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Let's talk about biscuits!

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I'm a cook, not a baker. But recently, I've begun to take on baking "experiments", and have enjoyed the results. It was the no-knead bread that made me a convert, and now I'm wanting to take on biscuits.

Every thanksgiving, I make my grandmother's "'angel" biscuits- yeast based, and folded so they look like angel wings, which taste great, but aren't what I'm looking for. What I want to make is some big ol' fluffy southern style biscuits.

Anyone have great recipes or tips? I vaguely recall something about making a volcano shaped mound of the drys and putting the liquids in the center and mixing with a fork, but alas, I never got the details on those before my Alabama grandmother passed.

Help me make some great from-scratch biscuits this weekend!

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  1. LOL, you will get so many responses to this one!
    First, let me tell you a story. My ex-MiL and her sisters were putting together their mother's recipe for whole wheat biscuits, that are really only about 50% whole wheat. They always made them without measuring, yet they always turned out the same, and always were alike, but, when they started measuring, for the recipe book, every one was different, and when they tested each other's measurements, the results were vastly different!
    Okay, I'll tell you, the best advice I ever saw fro making biscuits, is to follow the recipe. Buttermilk YES...after that, the amount of shortening/lard/butter/oil(shudder) are slightly different. You want to find a recipe, or use one that someone will post, try it, and if you don't like the results, ask, or try to figure out why they ended up that way. It took me a lot of tries to find out that it wasn't necessarily the recipe, but the method I was using. I think I just read a post on another BB about a light hand makes light biscuits, or something like that.
    I prefer a combo of lard and butter, and a little sugar in the dough, and cutting the fats into the flour mixture in 2 lots: the first, to make a very fine meal, and the second, a coarser meal.
    I look forward to reading the input of others on this topic

    AnnieG

    1. I make scones when biscuits like this are required-the first thing I ever learned to make-I must have been about 7. I am sorry it is not exact, this is a recipe that is really in my hands...I was always taught a tspn of baking powder per cup of flour.

      3 c flour
      almost a whole stick of butter
      1/4 tspn salt
      1 T sugar
      mix together with your hands until it looks like corn meal.

      Add: milk/cream/buttermilk until it is gloppy, I like cream the best. Bake at 375 until brown, eat while hot. It looks more "southern" if you roll them and cut them. If you do that add less milk.

      If you add buttermilk use baking soda in addition to the baking powder. (I always check a recipe for the amount, but it is I think 1/2 tspn for a cup of buttermilk.

      1. Here's a recipe that I made up the other day. My family loves them.

        Orange Biscuit-Scones

        3 cups all purpose flour
        1/3 cup granulated sugar (I use vanilla sugar)
        4 tsp baking powder
        3/4 tsp table salt
        4 Tbs butter - cut into small cubes.
        2 Tbs cooking oil
        1 egg, whipped
        1/2 cup orange juice
        1/4 cup milk
        zest of 1 orange
        1/2 cup golden raisins

        Preheat oven to 375-F.
        In a stand mixer bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
        Mix well.
        Add butter and cooking oil.
        Mix until mixture looks like cornmeal.
        Mix orange juice, orange zest, milk and whipped egg together.
        Add orange juice/milk/egg mixture to flour and mix until a ball of dough forms.
        You may have to scrape side of bowl with rubber spatula and continue mixing
        to form dough ball. Add more flour or milk as needed to form non-sticky dough.
        Add raisins and mix for another 10 or 15 seconds.
        Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead a few times.
        Roll out dough to 1/2-inch thickness.
        Cut out biscuit rounds with 2 pr 3 inch diameter biscuit cutter.
        Place on baking sheet with biscuits just touching edge to edge.
        Bake 20-25 minutes until biscuit edges are slighly golden brown and
        centers are not doughy.
        Makes about 12 biscuits-scones.
        Split open and serve with butter.

        1. While I appreciate the thought and effort typing that in, let me clarify.

          I want good old fashioned southern biscuits.

          I don't want scones, and I don't want flavors. Buttermilk is fine, but no oranges or raisins or vanilla, please.

