Warm and flaky right out of the oven, slathered in blackberry jam and butter, homemade biscuits are one comfort food Twinkle VanWinkle refuses to give up. Here, the food writer who runs the kitchen at Wildwood Market shares the memory behind the recipe she loves to recreate for her family.
This treasured bit of baking knowledge has been handed down from both sides of my family—from from mamaws and grandmas. My dad, however, is the biggest biscuit making influence, and I wait eagerly every year to get home for the holidays just to have some of “Brad’s Biscuits.” The trick, my dad says, is not about measuring, although I recommend some form of it. He does it by feel. It’s a method that takes some practice, but the result is so gratifying when you pull your first batch of perfect biscuits out of the oven.
Dad says that growing up, they had what was called “the biscuit bowl.” Basically it was a large ceramic bowl with flour in it—quite possibly mixed with baking powder and baking soda. But his mother or grandmother would just pour in the necessary milk and (most likely) lard until the dough just came together. They would toss out the dough and roll out the biscuits, covering up the rest of the flour until the next meal. As a Southerner, homemade biscuits for many folks were just as necessary at every meal as cornbread. Maybe more. Even though I do not have a bowl sitting around ready for me to throw in some lard, butter, and buttermilk, I do have a particular bowl I like to use.
Some people use vegetable shortening, but I use butter, and when I’m feeling frisky will definitely go for some lard. You can switch out the butter for shortening if that is what you prefer. If you’d rather use vegan options, go for the shortening. Soy or rice milk with a teaspoon of lemon juice can be substituted for buttermilk.
Twinkle’s Buttery Biscuits
- 3 ½ cups of whole wheat white flour
- 1 ½ cup buttermilk
- 1 tbs. plus 1 tsp. baking powder
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 2 tsp. kosher or fine ground sea salt
- 2 sticks of frozen unsalted butter, diced (or lard or shortening)
- Whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt), and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 420 degrees.
- Chop the butter into squares or small cubes and sprinkle evenly across the top of the flour mixture.
- Use your fingers to mix the butter and flour, squeezing the butter into smaller pieces, drawing in the flour little by little.
- When you’ve got the consistency of a soft cornmeal, move to the next step. You can use a fork or a mixer, but you’ll still need to feel the texture for your biscuits to come out just right.
- Pour in the buttermilk little by little, mixing it in the middle until you get all the dry mix from around the edges incorporated.
- Once it comes together, knead once or twice into a blob and move to a clean, floured surface. Do not overmix it, or the biscuits will be chewy and hard. I fold it over twice to get those good layers.
- Press out the dough with your fingers. You can just make chunks if you like, better known as Cathead Biscuits. For consistency, I roll mine out about half an inch thick and use a canning jar lid to cut out the biscuits.
- Place your cut-out biscuits on ungreased, lightly floured parchment on a baking sheet and bake for about 12–15 minutes, or until the tops are brown.