Mamaw always made her biscuits from scratch–they were homemade biscuits, not “storebought”. When I was a boy I used to love the vacations we’d take every couple of years to my grandparents’ farm inKentucky(just about 35 miles northeast ofLexington). Mornings started pretty early there and I would get up to help Papaw slop the hogs first thing and then watch Mamaw fix the morning breakfast before heading out to other “adventures” on the farm.
There’s something about an old fashioned farm kitchen. Water was hand pumped out of the cistern. The kitchen would be steamy and would smell wonderful—the early morning aromas of baking and frying. Mamaw would bake biscuits every morning. I remember watching her work the dough before popping the biscuits into the oven.
Breakfast would start with putting lard into a big skillet and then adding bacon and sausage. When those were done and draining she’d add eggs to the skillet. Oh man, that combination of lard and pork fat would make the eggs taste fantastic! A lot of people today would cringe at the “unhealthy” cooking but both Mamaw and Papaw lived into their 80’s so it couldn’t have been too bad.
Recently, I started on a quest to come up with the “perfect” homemade biscuit.
Part of it is because I thought that flour is cheap, baking powder is cheap, milk is cheap and lard is cheap too. Yes, I said lard. Cheap Bastid is becoming a lard fan. It’s without doubt the “fat” of preference in all sorts of baking and even better, it’s cheap—a lot cheaper than shortening and cheaper than butter. Sure it’s fat but so what. I’m not using a whole lot at any one given time and the taste and texture is fantastic. Besides I get it for $1.60/lb at the grocery store and it takes 1/3 cup to make a dozen biscuits. Here’s the basic recipe:
Mamaw’s Homemade Country Biscuits
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup lard or shortening
- 3/4 cup milk (with 1 tbsp vinegar added)
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt (if you want to add just a pinch of baking soda go ahead and add it now). Cut in the lard until the mixture resembles small peas. You can use a pastry blender or a fork. (Note: I keep the lard in the freezer and then cut ¼ “ slices and dice them).
For the milk you can use whole, 2%, skim or buttermilk. (Tip: make your own “buttermilk” by pouring 1/3 cup of milk into a measuring cup and adding vinegar to the ¾ cup mark. This will change the viscosity of the milk and give you that little bit of acidity that makes your biscuits better). Gently add the milk and stir with a fork to make a soft dough. Put a bit of flour on your hands and work the dough a bit in the bowl and then form the dough into a round. (If the dough is too “wet” add just another tablespoon of flour).
Pre-heat oven to 450.
Turn this biscuit dough onto a lightly floured surface. Use the palm of your hand to pat it down to about the size of a sheet of paper. Then fold it like a letter into thirds and press it down. Work it like this 3 or 4 times.
Now you can either roll or pat out the dough until it’s about 3/8-1/2 inch thick. Use a floured biscuit cutter or the edge of a glass (about 3” in diameter) to cut out your biscuits and put them on an ungreased cookie sheet about 1” apart. When you’ve used up the dough, form it back into a ball, press to 3/8” and cut some more out—now these won’t be quite as flaky, but that’s OK because you’re getting more biscuits. You should get about a dozen biscuits. Put the cookie sheet of biscuits in a pre-heated 450 degree oven and then immediately turn the oven down to 400 for about 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.
It only takes about a half hour to make these from the time you start until you’re pulling them out of the oven. Bake ‘em for breakfast. Use them in biscuits and country sausage gravy. Make a biscuit, sausage patty and fried egg breakfast sandwich. It’s tastier and a lot cheaper than at the fast food joints like McDonalds.
But most of all, getting your hands and heart involved in your cooking is a great thing to do. It’s the way food is supposed to be and you can be proud of your accomplishment. And besides, I know that Mamaw is up there in heaven, smiling down and saying “Bless your little heart”, which was her favorite saying.
Click on this link to go to my Sausage Gravy and Biscuits post: http://www.cheap-bastid-cooks.com/sausage-gravy-and-biscuits/
That’s the Cheap Bastid Way: Eat Good. Eat Cheap. Be Grateful!