In my father’s lifetime he made at least half a million biscuits. You see, he made at least 10,000 biscuits a year, every year, for over 50 years. And when you do something over and over – half a million plus times -you get good at it, VERY good at it. His biscuits were light and flaky, not “croissant” flaky, but pure biscuit flaky. One did not need to cut these biscuits; the top would easily unhinge so that ham, jam or other ingredients could be tucked inside.
The biscuits were so very good with a piece of Tennessee State Fair Champion Smoked Country Ham on them (Granddaddy Ralph had multiple state champion hams). Or, for a sweet treat a dab of homemade jelly or jam was superb. But if no jam was available, a bit of butter or margarine was great. In fact: several-days-old with nothing on them, his biscuits were still darn tasty!
The circumference just a bit larger than a silver dollar, but they would rise up two and a half inches or more. Best when hot from the oven these biscuits were superb. I have not yet tasted any biscuit anywhere that compares.
The biscuits became a cornerstone family food. At least once a month after church – biscuits were on the menu. For every special occasion we would have country ham and homemade biscuits. Any occasion was appropriate: weddings, graduations, family reunions, funerals, cast parties, but especially at Christmas. To me the taste of Christmas morning is freshly baked biscuits with country ham. As my father’s job was an elementary school principal, he would make ham and biscuits for all of his teachers and staff every Christmas. Teachers that worked for him 40 years ago or more still remember how good those biscuits were.
What is the recipe for his – Perhaps the Worlds best, but to humble to say so biscuits- The recipe itself is simple – but has yet to be matched in my experience.
Perhaps the World’s Best, but too Humble to Say so Biscuits
1. Be the son and grandson of millers who ground the grain of just about everybody in the county.
2. Watch your grandmother make biscuits everyday when you are growing up with keen observation.
3. Make a study of flours, oils, and biscuit preparation techniques. For example: NO powdered buttermilk will NOT DO, Vegetable shortening is better than lard, Only the highest quality soft winter wheat will make the best biscuits.
4. Do not make yeast breads that require heavy kneading – the light fluffy biscuit dough requires the lightest of hands.
About 1 ½ cups self rising flour made from soft winter wheat (White Lilly is good)
About ½ cup Crisco
About 1 cup buttermilk.
(Dad never measured ingredients – he could tell by sight how much was right).
Preheat oven to 475 degrees
Cut the Crisco into the flour with a pastry knife, then add buttermilk. Mix, gently knead 5 or more times (remember you are making biscuits – so go easy on the dough). Pat out to ½ inch thick on a floured board. Cut with a floured round biscuit cutter – ideally a bit larger than a silver dollar. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake until fluffy and golden brown.
Caution – this recipe takes a lot of trial and error.
Michael Winters is a Psychologist in Houston focusing on marriage counseling and therapy. Michael received his PhD from the University of Memphis and has been practicing since 1991.