The quintessential baking powder biscuit. Light-golden and crusty outside, moist and fine-textured inside. My mother's recipe is unique in that it uses three different fats to achieve the perfect biscuit the lard produces a deliciously crisp texture, the shortening renders a delicate fluffiness, and the butter gives a rich flavor. These light, flaky biscuits are a wonderful way to start any day, or make supper a real Southern treat.
Adjust oven rack to the upper third position and heat oven to 425 degrees F.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the lard, shortening and butter, and cut them in with a pastry cutter or rub them in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles an irregular coarse meal. If using your fingers, reach into the bowl and pick up a couple lumps of the fats and some flour. Lightly rub the fat and flour between your thumbs and fingers and, lifting your hands, let the blended flour and fat fall back into the bowl. Repeat this step over and over, reaching to the bottom of the bowl and scooping up some of the loose flour, then rubbing it and the fats into irregular bits. Work lightly, but quickly, so that the heat from your fingers doesn't melt the fat, nor let your fingertips touch or the friction could melt the fat. After a few minutes, when the dough has the look and feel of coarse meal, you will know that you have worked it enough. Make a well in the center, add the milk, and stir briskly with a fork just until the milk is mixed in with the other ingredients, no dry streaks of flour are left, and the dough holds together. Don't mix too much. The dough should be very soft, moist and sticky, qualities that make these biscuits rise high and taste tender.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. With floured hands, gently press down on the dough with the palm of one hand and push it away from you. The dough will stretch into an oval shape. Lift the far end of the oval and fold it back over onto itself (back toward you). Give the dough a quarter turn and press and push it away again. Repeat these steps about 8 to 10 times, using a light hand. If the dough sticks to your hands or to the board, lightly sprinkle on a little more flour. When you have finished kneading, pat the dough out evenly into a 1/2-inch thick rough circle. Cut out rounds with a floured 2- to 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter, pressing straight down without twisting, which causes the layers of the biscuits to stick, diminishing the rise and flakiness. Gather up the dough scraps, pat together, and cut out more rounds.
Arrange the rounds on an ungreased baking sheet about 1-inch apart for crusty-sided biscuits, or almost touching for soft ones. (Personally, I prefer the sides of most biscuits to be rather soft, so to keep the sides from overbrowning, I generally space them about 1/2-inch apart.) Bake in the upper third of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until they are lightly browned and golden all around (not white or creamy, or the inside will be doughy). Remove biscuits from oven and let them sit for about 2 to 3 minutes to cool just slightly before serving. They're best eaten still warm from the oven, while the buttery flakiness is at its peak.
Makes about 12 large (2 1/2-inch) biscuits, or 16 small (2-inch) biscuits.
For me, leftover biscuits are not all that good reheated...however, when they're split open with a fork, buttered and toasted, they're utterly delicious and almost (mind you, I said almost) as good as freshly baked ones. Biscuits stored in airtight plastic bags will keep well when refrigerated for about four days, or frozen for up to a month.
Tips for Successful Biscuits
Some simple rules for perfect biscuits are to use the right flour, keep the dough moist, and to handled the dough as little as possible to prevent toughness minimum stirring of ingredients, lightly kneading the dough no more than necessary, and gently rolling or patting it out...a light hand makes a flaky, airy biscuit.
Flour: Nothing produces more wondrous biscuits than soft wheat Southern flour. Soft wheat flour contain less gluten-forming proteins than hard-wheat flour and its use in biscuit recipes guarantees ideal results. I use either White Lily, Red Band or Melrose.
Fats: If using lard, make sure that it's not rancid, and that all the fats are very cold before cutting or rubbing them into the flour. Also, as long as there's adequate fat in the biscuit dough, there is no need to grease the baking sheet.
Baking Powder: Check the expiration date on your can of baking powder. Be sure to replace it; otherwise your biscuits or other baked goods won't rise properly. If you can't find an aluminum-free baking powder and want to avoid any chemical aftertaste, you can make your own by sifting together 1/4 cup cream of tarter with 2 tablespoons baking soda; sifting 3 times. Store the mixture in a tightly sealed container, in a cool, dark place for up to 4 weeks. Homemade baking powder may clump after it has been stored, so be sure to resift before using. Use in the same proportions as commercial baking powder.
Rolling or Patting: Rolled out dough might produce a smoother surface on biscuits, but since the natural tendency is to over-roll, I simply pat mine out as gently as possible. It's quicker, easier, and, besides, I actually prefer my biscuits to be a bit craggy on top. For a flat smooth biscuit without rolling, cover dough with floured waxed paper and gently press and flatten with an 8- or 9-inch round cake pan until dough is desired thickness.
When I was growing up, we ate homemade biscuits almost every day. Nowadays, people don't make them from scratch that often, if at all. Today, they seem more like some kind of luxury rather than the simple, incredibly easy to make comfort food that I grew up with.
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|Serving Size: 1 Biscuit (32g)|
|Recipe Makes: 12 Servings|
|Calories from Fat: 48 (68%)|
|Amt Per Serving||% DV|
|Total Fat 5.3g||7 %|
|Saturated Fat 2.4g||12 %|
|Monounsaturated Fat 2.2g|
|Polyunsanturated Fat 0.5g|
|Cholesterol 6mg||2 %|
|Sodium 1612.7mg||56 %|
|Potassium 8.6mg||0 %|
|Total Carbohydrate 7.6g||2 %|
|Dietary Fiber 0.1g||1 %|
|Sugars, other 7.5g|
|Protein 0.5g||1 %|
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Calories per serving: 71
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