It’s Sunday morning. A request for biscuits, so a trip to the store for buttermilk was required. Apparently it was worth it – he was out the door in seconds.
I don’t make them very often at all these days – and swore I wouldn’t eat any. The flesh is willing, but the mouth is weak. I ate two.
Here’s how it’s done – the only way I know how, learned by watching my mother, Nellie Harrelson, and Aunt Eleanor Ward do this day in, day out – at breakfast or supper and sometimes, dinner.
Step 1: Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Sift the flour, twice, into a large bowl. I don’t have a recipe – so eyeball about 2-1/2 cups. I use White Lily Unbleached Self Rising Flour. Add baking powder and soda to your all-purpose flour if you don’t have self-rising.
Step 2: Make a well in the flour and scoop about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of shortening into your hand (you’ll see why in the next step). Chill the shortening if so inclined.
Step 3: Drop the shortening into the well of the flour. Take your greased hand and grease the round cake pan in which you’ll bake your biscuits.
Step 4: Using your fingers, work the shortening into the flour by rubbing between your fingers, till it’s about the size of peas. If you’re persnickety, you could use a pastry blender. (No Southerner would, however.)
Step 5: Pour buttermilk into the bowl – about 3/4 cup. Stir with fingers in a circle to begin to bring the dough together.
Step 6: Pull flour into the dough and mix with fingers, squeezing the flour-buttermilk-shortening mix through your fingers. Continue working in more flour, a bit at a time.
Step 7: The dough will come together as flour is worked into it – do not add too much flour. This is where the “feel” is important. It should be very soft, but not stick to your hands too much. Don’t work all the flour into the dough – it’s not needed.
Step 8: Flour your hands. Pinch off a piece of dough the size of a large egg. Lightly roll between your hands to form the biscuit.
Step 9: Place the biscuits in the greased pan, sides touching. Pat down slightly with top of knuckles.
Step 10: Repeat with all dough – you will have flour left in bowl. Put in hot oven (400 degrees) and bake about 18 minutes or until the tops turn “just pink,” as my Uncle Gordon Harrelson put it. They should be lightly tanned on bottom. Do not overbake.
Final: Turn out onto serving plate (Southerners turn them bottom up to pull apart). Serve piping hot with butter and jelly, or honey or cane syrup. To eat with honey or cane syrup, poke a hole in the top with your finger and fill with the desired syrup.
Makes a pan full. Enjoy!