  7. Bake the biscuits until they are golden and browning, about 17 or 18 minutes. When you take them out of the oven, you can turn them out on a drying rack as Corriher does or be lazy like me and let them cool in the pan—they’re good regardless.

1 Most of the book’s recipes come from The Ozarks Mountaineer. I don’t use it very often, but it’s a fun source of interesting casseroles for church potlucks and a nice reference for the kinds of dishes I was served when growing up in Arkansas.

2 Judging by the picture in the link, they certainly look the part.

3 Half whole-wheat, half all-purpose flour works well. If you’re only using all-purpose flour, you can probably cut the sugar to ¼ cup.

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Comments

August 31, 2011

The Ozarks biscuits weren’t dry. There was just something really dense about them that made them painful to swallow. And then come to find out—it helps to have saliva in order to swallow bread. So the moistness of these is awesome for a defective eater like myself, and they’re just so tasty.

The pic of Shirley’s biscuits makes them look much bigger. That must be the self-rising flour. Superior leavening.

I think buttermilk is somewhat more acidic than milk and yogurt—superior leavening again.

This and this are worth a link on this post—hell, they’re better than the post itself.

September 03, 2011

A picture!

Biscuits

September 24, 2011

A recommendation from experience: DON’T LEAVE OUT THE SUGAR.

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