Every time I go home to visit my parents, I realize more and more how much I am like my mother. We share a deep love for welcoming people into our kitchens, for late dinners that last past midnight, and for making new friends feel like family in our homes.
We also share a great fondness for morning swims, afternoon mojitos, and dining al fresco every night, but I have a sneaking suspicion that we aren't the only ones who enjoy these activities. Hey, this is my vacation, okay?
It may be 95 degrees in Houston but man oh man, those warm summer nights sure do have a way of slowing down time and making life feel just downright easy.
My mother grew up in Vicksburg, Mississippi. And let me tell you, those Mississippi folks sure got a way of doin' things. My grandma is the sweetest lady in the world but if you try to make a tomato sandwich with whole wheat bread or low fat mayonnaise she might swat you with her tennis racket.
Same thing goes for making biscuits. You gotta use this magical Southern fairy dust called White Lily flour. Real talk - this stuff has been milled in Tennessee since 1883 (at least until 2008, when production moved to Ohio - don't ask) and is many a Southerner's secret to feather-light biscuits. White Lily flour is made from soft red winter wheat and is lower in protein and gluten than most all-purpose flours. In fact, it's pretty much on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from many of the flours I've been using to bake sourdough bread - yeasted doughs need a high-protein flour to form a gluten structure in the dough that is strong enough to support all those beautiful air bubbles of flavor in the bread. Biscuits, on the other hand, should be light, airy, and silky-smooth - qualities that are hard to achieve with dense high-protein flours. For some people, White Lily is the only way to go.
Now I don't bleed White Lily flour but I can tell you that it sure does make great biscuits. What's more important though (in my humble opinion) is the way you handle the dough. No rolling pins. Pat that dough out gently like it's your baby. And do your best not to overwork the dough.
Lucky for me, my sweet mama made sure I had at least one good Southern breakfast with all the fixin's before I flew back to San Francisco. Fresh biscuits smeared with chive butter, and cheese grits topped with a perfectly poached egg. There isn't much to making a good batch of cheese grits - a big handful of good sharp cheddar, a clove of garlic, a few dashes of worcestershire sauce, and a healthy pinch of cayenne pepper make grits the perfect accompaniment to any number of things, especially eggs. Especially poached eggs with a perfectly runny yolk that can ooze into all that cheese grits goodness.
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (try the White Lily if you can get your hands on it), plus more for dusting
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold
- 1 cup buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Cut the butter into chunks and place into the food processor with the dry ingredients.
Pulse the mixture until it resembles course meal (pea-sized chunks). Add the buttermilk and mix until just combined. It should be a pretty wet dough – add a bit more buttermilk if the mixture appears dry.
If you don’t have a food processor, just use your hands or a pastry blender to work the chunks of cold butter into the dry ingredients in a large bowl until the mixture resembles a course meal. Then add the buttermilk, and briefly mix everything together with your hands until the dough just comes together. Be careful not to overmix the dough.
Turn the dough onto a floured work surface. Gently pat the dough out until it’s about ½ inch thick. Fold the dough onto itself about 5 times, and then pat it down (gently) to a thickness of about 1 inch. (It’s best not to use a rolling pin here as this will excite the gluten in the flour and give you tough biscuits).
Using a round cookie cutter or the top of a glass, cut the dough into rounds and place the rounds on a baking sheet.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are a light golden brown.