Gourmet (January 2008)
We both have Southern grannies who can crank out a batch of biscuits faster than you can say "batch of biscuits," so we've always been a little disappointed with our biscuit efforts. Without fail, our biscuits over the last few years have been too thin, too small, or too crunchy. Mr. Scott Peacock has shown us the error of our ways.
In the January 2008 issue of Gourmet, Peacock has a lovely essay about his friendship with Edna Lewis, and a dozen or so classic Southern recipes accompany the article. The biscuit recipe is relatively straightforward, but the brands seem to make the difference.
According to Peacock, White Lily Flour, made in Memphis, TN, is the secret to successful biscuits. We had to get White Lily, and after several calls, we discovered that our local Harris Teeter carries the brand (Whole Foods and Safeway do not).
However, once we arrived at Harris Teeter, we found that they only had self-rising, not all-purpose as recommended by the recipe. We purchased it anyway, figuring we could find a solution. White Lily to the rescue! Their website has a handy FAQ answering just about any question you might have about flour. From there, we learned that in certain quantities, if your recipe also calls for salt and baking powder, you can substitute self-rising for all-purpose by omitting those two ingredients.
Interestingly, Peacock also includes a recipe for Homemade Baking Powder, which -- who knew?! -- is just baking soda and cream of tartar, but we didn't have need for this since we were omitting this ingredient.
As you can tell by the photo, the biscuits turned out beautifully and were more perfect than we could imagine. Our brunch guests were wowed, and we think our grannies would be proud.
Crusty Buttermilk Biscuits
Gourmet (January 2008)
Makes 15 biscuits
Active Time:15 min
Start to Finish:30 min
* 5 cups sifted White Lily flour or unbleached all-purpose flour (sift before measuring)
* 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder (preferably homemade)
* 1 tablespoon kosher salt
* 1/2 cup cold lard
* 1 1/2 cups well-shaken cold buttermilk
* 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 500°F with rack in middle.
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add lard, coating it with flour, then rub between your fingertips until coarsely blended with some 1/2-inch lumps.
Make a well in flour mixture, then add buttermilk, stirring just until a dough forms (it will be soft and sticky). Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead 8 to 10 times. Roll out dough with a floured rolling pin into a 12-inch round (1/2 inch thick) and, using a fork dipped in flour, prick all the way through about every 1/2 inch.
Cut out as many rounds as possible with a 2 1/2- to 3-inch round cookie/biscuit cutter dipped in flour (do not twist cutter).
Bake, almost touching, on an ungreased heavy baking sheet, rotating sheet after about 6 minutes if browning unevenly, until crusty and golden-brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Brush tops with melted butter and serve warm or at room temperature.
Cooks' notes: Flour mixture with lard can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.