I have had a near 35 year obsession with “Granny’s” biscuits. Not my granny’s biscuits, since my grandmother never cooked, at least not in my presence. If you’re from The South, you know what I’m talkin’ about…”granny” always makes the very best biscuits! And I was determined to learn how “she” did it!
The first granny who inspired me to conquer ‘the granny biscuit’ belonged to a friend of mine (although she readily adopted me, because of my interest in her food) in high school. I’ll call her Granny A. Granny A lived in a quite modern house, but she insisted on having a wood-fired stove/oven to cook on even though a modern electric model stood unused in her kitchen. It was from the depths of that monster of steel and cast-iron, that she stoked each morning with dried oak planks, that emerged my first taste of biscuit perfection.
Granny A had a wooden biscuit bowl and she would scoop and pour straight into that bowl, without the benefit of measuring cup or spoon, the ingredients for her biscuits. It is with hindsight that I am able to know that Granny A really WAS measuring, she just did it her way…the way Rachel Ray speaks of it, way before Rachel Ray…she “eyeballed” the ingredients.
She’d turn the dough with her hands a few times, pat it out onto a floured surface, then cut her biscuits. She called ’em cat heads, because they were the size of a cat’s head; she served them piping hot with butter and honey or molasses, or drown in sawmill gravy. They were heavenly!
Later in life, right here in Townsend, there was another Granny who made biscuit perfection. She cooked in a local restaurant, years and years ago; she made cat head biscuits too. Mr. Saucy and I would eat at her restaurant for breakfast back when we were dating and I told her how much I wanted to learn how she made her biscuits. She’d smile at me, knowingly, and say she’d teach me…some day.
Well, Granny got sick and was gone from the restaurant. We, Mr. Saucy and me, we knew immediately that Granny wasn’t makin’ the biscuits when we ate there during her illness. The biscuits had lost the magic touch. Eventually, Granny returned, but her biscuits weren’t the same. So, I (being either rude or curious, as you wish) asked her about it one day.
“Granny,” I said, “Your biscuits just aren’t the same. Are you sure you’re feelin’ better?” Instead of being insulted, she was thrilled that someone would notice and was more than happy to point out the problem to me, “You see,” she stated, smiling knowingly, “since I was gone, they don’t want me usin’ lard no more, so they won’t buy it, now I’m back. Can’t make decent biscuits without my lard. Nope. Just not the same.”
Ahh ha! Lard!
So now, years later and many other “granny” cooks since, all of whom I have pumped for information on biscuit makin’…I have finally gotten it. I tried them out on some friends who get together each year on New Year’s weekend, but I choked. The pressure was great and I wasn’t happy with them. Since then, I’ve been makin’ biscuits like crazy, thinkin’ that practice much surely make perfect.
I’m not sayin’ my biscuits are perfect, by any stretch. But, I’d sure be proud to have any granny taste ’em…and hopefully smile knowingly that another generation has learned the secret of the granny biscuit.
ps: Thanks to Mr. Saucy, for takin’ the pictures while my hands were gopped up with biscuit dough.
- 2 cups self-rising flour
- ¼ cup lard (you could use vegetable shortening, but they won't be the same)
- 1 cup buttermilk
- About ¼ cup self-rising flour, for dusting.
- Place the flour on a flat surface.
- Cut the lard into the flour with a fork or a pastry cutter until the pieces of lard are about the size of a large pea.
- Make a well with the flour.
- Pour half the buttermilk into the flour mixture and cut it into the flour, not over-mixing.*
- Add a little bit more buttermilk, until the dough is sticky.**
- Sprinkle some flour around the dough blob and roll it over into the floured surface.
- Flour the top of the dough, cut it into four pieces and stack them on top of each other.
- Softly pat the dough out into a rectangle or circle that is a little over an inch thick.***
- Dip your biscuit cutter in some flour and cut the biscuits.
- Place them on a parchment (or foil) lined baking pan, just touching each other.****
- Let 'em sit for about 15 minutes...they'll get a little springy to a light touch.
- Bake in a 450 degree oven until golden brown.
- Remove from oven and brush with melted butter.