I tried to make my first batch of scratch biscuits decades ago.
I was rotten at it then, and I remained rotten at it
for most of my trying-to-make-biscuits days.
But I'm getting better now! You don't understand. This is a big deal to me.
This is a very big accomplishment, very big. I'm talking well over 30
years of humiliation, frustration, repeated trips back to the ol'
"drawing board" of trying still yet another recipe, or worse, seeking the
advise of good biscuit makers who thought I must be joking about how bad
I was at it. Try to learn from anybody who is wearing an expectant grin
waiting for a punch line that never comes.
Oh me, the birds sure did eat good over the years - they never seemed to
mind my mistakes, even though some of them flew off a little funny after
feasting on those biscuit-like heaps I'd done chucked out the kitchen door.
Sometimes my biscuits were hard little discs that a ballpin hammer wouldn't
have cracked. The birds left those for the ants. My now ex-husband called
those kind my homemade "hockey pucks." Then there were those great
gummy-like things that sent people, birds, dogs, ants racing hell-bent for
water. Sometimes a batch came out looking Betty-Crocker-perfect, as in
beautifully-shaped, yummy-looking, golden-hued little dreams, but would
instantly become pastry confetti the moment they were touched. Try to
butter THOSE kind! I'd put my really bad ones in the trash - no doubt
there is landfills to this day being picketed by Save-The-Worlders
thinking that there is some sort of unidentified toxic waste. . .
One night a coupla-so years ago, some friends and I were sitting around
visiting, talking about this-n-that-or-other, when the subject of scratch
biscuits raised it's ugly little head. I made my usual jokes about how bad
mine usually were. One of my friends who knows how to make good biscuits,
a guy, for whatever that's worth, made some tacky remarks to the effect that
he just couldn't understand how anybody
could screw up something that simple, and so many times, yet.
This ultimately led to Ol' Smarty-mouth and me leaving the group and going
into the kitchen, where I gathered up all of the ingredients and stuff needed
to make biscuits with. The idea was for him to watch me make biscuits,
to see if he could figure out what my prob was. He approved of the ingredients
I put in the bowl. Then, when I picked up the two case knives I planned to use
for "cutting" the shortening into the flour mixture with, he got a puzzled look on
his face and asked, "What in the hell are those for?!!" I told him that I
didn't have a pastry blender thingy so I simply used a couple of case knives for
that part. He snatched the case knives out of my hands and tossed them
across the table and said, "The Lord gave you two perfectly good hands,
now didn't He?" I nodded my head yes. He said, "Well then, get them hands
down in that flour and make you some biscuits." From that time on, all of my
biscuits have actually been edible! It was like magic! And recently,
I made the very best batch of biscuits that I have ever made in my LIFE!
Tall, fat, fluffy, flaky little darlings with a golden-brown, perfect crust
all the way around on the outside. . .mmmmmmm!
This success was one of the most joyous accomplishments I've ever known!
I MEAN IT!
Below is the recipe I used, but I'm telling you, the "secret" is NOT in the recipe,
it's in how the dough feels in your hands. Through trial-and-error since the night
of the case-knife-tossing, I've learned when to add more flour or more liquid to
get the right feel of the dough. ]It's "right" when it isn't all sticky, when it's
sorta like play-do. I DO use a fork or something to get the whole mixture
"started," but as soon as the fork is nothing but in my way, I get them hands
down in hat dough and start "working" the dough until I like the way it feels.
THEN, another part of the secret is in "pinching off" the biscuits, not rolling/cutting
them out - and in "patting" the dough into the biscuit-shape I want, all with my
hands. It's not one bit slower than doing all that rolling-and-cutting mess.
Another part is in using the right size biscuit pan
- one that doesn't let the biscuits be all spraddled out from each other,
nor be too squished up next to each other.
It aint "Martha Stewart," but hey, it's worked for ME!
Preheat oven to 450-degrees (very important to preheat).
Mix 2 cups flour, 3 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt until blended.
Add 1/4 cup shortening (in hunks), or
6 Tablespoons of it (dotted into mixing bowl), and
stir into flour mixture best you can.
Make a hole in the center of flour mixture and
pour 3/4 cup milk into the hole.
Stir the flour-mixture into the milk best you can.
When mixture is too thick to stir, use the knuckles-side of your fist
to push any excess flour-mixture into the dough formation.
Use your hands to mix and blend until the dough feels sorta like play-do.
If the dough is too sticky and globby, sprinkle a little flour over it and
push the flour into the mixture.
If the dough is way too dry and floury, fold in a little more milk and
push the loose flour into the mixture.
When you can easily handle the play-do-like ball of dough,
pinch off your biscuits from the ball and shape them like you want.
This recipe is enough for either
12 small biscuits or 9 medium-sized ones or 6 large ones.
Have a thinish layer of oil, or melted shortening is better, in your bread pan, then
Rake each biscuit across the oil, then turn it over before placing it in the pan.
Shove each one nice-n-close to the others.
Bake small ones 10-to-12 minutes, mediums about 15, large ones about 25-ish.
For Buttermilk Biscuits, reduce baking powder to 2 teaspoons,
add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and use buttermilk instead of regular milk.
For Cheese Biscuits,
Add 1/2 cup dry American cheese.
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