The etymology of the word “biscuit” may be traced all the way back to twelfth century Britain and France and comes from Latin bis coctus, meaning “twice baked,” from the original process where bread was baked and then dried out in an oven to create a hard, sturdy biscuit that could survive for weeks and provide sustenance for an army on a march.
Those hockey pucks bear absolutely no resemblance to the fluffy American biscuits that we know today originating in the Antebellum South, where Buttermilk Biscuits were a delicacy that was most often enjoyed with Sunday Supper, often slathered with butter and honey, or filled with good Country Ham for a more saliferous flavor.
Buttermilk Biscuits remained a regional culinary specialty until the 1950’s when Colonel Harland Sanders opened his first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise, in of all places, Salt Lake City, Utah! They were an instant hit.
As KFC spread, so did the biscuit, insinuating itself into other regional cultures. Popular magazines published recipes and home cooks often included additions to “make them their own”, which included sour cream, chives, cheese, and whatever their families enjoyed. Sweet Cream Biscuits emerged to be the perfect base for Strawberry Shortcake, whose national popularity remains high.
As commercially processed foodstuffs became more and more available, so did “shortcuts” on how to make biscuits (which amazes me, as they are not difficult to prepare!). Many baking mixes (like Bisquick), followed by refrigerated, (Pillsbury Pop-n-Fresh) and even frozen. NONE of these come even within a country mile of the real thing!
We’ve a friend who prides himself on his biscuit making adroitness, and we always look forward to Dan’s uncanny magic. He swears that White Lily Flour is by far the best in the marketplace, it is 100% Red Winter Wheat, far superior to other types. Since we don’t have it on shelves in our local market, he orders it direct from the source.
Blue Ribbon Buttermilk Biscuits
Hands-on Time: 25 Mins
Total Time: 50 Mins
Yield: Makes 12 to 14 biscuits
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), frozen
2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup chilled buttermilk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Preheat oven to 475°. Grate frozen butter using large holes of a box grater. Toss together grated butter and flour in a medium bowl. Chill 10 minutes.
Make a well in center of mixture. Add buttermilk, and stir 15 times. Dough will be sticky.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Lightly sprinkle flour over top of dough. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough into a 3/4-inch-thick rectangle (about 9 x 5 inches). Fold dough in half so short ends meet. Repeat rolling and folding process 4 more times.
Roll dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut with a 2 1/2-inch floured round cutter, reshaping scraps and flouring as needed.
Place dough rounds on a parchment paper-lined jelly-roll pan. Bake at 475° for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Brush with melted butter.