Saturday, October 18, 2008


Warning: This is a long post.
For many years, I've lived in fear that someone would come and snatch my Southern card. My shameful secret was that I could not properly maintain cast iron nor could I make biscuits. I could hear Paula Deen and many an unnamed black cook from back in the day making their way to my front door. No amount of sweet tea and fried catfish could save me. Most recently, I had my Negroness questioned because I don't know how to play bid whist, but that's another story. (I stand on the fact no one under 40 knows how to play bid.)

I digress. Lodge threw me lifeline years ago with their pre-seasoned cast iron. To date, I've only messed up one pan and that's because I was using it for something I should've picked another pan for and then I forgot it was in the oven. It was a 6" skillet, so I'm mot even worried. As long as the 8" (cornbread) and 10" (fried catfish and chicken) are okay, I'm cool.

When I bought my pieces, the brand was Lodge Logic. It has become so popular that Lodge stopped making unseasoned cast iron altogether. I think Lodge dropped the Logic brand name and just made the line its entry-level product. I know, too much marketing for a cooking blog. Hey, I do live in both worlds.

Now to the biscuits. For those who live in the South and have been graced by Bojangles, it is the standard to which I hold all biscuits. Even Sunny Anderson had to give it up for the Bo'. These are the fluffiest melt-in-your-mouth biscuits you will ever taste. Back in day in Little Rock, you could get one of these biscuits sliced in half with a spicy chicken breast in the middle. Oh my damn. (And yes, it was way better than the Chic-Fil-A version.) Sometimes, I got a plain biscuit with cheese. Yum.

After many failed attempts, today I achieved biscuit perfection! I can hold my head high as a woman of the South and go back to longer vowels and dropping the g off words! This is truly a momentous occasion. What a wonderful birthday present to myself. I'd like to thank Cook's Illustrated, White Lilly Flour and wherever I read that biscuits needed to be cut thick.

Walk with me now ...

This recipe is from Baking Illustrated. I'll give you some helpful hints along the way. First, start with a food processor. (This was Miracle's first showing in our new home.) Dump in all your dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. The sugar surprised me. I figured it was thrown in for moisture and browning. Pulse the stuff a few times to aerate and mix everything well.

A note about flour. White Lilly is the way to go. CI recommended half cake flour and half AP. The AP was for a crisp crust. Who in the hell wants a crisp crust?!! I think that's pure Yankee foolishness or as my quite foolish co-worker would put it, dancing for French fries (don't ask.)

While you're assembling your dry team, preheat the oven and put the buttermilk and flour in the freezer. I like these to be extra cold. Warm biscuit dough, like warm pie dough is not a good look at all. Go ahead and flour your board too.

Cut the butter into cubes. (I always use a bench scraper for this.) Distribute evenly on top of the flour mixture. Toss the cubes in the flour to help keep them from clumping together.

Take everything for spin via a few quick pulses. That looks perfect.

Pour the buttermilk evenly over the top. Pulse it just until you get some clumps. Gluten is the enemy here. Over mixing will give you some tough, chewy biscuits. Dump everything on your board and bring it together as quickly and gently as you can.
I wanted to shape the dough by hand (this had nothing to do with the fact I had no idea where my rolling pins were.) The recipe yield was 12, which certainly calls for more surface area than I had here.
Move quickly! You do not want the butter to melt. My dough was getting warm by the second re-rolling and cutting. For the third pass, I just picked up the scraps and shaped them. Yeah. These are some thick, country biscuits. I can hear folks miles away looking for some sausage gravy!
Y'all know I discriminate against dark-skinned baked goods. These were probably pulled too early for most folks, but this was perfect for me. This also makes sure they don't get too brown when I reheat them. If I had the butter to spare, I would've brushed the hot tops with melted butter.
Something told me this was going to be a triumphant biscuit day, so I rocked some maple glazed turkey bacon and turkey sausage with scrambled eggs. The meat was easy; I cooked it in the oven on the baking stone.

Lightly oil a skillet. Place the bacon and sausage in it. I added a little extra oil to sausage. I made sure my links were well coated. Slather the bacon with maple syrup. Coat the sausage evenly with the syrup. Place on a hot baking stone. Turn the sausage periodically for even browning.

Look at what cha get.

Now that's a breakfast! My Daddy would be proud, as would my biscuit and syrup eatin' uncles. I'm a purist. Unless it's a biscuit sandwich, all I want on mine is butter. Syrup, jelly and gravy (especially gravy) are gross.
And yes, that's sunlight streaming through my kitchen. How happy am I?
Tools of the trade:


K Hayes said...

Hi. I found your blog from your review of Williams Sonoma Tools & Techniques (which I purchased) on Amazon.

I just wanted to say that I am as southern as you can get. A true GA Peach! I couldn't make a biscuit from scratch if you held a million dollars over my head. My mom gave me her old cast iron set a couple of years ago and shamefully I have not taken care of them. Bid whist??? I guess since I'm only 36 I get a pass. ;)

I've always been a decent cook, but only recently have decided to venture into trying my hand at more complex meals (hence my purchase of the WM book).

I've enjoyed what I've read of your blog so far. Keep up the great work. And oh yeah, you just might have inspired me to try my hand at some "real" biscuits.

Laura said...

I'm very happy for you, and rather jealous. I followed your comment on obsessions over at serious eats to get here. For months, I've been subjecting my husband to little hockey pucks as I try to replicate my grandma's (from Centerville, TN) biscuits. I'm inspired, and will try cutting them thicker. Thanks!