Biscuits are a Southern staple, and I grew up on my grandmother’s soft rounds of dough, their brown-speckled tops crowning cushy, delicate insides begging for a fat pat of pale yellow butter. I was surprised the first time I had a biscuit anywhere else. It tasted pretty much the same—not as good, but similar—yet was easily twice the size.
The biscuits served at restaurants or my friends’ houses were huge, but actually, the norm. I soon learned that my grandmother’s—and the ones Mom made using her recipe and technique—were the oddballs. My grandmother was nothing if not practical, and her thought was, “Why buy a biscuit cutter when I have this perfectly good little sausage can on hand?” She used it to fashion her biscuits for decades, making them downright dainty compared to the palm-sized mounds of flaky quick bread we often see down here.
I’ll happily take a warm biscuit of any size any day, but when I make them at home, I make them the way Munnie did, small in size but big on Southern comfort. I’m posting her recipe, but it’s a hard one to share. She never once measured the amount of buttermilk used; she’d slowly pour it into the dry ingredients with one hand, working it into the dough with the other, and she knew she’d added enough when it all “felt right.” I now know what “right” feels like too, but the last time I made a batch, I measured as I poured, one quarter-cup at a time. It turns out, “right” equals two cups of buttermilk.
So here’s her biscuit recipe.
• 4 cups all purpose flour (use White Lily if you can)
• 2/3 cup, plus 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
• 6 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 2 cups full-fat buttermilk
Combine the dry ingredients and then work the shortening in with your hands. Add the buttermilk slowly, while mixing it in with your other hand. Don’t overwork the dough. Just get everything mixed together.
Roll out the dough on a floured board and dip your cutter in flour. Cut out your biscuits and place on a sheet pan. Place them with their sides touching, not spread out (like you would do for cookies).
Bake at 450 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until the tops just begin to show some golden brown.
Note: If you don’t eat them all right after you make them (and this recipe makes quite a few), do this with them the next day: Slice them in half, place them on a cookie sheet, put a smidge of butter on each, and pop them under the broiler for a few minutes. The butter melts down (like when they were first hot from the oven) and the edges get crisp and brown.
SEE MORE “BISCUITS: BIGGER IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER” PHOTOS HERE