Published in The Sanford Herald on January 2, 2013
You may remember my first article where I mentioned my penchant for placing biscuits on windowsills for safekeeping as a child. I did not, at that time, divulge the holy grail of biscuit recipes: my Grandmother’s, but I know y’all better now. We’ve shared soup and cookies, enchiladas and kebabs together, and so I am now ready to share that blessed biscuit recipe. (This is an act of trust, my friends!) Like all of the best recipes, it was never written down. However, a year or so ago, I sat down with my Grandmother in the kitchen with a camera and a notepad and said, “Okay, those perfect biscuits: go!”
She walked me through all of the steps, deftly mixing the ingredients together with hands that had held me as a baby, and my mother before me. Her biscuits are what makes every family gathering complete, when we gather around a table and pass around those floury drops of heaven in the big metal bowl with the lid that never stays on for more than a few seconds. My Grandmother’s biscuits are slightly flatter than other biscuits; they’re substantial but still tender, flaky but not out-of-the-can sky high. They are obviously homemade, and when split open and slathered with decadent cream gravy, it is a breakfast better than any other. Never mind that we might be having a big lunch in a mere few hours; breakfast deserves its time, and these biscuits are the star. Let me share this beloved recipe with you, in the hope that you will taste in them something of family and a simpler time, and perhaps sit down with a loved one to record a much-beloved but never penned recipe, so that it lasts for generations to come.
Grandmother’s Perfect Biscuits
Makes about 1 dozen generous biscuits
3 heaping cups of flour
½ t salt
½ t baking soda
1 ½ c buttermilk
2 T canola oil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift together flour, salt and baking soda until well combined. Grandmother says it “wouldn’t hurt a thing” to sift it twice, just to be sure. She’s a thorough lady. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture in a large bowl. Gently pour in buttermilk, keeping it in the center and gradually adding the flour mixture from the edges, stirring with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Once the buttermilk and flour are combined, drizzle in the oil. Stir to combine the dough well in the bowl. It should not be crumbly, nor should it completely stick to the bowl. Adjust buttermilk and flour as needed. Stirring while in the bowl will not cause the dough to get tough, however once it’s rolled out, it will get tough if you work it too much. Place dough on a well-floured counter and form into a ball. If it sticks to your fingers, add more flour. Knead dough from center outwards, rotating in a circle, until smooth, approximately ten kneads. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out dough until it is about ½ inch thick. It will spring back a bit, that’s okay. Using a floured 3-inch biscuit cutter, cut out rounds and place them, touching, on a well-greased baking sheet. Turn them over so both sides get coated in the oil. Bake for 20 minutes, turning the oven up to 400 degrees for the last five minutes. Fill with leftover ham and a drizzle of honey or top with decadent gravy to make any breakfast a special occasion.