A few weeks ago our Mennonite friends in Kentucky invited us to watch them make sweet sorghum syrup. Sorghum is similar to molasses but has a much earthier taste with a touch of sourness. It can be used cup for cup in any recipe calling for molasses, honey, or corn syrup. Having said all that, in the South, if you give a friend some sorghum, they’re going to want a biscuit, a light, crunchy biscuit.
I anointed my husband, the Southerner, the “biscuit maker”; he had watched his mother make biscuits since he was a little fella. Sadly, they were not as easy to make as he had remembered. The first batch was fraught with problems: they were dry and hard like hockey pucks. From the rolling hills and gorgeous lakes of KY, I went on Facebook and begged our friends to tell us what went wrong with the biscuits. Their suggestions poured in. Futzing around in the kitchen, with the goal of making a good biscuit, became our vacation vocation.
2 cups self-rising flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1⁄3 cup all-vegetable shortening, lard, or butter, chilled
1 cup buttermilk
1) Preheat oven to 500º
2) Lightly flour a large baking sheet. You can use the self-rising flour for this.
3) Mix together flour, salt, and shortening with a pastry cutter, whisk, or two knives.
4) Add buttermilk and mix with a fork until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl. Do not overwork the dough. The airiness in a biscuit is created by the holes left when shortening flecks melt and create pockets of steam. If you overmix the dough, you’ll lose those air pockets. The dough will be sticky.
5) Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface or a sheet of parchment paper.
6) Using floured hands, gently shape the dough into a disc. The way this delicately soft mound of dough feels in your hands is heavenly.
7) Flour the rolling pin and gently roll out the dough until it is ¾ inch thick. Alternatively, you could press the dough out with your fingertips.
8) Dust the edges of either a 2-inch or 3-inch biscuit cutter with flour. Cut the biscuits and place on a floured baking sheet. A 2-inch cutter will yield 16 biscuits. A 3-inch cutter will yield 12.
9) If you want the biscuits to have soft sides, arrange them so their sides are touching. If you want crunchy sides, arrange them one inch apart from one another. At this point, you could put the pan of uncooked biscuits in the freezer and once frozen, put the biscuits in a bag to store.
10) Bake at 500º for 5 minutes and then turn oven off. Leave biscuits in the oven to bake for another 3-5 minutes. Biscuits are done when they have a light golden brown color.
A Southern Treat:
Mix together a pat of butter and a heaping tablespoon of sorghum syrup. Spread mixture over warm biscuits.
The Biscuit King:
P.S. Special thanks to those who offered baking tips: Lou Ann, Robin, Anne, Libba, Stephanie, Terry, Susan, Holly M, Holly W, Mary Sue, Barbara, and Mrs. Harriman.
Toppings that go well on a biscuit:
Raising Sorghum Cane to Make Sorghum Syrup
Oven-Roasted Strawberry and Rosemary Jam
Crab Apple Jelly
Homemade Grape Jelly
Roasted Fig Preserves with Lemon and Thyme
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