          6 Replies
          1. re: cheesemonger

            Using a low gluten flour makes a big difference. It's very hard to find in most of the US, but I know some good southern cooks who swear by White lLly and won't bother to makes biscuits with anything else. The Southern Living cookbooks have several types of recipes, angel biscuits, cream biscuits, baking powder biscuits, and buttermilk biscuits. Maybe try a few of those recipes and see which type is closest to what you are looking for and then start tweaking your technique.

            1. re: cheesemonger

              You can find a biscuit recipe on the back of a bag of White Lily Flour, milled in Knoxville Tenn. White Lily flour is "made from pure soft winter wheat" according to the package, and I believe is now carried in stores not in the South. Soft wheat should give you soft biscuits and the White Lily recipe should be Southern enough!

              The previous poster is right about using a light hand. Don't knead biscuits as you would bread. Also, older recipes called for sifting the flour before measuring, and even though most newer recipes don't call for that, it is probably a good idea. (I'm probably going to get called out on that, but I do think sifting lightens up the finished product. If you don't sift, shake the flour up in its storage cannister before measuring, if you can.)

              Make enough biscuits for dinner, and enough for dessert with jam or honey.

              1. re: cheesemonger

                Sorry. Didn't know you disike those ingredients. Please accept my profuse apologies. I've fired the cook. It won't happen againl

                1. re: Antilope

                  You made me laugh out loud!!! Thanks a ton for that! You rock.

                  1. re: Antilope

                    I don't dislike those ingredients, but I thought the OP was fairly clear when I said "big ol' fluffy southern style biscuits". Fire your proofreader, if you need to can someone. ;p

                    1. re: Antilope

                      antilope! LOL.

                      well, i guess beggars CAN be choosers!!!!!
                      ;-D

                  2. I've been on a quest for good biscuits, too. I find that shortening makes a flakier product than butter. So far, the best I've made is revsharkie's at the bottom of this thread (long thread but a lot of good info):

                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/352702

                    People loved them and all 30+ I made (doubled the recipe) disappeared quickly. I thought they were good but I still haven't mastered the technique (I need a grandmother who's grown up making them her whole life to walk me through it) and I think they could have been better. But, that's user error. I figured if they turned out as well as they did when I made them (over kneaded, I'd say--can't resist giving a few extra kneads to be on the safe side), the recipe must be great.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: chowser

                      Why thank you, she said, ducking her head humbly.

                      No, don't knead them much if any. I pretty much just gather the dough into a ball, make sure it's reasonably smooth and even on the outside, then pat it out to the right thickness.

                      My husband just told me he had a dream where we were visiting some people--probably one of his customers--and we got to talking about biscuits, and I just went into the kitchen and made a batch.

                    2. I once traveled hundreds of miles for a biscuit.

                      Although that may sound pathetic to some, others will understand.

                      I had read amazing things about the biscuits at the Loveless Cafe outside of Nashville. I also saw the cafe and the biscuits featured on the Food Network. They looked so light and fluffy.... when I made biscuits they always came out harder and denser than I wanted. But these Loveless biscuits looked like cottony clouds.

                      But I lived in Connecticut, and alas these biscuits were but a dream.

                      Then one day my husband told me he was going to a convention in Nashville and asked me if I wanted to go. Having been to many of his, shall I say, rather ordinary conventions, my first thought was to say no. But then I remembered..BISCUITS!!!!

                      Why I sure did want to go to that convention, and the second it was over, we headed in our rental car down to the famous Loveless. And the biscuits!! Wow, they were tall, soft, light, fluffy and delicious!!!

                      When I got home, I was bound and determined to make the same ones. But no matter what recipe I tried (and I am a baker), I failed. The results were never as soft and light as I would want.

                      I gave up. Then one day I bought an issue of Cook's Illustrated and it had a recipe for tall and fluffy biscuits... hmmm.... As luck would have it, I also happened to catch an episode of America's Test Kitchen where they went through the recipe step by step. The results looked amazingly like the Loveless biscuits... but I had been frustrated before....

