The thought of being house bound for the foreseeable future is a dilemma that everyone is facing during these uncertain times. This pause in our daily lives is an ideal time to reflect and redirect our energies into activities that reinforces a sense of stability and purpose. If you love to cook, I’ve found, spending focused time in the kitchen always centers your resolve and restores balance when times get tough.
So here I am housebound in Raleigh, North Carolina with plenty of time to reacquaint myself with some favorite regional Southern home cooked dishes that I can then share with y’all.
There are indeed some quirky names for dishes here in the south you may have never heard of, but just follow along! Southern cooking grew out of a melding of European, African, and native American influences that make it as fascinating as it is delicious!
Whenever biscuits are mentioned here in the south almost everyone has vivid memories of billowy flaky biscuits hat are synonymous with
home sweet home and their Mama’s recipe.
Biscuits date back to Roman times, though they were then utilitarian hard twice baked unleavened wafers used to feed deployed soldiers on lengthy campaigns. A few centuries later the English were making their version of similar biscuits that were stowed away on ships setting off on expeditions to the new world. Biscuits arrived with English settlers when they established colonies in North America. But it wasn’t until the antebellum years prior to the American civil war in the 1860’s that the biscuits we now associate with the American south came into being. Biscuits baked with newly refined wheat flours and leavening agents in plantation kitchens produced lighter lofty southern biscuits that became the precursors of the raised Southern buttermilk biscuits we associate with the American south today.
Home cooks throughout the American south take great pride in their light buttery risen biscuits. Old family biscuit recipes are closely held and passed down from generation to generation. These recipes are all similar, though the real secret to making truly light airy biscuits is in the handling of the dough. It is a sensory lightness of touch and a feel for working, but not overworking, the chilled butter or fat into the flour before liquid is introduced into the mix that will produce truly light risen biscuits. The dough is then gently gathered together and folded over itself several times to create billowy layers of dough. Once the biscuits are cut and in the oven the steam from the melting butter or fat encased within the layers of dough provides the lift required for those heavenly southern biscuits coming out of the oven, even in your very own kitchen! So let’s get baking!
Biscuits straight from the oven are an important part of any self respecting breakfast here in the south. As pictured here at Big Ed’s in Raleigh, Biscuits along with smoke house country ham, red eye gravy, scrambled eggs, and grits! Dig in!
Raised Southern Buttermilk Biscuits ( basics)
Makes 10 biscuits
Needed; a baking sheet and a 2 ¼ inch metal circular biscuit cutter
Preheat the oven to 425 F / 218 c
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 3¼ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small piece, well chilled
- 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening( or lard), well chilled
- ¾ cup full fat buttermilk,chilled (see note below)
Note: If you are adverse to using vegetable shortening or lard, substitute with butter.
In a mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar and whisk together.
Add the chilled butter cubes and the vegetable shortening (or lard) to the bowl. Using a fork, or your finger tips, work the fat into the flour mixture. Once the mixture comes together and looks like large crumbs and you can still see bits of fat in the mix, stop. Don’t be tempted to over work the mix as the bits of fat left in tact will ensure that the biscuits will be rise nicely when baked.
Make a well in the center of the flour and butter mixture and add the buttermilk. Using a fork, work the flour mixture into the buttermilk until the mixture just comes together. The dough will be very moist and shaggy.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and lightly dust the top with a little more flour.Then gently knead the dough together just until all the flour is worked into the dough. Then press the dough out and fold the dough back onto itself. Give the dough a quarter turn, press it out and again fold the dough back onto itself. Repeat this sequence two or three more times.
Then using the palm of your hand gently flatten the dough into a ¾ inch thick circle.
Using the biscuit cutter dipped in flour, cut the dough into rounds, without twisting the cutter. Place the cut biscuits on the baking sheet. Gather the remaining dough together and again flatten into a ¾ inch thick circle and cut out the remaining biscuits and place them on the baking sheet. Arrange the biscuits close together, but not touching.
Transfer the baking sheet to the preheated oven and bake until the biscuits have risen and are lightly browned, about 15 to 18 minutes.
Promptly remove the biscuits from the oven and set aside for a few minutes and serve while still warm.
Note: If you don’t have buttermilk on hand a recipe follows . It couldn’t be simpler.
- 1 cup full fat milk
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (Bragg’s if available)
Pour the milk in a small glass bowl and add the vinegar. Give it gentle stir to blend and set aside for 15 or 20 minutes until it thickens.
I will be posting recipes for favorite regional Southern classics throughout the summer.
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