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Biscuits - Texas Style


fifi
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Ok... confession time, here. This evening I made my first attempt. A disaster is the only way to describe it.

I am a stickler for doing a recipe "by the book" the first time around. I am using James Villas's recipe. I am very precise in my measurements and what is called for in the recipe. He calls for 1 cup of buttermilk for the 2 cups of flour, then says "more if needed". So here we go.

I dump in the carefully measured cup of buttermilk. I would have normally added some, stirred, then added more. But, because of that more-if-needed thing, I dumped it in. Well... That is the wettest biscuit dough that I have ever seen. I mean, SOUPY! I knew I was in trouble. It was a mess. After folding in more flour on the board, I eventually got to the point that I could cut out something that sort of looked like biscuits. Not pretty, but biscuits nonetheless.

I did four in the frying pan with the lard, separated like Aunt Minnie liked to do in the big pan, and four on the baking sheet. I have to say that the ones from the frying pan had a better crust. The ones from the baking sheet were prettier... well, that is relative. The crust and crumb of these biscuits was excellent. I did take some of the cut-out remnants, knead in a bunch more flour and cut out a couple of what I would have thought would be dogs. These were put on the baking sheet. Those actually sort of looked like a biscuit. The rest of the specimens were a sort of pathetic puddle.

No, I did not take pictures. The images might have broken my camera.

There is something seriously wrong with this recipe. I am thinking that maybe 3/4 cup of buttermilk would be pushing it for a dough that you could actually handle.

Sooo... First try... by the book... big bust.

Back to the drawing boards.

I do know what dough should feel like. After all, I have mastered Mayhaw Man's cobbler crust and chicken pie crust dough with no problem. This one baffles me. I will concede that this is my first time working with soft wheat flour. But that is what is in the recipe. Oh well. Stay tuned for the next trial. I haven't decided yet if I am going to look for a new recipe and blow off James Villas or continue with it and change one thing at a time.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Fifi, one cup buttermilk to two cups flour is exactly what I use. That's the right proportion of fluid to flour for fluffy biscuits. Any less buttermilk, and your biscuits will be more dry and less fluffy. Essentially, you want to have as wet a dough as you can handle. The very important trick that many recipes don't bother to mention is that, after pouring in the buttermilk and quickly tossing it through the flour with a fork, let the mixture sit for TWO WHOLE MINUTES, to let the buttermilk penetrate. At this point, the mixture will not be soupy. It will be light and spongey. Then flour the countertop well, scrape the dough out of the bowl onto it, use well-floured hands to fold the dough a few times, press to a 1/2" thickness, and cut into rounds.

Good luck, and don't give up, as you need to develop a feel for it. It took me much, much practice to get it right.

Edited by browniebaker (log)
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I have not seen the "let it sit" deal in any recipe I have read. (And that is a lot.) It makes ultimate sense. Thank you, browniebaker. As I think about it, Aunt Minnie probably "let it sit" because she would be arguing... er... discussing with Grandma the rest of the meal. The concept makes sense. I have to say that there was no "sit" time as I was working like a dervish. OK... Time to get into a typical southern chill out mode.

I will repeat the recipe and "let it sit".

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Hang up your dervish hat for biscuits, fifi. :raz: After mixing dough I wash my measuring utensils in the sink, get the flour, spread some out on the board, flouring hands, and dipping cutter in flour, before I turn the spongey dough onto board to fold 2 or 3 times. That alone allows the sit time without feeling like you're just waiting on something to happen. :biggrin: Biscuits are instant gratification -- but not instantaneous gratification. :wink: Or you can just open a beer and admire your dough. :laugh:

Judith Love

North of the 30th parallel

One woman very courteously approached me in a grocery store, saying, "Excuse me, but I must ask why you've brought your dog into the store." I told her that Grace is a service dog.... "Excuse me, but you told me that your dog is allowed in the store because she's a service dog. Is she Army or Navy?" Terry Thistlewaite

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You are working in the right direction, fifi. If you don't give it a little rest, how's that baking powder gonna 'take' to the buttermilk? Keep it up, and don't worry 'bout no photos. The Olympics are on, so when they are showing those split-second medal winners, I will just imagine one of your bisquits hangin' from their necks!

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You ladies are a hoot.

Dervish hat is in the closet.

I think I will have a beer.

And yes... those biscuits do resemble the gold medals. :laugh:

I think I will use them for seagull food and see if they explode. The seagulls, I mean. :raz:

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Ok, I did it. I made them this morning with some sausage gravy.