                      Well, cut to the chase... I made that CI recipe and those biscuits were IT!!!! They were the Loveless Biscuits (Only better because I could make them anytime I wanted).

                      So if you are looking for tall, light and fluffy, give these a whirl!! I found what appears to be the recipe, below:

                      http://www.cdkitchen.com/recipes/recs...

                      The directions may seem a little complicated, but it really isn't. Also, I have made them many times now and can definitely give pointers. Ahhh.

                      18 Replies
                      1. re: TrishUntrapped

                        I wonder if it's the same recipe in the Best Recipe. I didn't have luck with the ones in the Best Recipe.

                        1. re: TrishUntrapped

                          Trish- this is EXACTLY what I'm looking for! I love those Test Kitchen people, and I had no idea that they had explored thre good southern biscuit.

                          And, I'm in the South, so White Lily Flour is readily available. I've been using the King Arthur flour for bread, but I'll pick up some WL at the Piggly Wiggly...

                          I'm so excited to make these. I'll report back! Thanks so much for a "tried and true" recipe.

                          1. re: cheesemonger

                            Good luck, really they aren't difficult to make. But you do NOT need special flour for them. I just used all purpose, and they were plenty soft. But your results may be magnificent. Let us know!

                            1. re: TrishUntrapped

                              For your guidance, AP flour is different regionally, softer being more in demand in the southeast. I've used AP on the west coast and it's different. White Lily is an AP flour, but since it's mostly used by southeastern cooks, it's made from softer wheat. So if your AP flour makes a tougher biscuit, it wouldn't hurt to try cake flour.

                              1. re: WCchopper

                                The Best Recipe biscuit uses cake flour.

                            2. re: cheesemonger

                              I just checked and this is not the same recipe as the ones in the Best Recipe I have by Cooks Illustrated. Not unusual, they seem to find a different "best" recipe, depending on whether it's the magazine or the book. There are two recipes, one for fluffy (calls for either buttermilk or yogurt), one for flaky (uses a mix of butter and shortening). If the one above doesn't give you what you're looking for, I can copy either or both.

                              1. re: chowser

                                And I make the CI 'Cream Biscuits' as my personal favorites.... Easy for a quick morning breakfast -


                                2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour , plus extra for the counter
                                2 teaspoons granulated sugar
                                2 teaspoons baking powder
                                1/2 teaspoon table salt
                                1 1/2 cups heavy cream


                                1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
                                2. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl. Stir in the cream with a wooden spoon until dough forms, about 30 seconds. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and gather into a ball. Knead the dough briefly until smooth, about 30 seconds.
                                3. Shape the dough into a 3/4-inch-thick circle. Cut biscuits into rounds or wedges. Place rounds or wedges on parchment-lined baking sheet. (The baking sheet can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 2 hours.) Bake in upper 1/3 of oven, until golden brown, about 15 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking.

                                1. re: chowser

                                  Ci has several biscuit recipes in their repertoire. The recipe for the one I gave makes tall, light and fluffy. You don't roll them out and you don't use a cookie cutter. You form them into balls and then put them together in a pan and then break them apart when they are done. They aren't the short-multilayered flaky type..

                                  1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                    I have to look again but I think that's how their "fluffy" ones are made in the BR cookbook. And, jeanmarieok's looks interesting, too, with no butter or shortening.

                                2. re: cheesemonger

                                  Now you're on the right track! Get to the Piggly Wiggly, buy that White Lily and use the recipe right on the back of the bag!
                                  It's great. Follow it exactly. When they say only turn the dough 2 or 3 times, don't do it 10 times or you'll have tough biscuits. Cut them as close together as you can so you don't have to re-roll the leftovers more than once.
                                  The only change I make is using lard for a crisp crust. And I get great buttermilk from the Amish farmers that actually still comes in returnable glass bottles - none of that lowfat stuff.
                                  Praise the Lard and pass the butter! White Lily is the best!

