Episode #8 of the course Introduction to bread making by Alice Morgan
Greetings! Today, we’re going to learning about a breakfast/dinner treat from the southern United States.
Biscuits are one of the earliest iterations of bread. Early cultures combined water and flour into a thick paste that they baked until hard. The resulting crackery substance was easy to transport on long journeys and could be made tastier with additions like nuts and berries. Over time, these early biscuits diversified into the cakes, cookies, and other kinds of bread that we know and love today.
Buttermilk biscuits are native to the southern region of the United States. According to Southern Living Magazine, they pre-date the American Civil War and were considered a delicacy that would only be served for Sunday lunch. These kinds of biscuits don’t use yeast but were traditionally beaten by hand to make them light and fluffy, until baking soda and powder were introduced. Eventually, self-rising flour became a more popular choice for fluffy biscuits after World War II. Today, they are still a very popular Southern food, where they’re eaten with butter, jam, or even gravy.
Recipe: Traditional Buttermilk Biscuits (Makes 8 Biscuits)
2 cups (240g) of self-rising flour
½ teaspoon (2.5g) salt
4 tablespoons (55g) cold butter
1 cup (240ml) buttermilk
Preheat oven to 475°F (240°C). Mix flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut chunks of butter by quickly slicing the butter into small pieces while it is still very cold. (Cold butter is what causes the light and flaky texture in the finished biscuit.) This is most easily done with a professional tool called a pastry blender or food processor but can be accomplished just as well with two sharp knives pulled opposite of each other across the butter.
Slowly add the buttermilk into the butter and flour mixture, and stir until the dough comes together and is just a bit sticky. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface, and form it into a ball shape. Roll the dough out until it is about ½ inch (1.5cm) thick, cut the dough with a round cookie cutter, and place them on greased baking sheets. Bake for ten to twelve minutes, until the tops of the biscuits are golden brown.
• Do not knead the dough, as the heat from your hands may cause the butter to soften.
• To be more authentic, substitute lard for butter.
• If you don’t have a biscuit cutter, you can use a small, floured drinking glass.
• Biscuits don’t like to be handled, so know that using the scraps from the first round of biscuits will cause them to be a bit tougher.
• Instead of buying a large quantity of buttermilk for a few biscuits, add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to 1 cup milk, and allow it to sit for five to ten minutes until the milk thickens and curdles.
That’s all for now. I hope you enjoy these buttermilk biscuits either with jam and butter, or in the traditional fashion of the American South: smothered in gravy. Tomorrow, we’ll cover pizza dough. See you then!
Biscuits: A Savor the South Cookbook by Belinda Ellis
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