Southern Biscuits

Sothern Biscuits

One might assume since I live in Alabama that I have a precious and holy heirloom recipe for Southern biscuits. Alas, I do not. My family isn’t originally from the South. Both of my parents are from Maryland, and my parents, two brothers and I moved from state-to-state every five years growing up. I did not have a Southern grandmother to show me the way of the sacred Southern biscuit. In fact, homemade biscuits were endearingly called “hockey pucks” at family get-togethers.

Sothern Biscuits

I did, however, have a pint-sized Ukrainian grandmother on my mother’s side who made the best potato candy in the world and whose red and pink rose bushes were the envy of the neighborhood.

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And I had a fun, feisty grandmother on my father’s side who took care of my handicapped grandfather for years after his stroke and who wasn’t afraid to say anything to anyone.  (An elderly woman once approached her at my parents’ church and said, “Ms. Michael, I’m not sure I’ve had the pleasure of meeting you,” to which my then 70-year-old grandmother responded, “I don’t know. All of you old ladies in this church look alike.” And to a woman sitting next to her at the beauty salon she quipped, “Your hair looked better when you walked in here.”)

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Not only do I lack a Southern lineage, but my great, great grandfather James (below) fought for the North during the Civil War. He was captured by the South and, according to family history, escaped with three other men the night before his scheduled hanging.

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A Southern curse?

All I know is that my biscuit-making attempts over the years have proved disastrous. Hockey pucks, indeed. Too dry. Too crumbly. No flavor.

Then a few months ago I had a breakthrough. Not only did I make a decent biscuit, I made the best one I’d ever tasted in a home kitchen.  The process began with an Alton Brown recipe that boasted nearly 500 reviews and five stars.  His recipe called for equal parts shortening and butter, but with no shortening in my pantry, I used all butter. The results were outstanding, a Southern biscuit in all of its intended glory: flaky, buttery layers, a crispy bottom and a golden-brown top.

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I know some biscuit purists swear by shortening, but I tested the shortening-butter biscuits and found they lacked the full flavor of the all-butter biscuits.

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And call this a near-cheat – a Paula Deen, if you will – but I also increased the butter in Brown’s recipe from four tablespoons to six. I’ve gone as high as eight tablespoons of butter, but I think six does the job. Unless I’m making them for special guests, in which case I unapologetically up the butter. I give both options below. Sin as you wish.

Thus far this year, this biscuit recipe is my most requested recipe.

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