Biscuits are easy to make, quick and luscious to eat. Magazines and books lately focus articles and recipes on biscuits, touting favorite combinations from well-known chefs and bakers. Biscuits run the gamete from classical, tall and fluffy, ( 3-4 inches high), to thinner, and to every combination imaginable! You can make big ones, baked separately or close together, simple to pull apart. Might you want them large and tall, able to soak up gravies, dip into potpies, made soft for dipping in soups. But too, a crunchy topping works, and is easy to create with a wide assortment of garnishes, such as, salt, ground nuts, or flakes of herbs atop extra melted butter added before baking. You can add pepper, cayenne pepper and other spices to give biscuits a kick! Cheddar cheese has been a popular addition. But too, experiment with raw zucchini, or other pieces of cooked vegetables or fruit for a creative rendition. (Don’t overdo additions, otherwise you may end up with mush or something worse). However, practice and trial and error help you discover your best product. Try biscuits served alongside stir fries, served with sauces, or simply next to over-easy eggs which you then can dip biscuit edges into runny yolks.
Perhaps you wish to preserve tradition and use bacon grease, lard or Crisco. These ingredients were king in the kitchen decades ago, and are still used judiciously by many cooks and bakers. Using butter heightens the flavor of biscuit, but too, shortening adds softness. Do what you desire. I have tall and fat biscuit recipes in this cookbook using all butter, but this version uses vegetable shortening. Alternatively, you can use half and half, meaning half butter and half vegetable shortening. Either will produce a tender and delicious doughy side with whatever you serve them with. Here, self-rising flour simplifies the process for the baker, a few less ingredients to fuss over and add to your bowl. This small batch of dough makes about 15 biscuits using a two and a-half-inch biscuit cutter resulting in under an inch tall round mound.
2 cups self-rising flour, plus several extra tablespoons for the counter and the kneading process with a large cutting board
4 Tbsp. vegetable shortening, well-chilled
1 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp. smoky paprika, or ground paprika, depending on your desire
3 Tsp. kosher salt, divided
Herbs ( optional)
Garlic – 2 cloves, mashed (optional)
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 In a large bowl put in two cups of flour, stir in one teaspoon of the salt, and a small amount of herbs if you wish. Add the shortening, and cut it in with two knives or a pastry cutter until nearly the size of peas. Fold in buttermilk and the garlic. The dough will be quite soft, but that’s okay. Turn the mound on to a well-floured board. Kneed gently just a few times. Do not overdo this last step. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2 With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough to about half an inch thickness. Use a two and a half inch biscuit cutter making approximately fifteen cuts. Reroll the dough minimally, if necessary. Lay them on a Silpat covered cookie sheet or use parchment paper. Do not crowd the dough, place no more than twelve cut-out biscuits per sheet.
3 In a small bowl, stir in the two remaining teaspoons of salt, more if you like, with the paprika. Brush the biscuits with the melted butter. Sprinkle the salt and paprika mixture on each mound, adding more if desired, but do not overdo.
4 Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the redness of the paprika is slightly darker. Do not overbake, this is important, to avoid tough tasting biscuits. To test one biscuit, take a gently but quick peek on the underside of the biscuit. the color should be faintly brown, if not, put the cookie sheet back in the oven for another 30 seconds to one minute. Cool on the sheet for 5 minutes, then remove to a cooking rack for 5 more minutes.
TIPS AND TWEAKS
- Add dried curry, about half a teaspoon after you add the garlic. Or the same amount of cayenne pepper, or less, to add a kick. A little pepper too can be added then.
- Stir in a small amount of cooked vegetables at step one, for a truly unique taste.
- add half a cup of grated cheddar cheese after the garlic in step one.
- Mix two tablespoons of melted butter with panko breadcrumbs and spread a thin coat of the mixture gently on the biscuits before you bake them.