From Chapter 27 of The House of Roses|
Me Maw's MILE HIGH BISCUITS
Here's the thing that makes a meal truly southern - good ole' fashioned flaky biscuits. While you might be tempted to go with a pre-made refrigerator batch, homemade are by far the best. But even I have to admit these aren't the easiest things to master. Practice makes perfect in this case and I follow my grandmother's recipe exactly - otherwise these puppies will turn out hard as a rock and make better door stops than supper sides.
- 3 Cups All Purpose Flour
- 2 Tablespoons Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon & 1 ½ Teaspoons Baking Powder
- ¾ Teaspoon Cream of Tartar
- ¾ Teaspoon Salt
- ¾ Cup Crisco Shortening
- 1 Egg Beaten
- ¾ Cup Milk
The first part is easy, just put all of the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir well. Again - follow the recipe exactly with strict measurements to make sure you get light and fluffy instead of hard as a rock biscuits.
Next comes the not so easy part. You want to add the shortening to the dry mix and blend it in completely. A pastry blender is what you should use in this step. For those of you who don't know - and Josie comes to mind here - this is a half moon of metal strips topped by a handle which basically cuts the shortening into the flour mixture. You want to work this until you've got chunks about the size of peas throughout your bowl and all of the dry flour ingredients are thoroughly combined into the shortening.
Now - back to simpler stuff. Mix the beaten egg and milk in a separate bowl and add it to your flour/shortening mixture. Don't over-stir at this point. Just make sure all of the ingredients are slightly moistened. This should bind all of the small pea sized chunks together and at this point you should have one large ball of dough in your mixing bowl.
You will want to put this big dough ball onto a flat surface that is lightly floured. A large cutting board works well although my Me Maw always used the kitchen counter top - after it was scrubbed of course.
And - here comes the fun part - what all bread making is about - and that's kneading. Just get in there and go for it - no way to avoid dirty hands now. Gently push the dough with the base of the palms of your hands and then fold it over onto itself. Do this about 8 or 10 times until you've spread the dough into a flat slab about an inch thick. At this point you're ready to cut your dough into individual biscuits for baking. The obvious choice for this task is a biscuit cutter, but I actually use a short juice type drinking glass with about a 2 ½ inch diameter. I find that it's easier to push on the bottom of the glass to make nice crisp circles and also that the dough doesn't stick as much on glass as it will on metal cutters. Just one thing to make note of here though - don't use a fragile thin glass! Otherwise, you'll be heading to the emergency room instead of to the dinner table.
To finish up, pop those puppies onto an ungreased baking sheet and straight into a preheated 450 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Keep an eye on them - you want the tops golden brown - not charcoal black - and they can get away from you if you don't pay attention. Just ask Josie - she knows!