Beyond the Basics
By Jennifer Kornegay | Photos by Michael Cornelison
Unlike your average roll, biscuits are far more than just some side bread; it may be humble, but the biscuit is an undeniable staple of Southern cuisine. Sure, they’re functional, useful for sopping up grits, gravies or for pushing that unruly little pile of purple-hull peas up on your fork.
But biscuits can also stand on their own. Some Southern restaurants can credit their biscuits almost entirely for their success. Think back on some of the truly delicious meals you’ve had, and if biscuits were there, they may have stolen the show and surely played a strong supporting role at the very least.
All of this evidence pointing to the prominence of biscuits in our culinary culture helps answer the question, “Why make biscuits?”. The reply for “How should I make biscuits?” is a bit more subjective. Some will swear that the quintessential biscuit of our region must be made with shortening and buttermilk. Plenty of authentic Southerners opt for butter and whole milk instead, proving there is more than one way to bake a “real” biscuit.
They come in many sizes, ranging from “catheads” the size of a baseball, to diminutive half-dollars you can eat in one bite. They even come in shapes other than round. True biscuit lovers usually aren’t picky on these points; I’ll happily take a warm biscuit of any size or shape, any day.
Once you’ve found your favorite version of the “basic” biscuit, consider your options for add-ons. Biscuits certainly don’t require any embellishment (more than a pat or two of butter), but that hasn’t stopped folks from developing new recipes that call for fruit, cheese or even fresh herbs.
I’m not suggesting you stop making the biscuits you and your family already know and love. But it never hurts to try something new too, so check out the twists on tradition that came in with this month’s reader-submitted recipes.
− Jennifer Kornegay
Cook of the Month
Aileen Russell, Joe Wheeler EMC
Aileen Russell took a biscuit recipe from her grandmother and spiced it up a bit, adding aromatic cinnamon as the star ingredient to create her Cinnamon Biscuits. She first made them for some hungry Boy Scouts. “My husband is a Scout leader, and we always have Scouts at our house. I made these to feed them one day, and they gobbled them up in a matter of seconds,” she said. She figured if teenage boys liked them that much, maybe others would too. And they do. “The Scouts always ask for them, and others love them as well. It has become a go-to recipe for me,” she said.
She sent it in for our food pages so she could share the simple way to satisfy any kind and any size crowd. “I thought others may like to add this to their recipe repertoire because they are so good, and it is so easy to adapt. You can make more or less depending on how many people you are serving,” she said.
- 2 cups Bisquick
- 1 cup sour cream
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ cup chopped golden raisinsGlaze:
- 2/3 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Stir dry ingredients and raisins together. Add sour cream and mix well. Dump dough out onto a floured surface, and using well-floured hands, pat dough down until it is about ¾ to 1 inch thick. Cut into shapes with a biscuit cutter. Place biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet. Cook for 10-15 minutes until tops turn light brown. Spoon glaze over hot biscuits. Makes around 14 medium sized biscuits.
Glaze: Mix all ingredients together. If too thick to spoon easily, add a couple drop of water.
Sour Cream Biscuits
- 2 sticks real butter, softened
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 cups self-rising flour
Dash (less than 1/8 teaspoon) garlic powder OR a sprinkling (approximately 1 teaspoon) of fresh herbs such as thyme or rosemary
In a bowl, combine softened butter with sour cream. Add the flour and mix all ingredients. Drop a rounded tablespoonful into greased miniature muffin pans. Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown. Yields 24.
Note: If you do not wish to serve immediately, cook until almost brown. Remove from pan and store at room temperature. Just before serving, place on a cookie sheet and warm in oven. To freeze, cook until almost brown. Cool then freeze.
Fran Turner, Baldwin EMC
- 5 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup Crisco shortening
- 1½ packages yeast
- 1/3 cup warm water
- 2 cups buttermilk (can use 2 cups regular milk plus 2 tablespoons of vinegar)
- Cooking oil
Sift together dry ingredients. Cut in the shortening. Dissolve yeast in the warm water. Add this and buttermilk to dry ingredients. Grease the batter with 2 tablespoons oil. Cover and store in refrigerator until ready to use. May be kept indefinitely. When ready to bake, spoon out as many as you need on a greased pan, and let rise 1 hour. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.
Myrtle Waters, Southern Pine EC
- 1½ cups self-rising flour
- ½ pint whipping cream (not whipped)
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
Mix all ingredients quickly. Knead slightly. Cut and bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.
LaCretia W. Bevel, North Alabama EC
- 4cups Bisquick
- 1 cup 7-Up soda
- 1cup sour cream
Mix all ingredients together. Melt ¼ cup butter and pour onto baking sheet. Lay biscuits on pan. Cook at 350 degrees until golden brown. Makes 10-12 biscuits
Christa Atchley, North Alabama EC
Quick Cheese Biscuits
- 1½ cups Bisquick
- 2/3 cup buttermilk
- ½ cup sharp cheddar cheese
Spray pan with nonstick spray. Mix ingredients to soft dough. Beat 30 seconds. If too sticky, add more Bisquick (up to 1/4 cup). Drop onto baking pan. Bake 10-12 minutes at 450 degrees.
Lisa Mask, Tallapoosa River EC
Cream Cheese and
- 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½cup chopped green chives
- 18-ounce package cream cheese, softened
- 1¼ cups buttermilk
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, and chives until well combined. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the cream cheese into the dry ingredients until it forms pea-size pieces. Add the buttermilk and stir just until combined. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead lightly 4 or 5 times. Roll or pat to ½-inch thickness. Cut into 12 rounds with a 3-inch cutter or make 30 small biscuits with a 1½-inch cutter. Press straight down without twisting or they will not rise properly. Put the biscuits, barely touching each other, in an ungreased 12-inch round pan. Bake either size for 13 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve at once.
Pamela Pack, Coosa Valley EC
- 1 cup self-rising flour
- ½ cup buttermilk
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
Mix ingredients together and drop into well greased muffin tin. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until lightly brown. Makes 6-8 rolls. Serve warm with preserves or honey. (Can be made as drop biscuits using a greased cookie sheet.)
Jenifer Zamora, Central Alabama EC
- 2 cups self-rising flour, sifted
- 1/3 cup Crisco oil
- 1 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a small cast iron skillet with cooking spray. Add buttermilk and oil to flour. Mix until well blended with a fork until you get it to the desired thickness. Pour into prepared skillet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until desired brownness, and until done. Place cooked wheel on a serving dish. Cut into serving sizes. Enjoy! Serve with syrup, jelly, preserves or just by itself.
Rebecca McCarter, Pioneer EC
- 5 cups plain flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 packages yeast
- 2 cups buttermilk
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup shortening
- ½ cup warm water
Sift dry ingredients and cut in shortening. Dissolve yeast in warm water and add to milk. Add milk and dry ingredients and mix well. Turn onto floured surface and knead several times. Roll and cut to desired thickness. Freeze. Defrost 30 minutes before baking. Bake at 400 degrees until brown. Yields about 35 biscuits.
Julia Barnard, Union Grove, Ala.
Send us your recipes!
Please send us your original recipes, developed by you or family members, and not ones copied from a book or magazine. You may adapt a recipe from another source by changing as little as the amount of one ingredient. Cook of the Month winners will receive $50, and may win “Cook of the Month” only once per calendar year.
Recipe themes and deadlines:
January – Comfort Food, Nov. 8
February – Cooking for Two, Dec. 8
March – Lemons, Jan. 8