They are light, fluffy, delicious. But kinda short, like me. I think that perhaps I patted them down too far, as they were about a half inch to maybe 3/4 inch tall. I patted, cut with a 2 inch cutter, then dreged them in the sausage grease, and baked them at 425 for about 14 minutes. How do I get them taller? They really didn't seem to rise much. Damn tasty though.

Edited by nessa (log)
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You probably hit on it, nessa. Pat lightly, don't smush the dough and leave it a good half inch thick, maybe a tad thicker.

Now with all this biscuit talk I've gotta make some for dinner tonight. You all are making me hungry!

Judith Love

North of the 30th parallel

One woman very courteously approached me in a grocery store, saying, "Excuse me, but I must ask why you've brought your dog into the store." I told her that Grace is a service dog.... "Excuse me, but you told me that your dog is allowed in the store because she's a service dog. Is she Army or Navy?" Terry Thistlewaite

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I am moving this to Cooking from Texas because I sense a larger interest here. I am still going to pursue the "bathed in fat in the frying pan" version that seems to be Texas based. However, my first disasterous attempt will not stand. I will try again and report back on a comparison of "the Texas" version and the more conventional baking sheet version.

Carry on. :biggrin:

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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OK. I'll be the first to expose my TX biscuits for view. These were baked on a pan, not in my cast iron skillet, as that was in use. Butter-topped, light, fluffy, and about an inch and a quarter high. They retained that "independent character" :wink: that your Aunt Minnie was so fond of, fifi! :laugh:

i11670.jpg

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Judith Love

North of the 30th parallel

One woman very courteously approached me in a grocery store, saying, "Excuse me, but I must ask why you've brought your dog into the store." I told her that Grace is a service dog.... "Excuse me, but you told me that your dog is allowed in the store because she's a service dog. Is she Army or Navy?" Terry Thistlewaite

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Oh my! Those are absolutely lovely. Aunt Minnie would certainly approve. :biggrin:

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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:biggrin:

All my mr wanted for dinner last night was the rest of the biscuits with more gravy. :laugh: We had that, but I did have to add some sauteed chicken breast strips and seared broccoli as sides. :wink:

Skillet biscuits next on my list -- maybe a half recipe of those will go in the freezer for that experiment because a whole recipe doesn't fit in the skillet at once anyway. Results later. Great excuse to make more biscuits soon. :biggrin:

Judith Love

North of the 30th parallel

One woman very courteously approached me in a grocery store, saying, "Excuse me, but I must ask why you've brought your dog into the store." I told her that Grace is a service dog.... "Excuse me, but you told me that your dog is allowed in the store because she's a service dog. Is she Army or Navy?" Terry Thistlewaite

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Actually, Aunt Minnie never "rolled" her biscuits. She patted out a slab of dough about a half inch thick. That made for surface irregularities that browned at different rates. She always said that a rolling pin "suppressed the character and independence of the biscuits". (I am not kidding. :laugh: )

I have to step in here and agree with Aunt Minnie. This was the biscuit-baking philosophy of our cook when I was a child. Lily Pearl Jennings was a Gullah woman from the Carolina lowcountry and a supurb cook. She was hired away from a home in Charleston by my grandfather when he moved to Kentucky in 1920 (having emigrated from England, he stayed for a time with a cousin in Charleston and, ingrate that he was, stole their cook right out from their kitchen.)

Lily Pearl believed in patting out the biscuit dough as she said she could feel the 'spirits' that "do make them biscuits to rise" and they did not 'set well' with being pummeled with a batten (rolling pin). The fact that she had as broad a palm as I have ever seen may have helped a lot. ***

She baked them in a heavy black rectangular steel pan that weighed nearly as much as cast iron and which always was placed in the oven to heat till the lard began smoking.

The biscuits had been cut and covered with a cloth and left to rise for 10 minutes or so. The pan was taken from the oven and immediately the tops of the biscuits were dipped in the melted fat and then placed in the pan, sides barely touching, to bake.

These steel pans were the same ones she used for her "light" rolls, yeast rolls that were incredibly light, almost sweet, buttery tops.

I have tried for most of my life and have yet to achieve the height of rise in those rolls that Lily Pearl achieved in those old black pans in a wood stove. It isn't much consolation but no one else in my family has been able to duplicate those rolls either.

*** I am sure about the palm because it was applied to my posterior many times when I was into mischief in the kitchen, which was often.....

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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