We makin' biscuits!
My family is no stranger to biscuits. Being from the south, they were a staple of almost every meal I ever at my Grandparent's house and my Great-Grandparent's house, whether it was breakfast, dinner, or supper (those last two being lunch and dinner, respectively, in Appalachian/North Carolinian lingo). Biscuits would always appear without fail, regardless of the other components of said meals.
What I've learned, in my 30+ years of eating biscuits, is that mixing the dough and the method of shaping them is a very personal thing.
My Grandmother is a practitioner of the drop-biscuit method, using a slightly wetter dough and dropping them into high mounds on greased baking sheets by the spoonful. Her dough is usually made with buttermilk mixed with a self-rising flour that is pre-cut with shortening. It's a practical, no-fuss approach that yields fluffy, craggy-topped biscuits perfect for soaking up her homemade apple butter or the juices at the bottom of a bowl of collard greens.
Grandma learned to make biscuits from her mother, my Great-Grandmother, who used a more hands on approach, and who had become her family's appointed biscuit maker around the age of 5. By the time she was making biscuits for me, her decades of practice meant that she barely needed to pay any attention as she gathered self-rising flour, crisco, and buttermilk together with her hands until the dough felt "just right." I paid attention though, watching mesmerized as she rolled countless biscuits one by one and placed their fat round forms on criscoed baking sheets, edges touching, before baking them up into little biscuit pillows that I couldn't get enough of, no matter how much else I had already eaten. She always made her biscuit dough in the same large, enamel-coated pan, and I have serious plans to one day sneak it out of my Grandma's house in my suitcase when she's not looking.
Today, I present to you yet another method of biscuit making, one I had never tried before and one I don't think either my Grandma or Great Grandmother ever attempted.
And I don't blame them; these are not the biscuits you make when you need to get dinner on the table fast.
But if you've got ample time, or a lazy few days when you can check in with your biscuits periodically, these more labor-intensive biscuits are worth every extra bit of effort. The dough gets almost a puff-pastry treatment, and after rolling and rolling and chilling and rolling and chilling and rolling some more, you cut these into stacks of layer upon layer of dough and bake them into towering, flaky little biscuit skyscrapers. They are like the biscuits out of the can that promise flaky layers you can peel apart, but the secret ingredient is so much more pronounceable.
Say it with me:
That's right! Bacon grease! It's mixed in with the butter to add a subtle, smoky element to the dough and a ton of flavor. It's a great way to use up some of the bacon drippings you've been storing in your refrigerator (I hope you do this) and a great idea when you don't have quite enough butter on hand for a full batch of biscuits.
So, grab your rolling pin and your rendered animal fat and get on this!
Bacon Butter Biscuits
Makes 6 biscuits, method adapted from Michael Ruhlman
- 9 oz all purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 oz cold rendered bacon fat
- 1 oz unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- 6 oz buttermilk
- flaky sea salt
- Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl, then add in the bacon fat and butter and rub into the flour using your fingers, until you have shaggy pieces no larger than peas. Add the buttermilk and combine well. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap in a 4x6 inch rectangle. Chill dough at least one hour or up to overnight.
- Dust a large, flat surface and the dough with flour and roll out to 3x the size of the original rectangle. Fold dough into thirds like a letter and roll out again, fold into thirds again and press firmly together. Wrap in plastic again and chill another hour. Repeat rolling and folding cycle one or two more times, then roll dough to 1/2 inch thick and cut into 6 equal squares. Cut edges off if you want all sides to rise equally.
- Heat oven to 400 degrees and sprinkle flaky sea salt on top of biscuits. Bake 20-30 minutes, until biscuits have risen high and are cooked through. Serve hot or at room temperature.