Tuesday, July 20


Eating the SFA Cookbook: Buttermilk Biscuits

Since we're headed to the coast of South Carolina for a week, I am on Operation Clean Out the Fridge. Good news though: I have leftover bacon (from the fabulous Tomato Pie I made last week). Can't let bacon go bad, right? And the chickens out back are producing eggs faster than we can eat them. That's all I needed to know--nursery supper it is.

I was surprised to find five different biscuit recipes to choose from in the SFA Community Cookbook. Which one to choose? Though I was immediately drawn to the Miracle Biscuits because there are only two ingredients (thank you, Sheri Castle--I will try these soon!), I decided I'd give myself a challenge with Natalie Chanin's Buttermilk Biscuits.

Once again, these are something I've never attempted at home. Call me lazy, but I've always been plenty happy with the--as Jerry Clower calls them--"bang-on-the-counter-biscuits." But this is no time for comfort zones. My first task in baking the biscuits was tracking down my pastry cutter. Though handed down to me by my Grandma Pete over five years ago, I haven't needed it until now. So...it's been a baby toy for my daughter. Listen, to make a long story short, she liked it (and licked it), I wasn't using it anyway...you've go to pick your battles.

The recipe leaves it up to the reader whether to use butter, lard, or shortening. I didn't have any lard, so I could take that off the list. Online research led me to the conclusion to use half butter and half shortening to get the benefit of taste (from butter) and texture (from shortening). The pastry cutter was great help! The fats were incorporated with the flour (into pea-size pieces, of course) in no time...much easier than a fork. Rolling out the dough was a cinch--especially with my new rolling pin! I don't own a biscuit cutter; that's a pretty specific tool for someone who doesn't do much baking (or didn't use to do much baking, as it were). So I used an empty tin can, and it worked great.

My conclusion: well who doesn't love a hot biscuit? The flavor was great; my husband and daughter both agreed. Or I assume they did since they helped me polish off more than half of the batch in one sitting. However, they were a little thin. Think that was more my fault (maybe I got a little carried away with the rolling). Though there is a satisfaction from bringing biscuits to life from scratch, I'm just going to say it--I still like the frozen variety of "bang-on-the-counters" like Mary B's. Tasty and no clean up. On a more positive note, I realized there was no good reason to be intimidated by baking biscuits. It's not an elite skill. There are tricks to the trade, like gentle folding vs. kneading, but the introduction to the recipe in the Cookbook gives you that tip. Will I make them again? Definitely! As Jerry Clower would say, these biscuits are "fit to eat."

P.S. Those of you who may be worried for my child's well-being...below is a picture of my pastry cutter. Not sure how they are made these days, but in my grandma's day, they didn't have any sharp edges. Just wanted to make that clear.