                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                    MS- I get my fresh milk, cream, butter and buttermilk from a dairy down the road, so I'm covered there as well. I am freakishly excited by this process. I'm having guests next weekend, and they will be my guinea pigs (insert manaical laughter here).

                                    1. re: cheesemonger

                                      Be careful - after those biscuits, they might never leave. (insert manaical laughter here)

                                      1. re: cheesemonger

                                        The White Lily recipe uses 1/4 cup "shortening." I've tried:
                                        Crisco - works just fine and it's always on hand
                                        1/2 Crisco and butter - like Alton Brown - nice flavor
                                        Lard - my hands-down favorite
                                        I've used supermarket buttermilk too and it works fine but the real deal buttermilk is worth the trouble of seeking out.
                                        The White Lily recipe is the best I've found.

                                        1. re: MakingSense

                                          This is it?? The entire recipe? The best biscuits I had were in the South, and soft wheat or 'red' wheat? flour were used, as was buttermilk. They were addictive.

                                          http://tinyurl.com/27e39g

                                          How sad that I can't get White Lily Soft Wheat Flour in Westchester, NY. Or at least I don't think I can.

                                          Nope, just went to their website, and NY is sadly missing a White Lily.

                                          1. re: dolores

                                            Yep. That simple. The recipe on the plain (not self-rising) flour uses baking powder, salt and buttermilk (rather than plain milk) and you only "knead gently" only 2 or 3 times rather than about 10 as in the self-rising flour recipe. Not a big difference. Both of these recipes are about as simple as it gets. Why complicate a good thing?

                                            Southern bakers swear by White Lily but there must be an alternative.

                                            1. re: MakingSense

                                              Thanks, MakingSense. I would love to know a Northern alternative to White Lily. It seems there is a 'red' wheat flour on WL's website.

                                              That biscuit I had was etheral. I'd like to attempt to duplicate it.

                                              Answer is here:

                                              http://tinyurl.com/2bdlnd

                                            2. re: dolores

                                              white lily online:
                                              http://onlinestore.smucker.com/displa...

                                    2. re: TrishUntrapped

                                      I make biscuits from a recipe in Cuisine at Home from about 2003 that are similar to the CDkitchen recipe. They are great - light and fluffy. Use the White Lily if you can get it.
                                      My family likes these biscuits with just butter and jam. If they want biscuits and gravy, I make the angel biscuits that have a more substantial texture.
                                      ps: I am a grandmother of 7 (nana, actually) and have been making biscuits all my life.

                                    3. For the record, any self-rising flour you find will be milled from lower-gluten wheat than the AP flour of the same brand, so if it's biscuits you want using self-rising flour is not "cheating" - it's a good idea. Very downhome Southern as well, since I doubt there's more than one or two biscuit-bakers between Louisville and the Gulf that don't use it!

                                      White Lily is simply the softest of the lot. You do NOT want to use this for either dumplings or drop biscuits, since it MUST be kneaded to develop enough gluten just to hold together.

                                      1. A tip for anyone who doesn't care for the taste of baking powder - go with Hain Pure Foods Featherweight or Bob's Red Mill. They affect the taste of the final prodoct the least of all the ones I've tried.

                                        1. I fooled around with different ways to make biscuits for years, until I looked at the recipe in my Gourmet cookbook:
                                          http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...
                                          You can also find it on Epicurious.
                                          The only thing I did differently is that I used 1/2 lard and 1/2 butter. I don't like using Crisco because of the transfats.
                                          Anyway, my son declared that they "pwned."
                                          I used regular all purpose flour. I could seek out some White Lily, I suppose, but this worked well.

                                          1. FWIW, here is a recipe that was posted in F&W, by the loved Southern cook and cookbook author, Edna Lewis.
                                            http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/th...
                                            I would agree that the least amount of mixing and kneading makes the fluffiest biscuits.
                                            Best of luck!

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: sonofoodie

                                              Very, very similar to the White Lily recipe. Same basic ingredients and method, adds baking soda and uses a slightly higher proportion of fat to flour. Bakes at 450 instead of 500 degrees.
                                              Classic Southern biscuit. Lewis probably used White Lily. How many Southerners use anything else for baking?

