One of my fondest memories was watching my Nana create her amazing homemade biscuits - every morning and evening, and sometimes at lunchtime. She would sift the flour, throw together the ingredients in her aluminum mixing bowl (never measuring anything) and mix and knead and then - my favorite part - cut them out with her silver biscuit cutter with the wooden handle.
Ok, I'll admit, my real favorite part was after they came out of the oven, but I did think it was so cool how she could always cut those biscuits and never once did they stick to the little metal ring! (I was an easy kid to amuse)
Nana tried to teach me how to replicate her biscuits. I'd put in just what she said, exactly like she told me. I'd knead it with her watching over my shoulder and instructing - but they never, ever turned out like hers. I think there is just something about the years and years of making them that makes them perfect...
When Nana finally had to go to the nursing home and we were cleaning out her home, the only thing I wanted was to make sure that her aluminum biscuit mixing bowl and sifter stayed in the family and didn't get donated/sold/given-away to someone who wouldn't appreciate all the memories that they hold. Luckily, no one in the family objected to my keeping them. :)
So, in an effort to make the perfect biscuit by the time I'm a grandmother, I'm starting now to try and perfect this - before my kids start bringing theirs over to
visit and have some of "Nana's biscuits". I'll use her bowl and sifter, and search for a cutter with a little wooden handle like the one she had. And I'll try to mix up some memories for my kids and grand-kids...I only hope I can be as successful at this as she was.
This is a basic buttermilk biscuit recipe that I found online. Yes, I asked Nana for hers, but as I said she never measured, and now at nearly 99 years old, said she doesn't even remember what ingredients she used in them way back when...
Basic Homemade Biscuits
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup shortening
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
Preheat oven to 450°F. Sift together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Sifting is important, it helps loosen up the flour so the lard and milk mix into the flour quicker with less kneading. Cut in lard with a pastry blender or a couple knives.
Once you cut in the shortening or butter into your flour mix, stir in milk only until distributed. The dough should be sticky. You want your dough to be as moist as possible, yet able to retain its shape.
Dump your biscuit dough onto a lightly floured surface. Fold the sides of the dough gently towards the center of the dough. Flour the surface again and flip the dough. Fold one more time, very gently. Then flip the dough and press out with your finger to the desired thickness and cut out rounds.
If dough if is too sticky to roll out, you can pinch off individual pieces of dough and shape each piece with floured hands.
For crusty biscuits, place biscuits on a greased baking sheet 1" apart. For softer biscuits, place biscuits in a large casserole dish with the sides touching. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Brush tops with butter for a brown finish, if desired.