For the last couple of weeks I’ve been hemming and hawing over a post that refuses to be written. When that happens, I’ve learned the best strategy is to step away from it and come back later, or not at all. Yesterday morning, though, I published a private post for one particular young man who has finally launched into his adult life after navigating a perilous and fraught chapter.
Since we’re all navigating a perilous and fraught chapter just now, and because words elude me, I decided to share with you what I shared with my kiddo. I know I’ve done them to death already, but there’s no time like the present to bake biscuits, a thing I do every Saturday morning. These are my great-grandmother Gracie’s, tweaked over the years to my own liking. I’ve omitted the personal family stuff I put in the other post, but the rest of it is unchanged. Because my young man appears to have discovered the singular joy of preparing food in his new kitchen, I decided it was high time to share this recipe with him. Here it is for you, just a few simple instructions, and some unedited photos I made on my iPhone while I was preparing the dough and baking.
- Start with those three ^ ingredients. You’ll need 2 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 heaping tablespoon of baking powder. Tump all of it into a big bowl and mix it with a whisk. (Nota bene: Tump, in case you didn’t know, is a perfectly legitimate Southern verb that means dump, but has a little more personality to it.)
2. Next, you’ll need 3 tablespoons of cold butter. It has to be cold. Then you’ll chop the butter into little bits like so:
3. Now you’ll take that dough blender, grab some coffee, and go sit down in front of the telly and work the little bits of butter into the flour. It’ll take, I dunno, maybe fifteen minutes or so to do.
4. Make a well in the middle of the mixture as I have ^ in this photo. It’s where you’ll add your wet ingredients next, which will be 3 tablespoons of oil (olive oil works fine, but if you prefer another kind, use that instead), and almost one cup of milk. I’ve been using almond coconut milk. You can also use plain old milk, or even buttermilk.
5. Now you’ll stir it with a fork. I like to use a big fork like the kind you serve with, but any old fork will do. You’ll want to do this long enough that most of the wet ingredients are fairly well incorporated into the dry mixture, and there are not too many “crumbs” on the bottom of the bowl. Get it to a consistency where you can start to work it with your hands.
This is also the point when you’ll want to prepare your baking sheet and set your oven temp to 375 degrees.
Now return to your dough.
6. Granny’s recipe says, “knead three or four times.” This basically means, fold and smoosh, about four times. Chef David will tell you overworking the dough is bad, because the baked product will be less flaky. So resist overdoing it.
7. Now you’ll form it into a ball and turn it out onto your board or (clean) countertop.
8. Roll it out as thick or thin as you please. You can do this with a rolling pin, or even a drinking glass, or you can just work it flat with your hands. If you’re using an old-fashioned biscuit cutter like I have (found mine at a flea market), you’ll want your dough to be no thicker than about an inch and a half. But you can also use a drinking glass to cut out your biscuits and make them as thick as you want.
9. Cut out your biscuits, and then keep on gathering the remaining dough to roll out and cut more.
10. Put them on a baking sheet lined with parchment or silpat, and then into the oven they go. Set the timer for 7 minutes.
11. There’s always a little leftover dough that makes a weird biscuit; I give it to Scout-the-Goldapeake-Retriever. After the biscuits bake 7 minutes, you’ll want to turn the sheet around and put another 8 minutes on the timer. They’ll bake more evenly if you turn them. Here’s how they look at 7 minutes:
12. Remove and eat ’em.
A few simple ingredients and a little fire are all you need. The week ahead will be fraught; bake some biscuits. Take some over to your neighbor; knock on the door, and leave them there to find: It’s a win-win.