                                            2. I feel a bit dense here....I'm seeing terms such as hard wheat and soft wheat flying past at the same time as pastry flour, all purpose flour, bread flour, self rising flour and high and low gluten flours.
                                              ARRRGGGG
                                              I can buy different flours, labelled as pastry, all purpose, unbleached and whole wheat at the grocers. At the specialty shops, I can buy bread machine mixes and others, such as hard wheat and soft wheat, as well as bean and rice flours., and some that just confuse me...so, what is White Lily, or whatever that other one is that was mentioned? How do I know what flour is low gluten and which is high gluten, and what do I want to use the high or low gluten flours for?

                                              AnnieG

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: violabratsche

                                                White lily brand flour is a southern white flour and is made with a soft wheat. Good for biscuits or soft pastries. It is hard to find in the northeast and in the west.
                                                High gluten flour is basically for bread.
                                                This is my home baker's perspective. I'm sure others will have a more scientific explanation.

                                                1. re: violabratsche

                                                  This might help:

                                                  http://www.taunton.com/finecooking/ar...

                                                  http://www.baking911.com/pantry/flour...

                                                  Generally, I follow what the recipe calls for but understanding the difference is helpful if you want to make substitutions (with so many different types, I often run out of one but have others available) or want to change the texture somewhat. I also have gluten so I can add protein, if I need. I don't have the differences memorized, though, and depend on the charts.

                                                2. Like Dorothy, it turns out that I had the power all the time.

                                                  The answer was indeed the recipe on the White Lily bag. Simple and perfect, except that I subbed the shortening with half shortening and half butter.

                                                  And, this is a reach, but I'm going to give you all a great tip. There's a town in south Georgia call Sylvania. I was down there visiting a wonderful old friend who retired to her home town. There's a market in downtown (the 3 blocks that comprise it) Sylvania called "Moat's Supermarket". They've been making their own pork sausage for 70 years or so. Mr. Moat, at 100 years old STILL works the meat counter- he weighed up and packaged my purchase. The sausage is from local pigs, and tastes like a combination between a good polish kielbasa and a country sausage. I bought 2 pounds, froze them and brought them back to NC.

                                                  So, I made biscuits (aka Cat's Heads) and sausage with sausage gravy. Was a big hit.

                                                  Another great pickup from there- a man who makes ribbon cane syrup- and gives it away. He says that the Lord has granted him with the bounty, and he wants to share it. And man, that's some great cane syrup- perfect atop a White Lily biscuit.

                                                  1. I will never make another biscuit recipe after trying the one from Alice Water's "The Art of Simple Food." I am not a fan, generally speaking, but this recipe is the bomb.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                                      I use JP`s big daddy`s biscuit recipe on allrecipe.com. its easy and they are big
                                                      and fluffy. we have a couple of lady`s from arkansas visiting this weekend and
                                                      I live in California. I made JP`s biscuits and these lady`s said they had to have this
                                                      recipe. it`s nice to get up and have biscuits and gravy waiting for you with some
                                                      country style sausage.

                                                    2. I think the best biscuits are made from Bisquick. That could just be a memory of my grandmother, though. I've also made them from a recipe in an old Joy of Cooking that is also very good. Both of my grandmothers were from Missouri farm country, so there were a lot of biscuits to be had in their kitchens. The Joy of Cooking belonged to one of them.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: visnis

                                                        I was just about to post the same thing about Bisquick. Especially if you don't have access to specialty flours. I think we did learn to make them with Crisco, too. The main emphasis in preparing them was to just barely incorporate the liquid with a fork, and give a couple of kneads (the minimum again) to shape the slab before cutting them.

                                                        1. re: mlgb

                                                          Despite the fact that we have all been pretty specific and demanding in our quest for the ideal biscuit in this thread, I will NEVER criticize anyones's grandmother's biscuit recipe! What is usually "the best" of any food is what someone who loved us made for us.