Wednesday, December 18, 2013

My mother asked me to make biscuits this morning! I was flattered!

     On this morning, my mother knocked on my bedroom door.  After I opened the door, she asked, "Would you make some biscuits?" 

     "You want ME to make biscuits?"

      "Um hum," she replied nodding her head up and down.

     I was flattered!  Really, I was, and I told her so!  You see, my mother has been the biscuit expert in the family.  Her biscuits demonstrated that clearly.  

     Mom, I would say, was a country cook who cooked a lot while she was young and added, while we were a military family living here and there, some international entres to her repertoire.  Most of her recipes were in her head, although she did read (and sometimes followed) recipes, and sometimes she bought a mix, a frozen version of something, or even an instant-just-add-water version.  In my mind, what made her a good cook was that she could really stretch the pennies, recycle the left overs, and put meals together with a variety of tastes, textures, colors, hot, and cold using whatever we happened to have in the pantry.

     I learned a lot from her, sometimes by listening and watching her show me how to do something, sometimes just by observing her in action, or even by just listening to her talk about the latest prices per pound for meat, tomatoes, and whatever else made up the family pantry.

     Instead of using butter (which is more expensive), I used vegetable shortening to make the biscuit on this morning.  Also, instead of baking them on a cookie sheet, I baked them close together in a retangular glass cake dish.  They took a few minutes longer to bake (same temperature of 400 degrees).  Still, I followed my usual procedure.

     Let me add that mom doesn't follow the same procedure as mine.  She makes biscuits the way many country cooks do by stirring the shortening with the milk /buttermilk into the self-rising flour.  Then, she forms each biscuit in the palms of her hands, kneading them very gently one at a time.  

     In the picture above and below, I was pinching the self-rising flour into the shortening to make gazillions of flakes before adding the buttermilk and forming the dough.

     Usually, I just eyeball the amount of milk / buttermilk I add to the mix.  After you follow a recipe many times, you get the idea of what it should look like. 

     I do the kneading while I'm folding the mix together into a dough.  To do that, I use a rubber spatula, so I can scrape the bowl as I'm folding.  WARNING:  Kneading the dough too much prevents the biscuits from rising as much as they should and it makes the biscuits tough / hard.  Why?  Because kneading the dough builds muscle into the dough (by strengthening the gluten in the flour).  That's a good thing for yeast bread, because you might want a bread that can hold a sandwich together.  For biscuits (and muffins and pancakes), too much kneading is not such a good thing.

     I baked them for about thirty minutes at 400 degrees.  

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