The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Making Biscuits

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1992

Issue: June, 1992

The true test of a good mountain or country cook is biscuits. The higher, lighter, fluffier they are, the better the cook. There are a few secrets to making good biscuits and The Mountain Laurel is happy to share them with you.

You can make good biscuits with self rising flour and it is easier for new cooks than using plain flour and baking powder. For a small batch of biscuits, start with 2 cups of flour, sifted. Put it in a bowl that is large enough so that you won't stir the dough over the edges. Make a depression in the middle of the flour and add a lump of solid shortening the size of a walnut. Never use a liquid shortening. Add one cup of buttermilk in the depression also. Butter milk is one of those secrets for good biscuits. It makes them rise better.

My grandmother always stirred the dough together with her hand, but you can use a large spoon or a table knife to stir the dough with. Start in the middle of the depression and start stirring, blending just a little of the flour into the liquid at a time until all the flour is absorbed. A dough that is a little on the moist side will make better biscuits than a dough that is too dry. The less you handle the dough, the lighter the biscuits also.

Flour your counter top (or a piece of wax paper placed on your countertop) and roll the dough out of the bowl onto it. Sift a little more flour on top of the dough and gently pat it down to the thickness you desire. A thicker dough will make taller biscuits.

With a biscuit cutter, cut out biscuits and place in a greased pan. Another secret; If the biscuits are close together, the sides won't get brown and hard as they bake, making softer biscuits. Roll the scraps of dough left from the first cutting into a ball in the palm of your hand and place them in the pan also. Dust off excessive flour from tops of biscuits and brush tops with melted butter.

You don't need a store bought biscuit cutter. You can make one from a clean, empty tin can. Just find a can that is about the size you want your biscuits to be and cut both ends out of it. Dip the "cutter" end in flour before cutting and the dough won't stick to it. The favorite size for country biscuits are "cat's head," which means huge biscuits as big as a cat's head.

Bake in a preheated oven, at 400 degrees, until biscuits are golden brown on top, which usually takes about 15 minutes. Eat while still piping hot.

This recipe can be simplified even further by making pone bread instead of biscuits. Just follow the instructions to the point where your dough is mixed in the bowl. Then grease a pie pan and roll the dough into it. Smooth the dough to the edges of the bowl. Wet your hand with a little milk and smooth the top of the dough. Bake the same as biscuits. When done, serve hot and country style - in one piece to be broken with your hands into portions as it is eaten.

For an extra treat, add a half cup of grated cheese to the batter.