Sunday, November 6, 2011

...have you hugged a biscuit today?

When I cannot write a poem, I bake biscuits
and feel just as good.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Thank you, George and Shannon, for the dish towel.
Nothin' says lovin' like something from the oven!

If I had to choose a favorite book TITLE, Eat Pray Love would be on the leader board. And if I had to choose a favorite saying, then this would be in contention: we are not human beings looking for a spiritual experience but, rather, spiritual beings having a human one. Mind. Body. Spirit. One for all. All for one. Omnipresent. Just try to still the mind - conscious and unconscious - in meditation. And is there a moment when body awareness fades?  Now post-vanity (removed by time, not surrendered willingly), just ask my aches. As for the spirit? My friend, the soul whisperer, entreats me to become prayer...not finite/infinite words but an openness, a living, a giving. A verb.
At the moment, my thoughts have turned to eating. When I was little, my grandmother made biscuits in a large, shallow wooden bowl filled with flour.  Into this she worked her magic: lard (yes, lard, rendered after the annual hog-killing...this was farm life, not Whole Foods), milk, salt, baking powder. And some sugar. Granny’s kitchen religion: a little sugar in every salty thing and a little salt in all sweets. I can see her hands quickly forming the dough: light and moist, the scent of promises. 
I try to observe healthy food habits since my metabolism has retired. But once a week I cook something forbidden in this corner of sophisticated, light, and healthy cuisine. I watched three emaciated women at lunch recently nibble a variety of lettuces with no dressing, NOT EVEN ON THE SIDE. Maybe this trio wouldn’t bite, but I bet if you set a platter of these buttery homemade biscuits down on the counter in most of these gourmet-lite, granite-heavy kitchens, they’d be gone faster than you could say Alice Waters.
I’ve tried a gazillion biscuit recipes over the years and have hit it lucky from time to time.  Never, though, have I duplicated the goodness of those childhood morsels. Granny’s biscuits were delicious hot out of the oven or split open and toasted with butter the next morning. Hardly contained by gravity but graced by gravy...or homemade preserves, honey, and, in the true southern vernacular, sorghum syrup mixed with more butter. O happy day when a blogging neighbor published a recipe that had Granny written all over it.  Edie from Give her complete credit for the recipe and the quotes here. Visit her...such a treat! 
These biscuits aren’t stand-up, tall and elegant. That’s another recipe. These aren’t even round. You may even want to eat them with a fork. 
Now for the recipe:
We begin with Edie’s words: “First, you must start with 2 cups of self-rising White Lily flour. There shall be no substitutes. It has a lower protein content and says on the front ‘a southern tradition since 1883′. Don’t mess with Texas.” My words: White Lily flour is not sold anywhere in California. It IS available now on I love the internet. Back to the biscuits.

In a large bowl, mix the flour with 1/4 c. sugar, 1/2 t. salt, 1-1/2 t. baking powder. (Yes, the flour is self-rising. Add the baking powder anyway. Trust Edie and me.)

Cut in 1/4 c. shortening (two forks, a knife and a fork, a pastry blender or a whisk: whatever works for you) until the mixture looks like cornmeal. Sort of. Don’t stress.

Okay, I can't stir, focus and shoot at the same time. You get the general idea.
Add 2/3 cup heavy cream and 1 cup buttermilk and stir. This makes a wet dough.

Put some flour in a bowl or on a work surface. Here’s where Edie made me cry.  She drops the dough by scoopfuls (her measure: “medium ice cream scoop”) into the flour JUST LIKE GRANNY.  Flour your hands a bit and form the biscuit. Don’t mess with the dough too much either. I roll it between my palms very lightly so that the outside is delicately coated with flour and the inside is still wet. Shake off the excess flour and place in a round pan (cake pan or iron skillet) sprayed with Pam. My pans are still stored so I made do with a Chasseur casserole I found at Marshall's for $14.99. I love discount stores. [NOTE: not the right shape pan exactly - Edie's "angel wings" are prettier, so check them out - but the finished product tasted great.]

Edie's words are as crucial here as White Lily in the first step: “Place the biscuits very snugly into the pan. This step is key. These are southern biscuits so they’re invading each other’s personal space and hugging and back-slapping like crazy. If you’re from the Midwest, where personal space is recognized and respeted, this step might be hard for you. But, trust me, I made my first batch with biscuit-boundaries and they were flat and boring. Scooch ‘em close together and they’ll sing the Hallelujah Chorus.” I did. They did. A good time was had by all. Oh, and, pat the biscuits lightly in the pan. Granny did.

Place the hugging biscuits into a 425 degree oven for 18 to 23 minutes until they are golden brown on top. Invert them on a plate, and then again onto another plate so they land right-side up.  Brush with melted butter. Cut them apart with a knife and butter again if your cholesterol is still too low. A couple of these once a month may be illegal in Marin County. 

I’ll get around to a healthy recipe next week. I promise. 

Just as soon as I clean the buttery smears off the edges of my Mac.

1 comment:

Jeannette said...

I keep looking at the last picture...but I would have ~to do~ all the other pictures first...what am I thinking? I am spiritual being having a physical experience...