Friday, March 20, 2009

Got Biscuits?

That's the sign on my fridge magnet, straight from the Loveless Cafe in Nashville, TN. I certainly have enough things to put ON biscuits, and have spent years hunting for the best biscuit recipe.
I've tried bisquick (great for sausage cheese balls, but not biscuits), "make a mix" recipes (I can't stand powdered milk and can taste it in baked goods), and my "go to" recipe from Cooks Illustrated (uses a stick of butter). Still...biscuit bliss has eluded me. When we visited the cafe last December, I understood why so many fans clamor for the special recipe. The "biscuit lady" has been on everything from news shows to Martha Stewart, but you can't find the recipe anywhere. Hmm...wonder why that is? What is it about a biscuit recipe that wouldn't go over well with the general public but yet will keep them coming back for more?

Hmm...c'mon Renee, think like a restaurant owner. If I owned a cafe and had to use 1 stick of butter per 2 cups of flour that would be pretty pricey. Isn't there another ingredient that costs less and would work as well or better? There is, but you might not want to hear what it is.

Ok, if you've read this far, you're probably curious :-)

Lard. Sorry folks, but there it is. Know why crisco is hailed as "all-vegetable"? Because lard is "all animal."
Now before you continue with your "I would never cook with this" freak-out, let me assure you that this recipe uses half the fat of my previous recipe. Just 1/4 c. instead of 1/2 c. If you want a butter flavor, then put the real butter on your biscuits, not in them. Call these "old fashioned" or "granny's" biscuits and you'll feel nostalgic about your ingredients of choice.

Other secrets -
1. White Lily flour. You can buy it at HEB here in town. White Lily comes from TN and is a lower protein (therefore more tender) flour than general all-purpose. Sorry, but this "biscuit lady" won't let you take shortcuts. The right flour makes a difference.

2. High oven temperature. 500 degrees sounds like a lot, but you want that initial blast of heat that produces more steam and a higher rise to your biscuit.

3. Watch the hands! Don't handle these any more than necessary. Handling develops gluten and that makes for little hockey pucks, not biscuits anyone will want to eat.

Ready? Here we go

2 c. white lily flour, plus extra for rolling out biscuits
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. lard

Preheat oven to 500 degrees and spray baking sheet w/ Pam.
Mix dry ingredients. Use a pastry cutter to cut in lard until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pour in buttermilk and use a spoon or spatula to combine. Finish kneading lightly to incorporate the flour left in the bowl. Turn out onto floured countertop and pat into a rectangle 1/2 inch or so thick. Use a biscuit cutter to cut biscuits (push straight down. Twisting the cutter is a no-no.) Try to cut as many out the first time as you can. Re-roll the scraps as little as possible. Place biscuits on baking sheet with sides touching and bake for 8 minutes. Serve warm because they don't keep well. Not that you're likely to have any leftovers!

Pretty in Pink

We've been having a great time this week with Katie and Josh here. Just last night our little "mommy to be" was a vision of confectionary loveliness, sitting on the couch, knitting away on Emmie's pink blanket.

Other spring break highlights - Many midnight wii tournaments. I hear lots of laughter downstairs until the wii hours (Groan! You knew I'd fit that in there didn't you?)
-Many yummy meals! Recipes coming soon.
-Meals out: We've hit everything from upscale (Hubbell and Hudson bistro up in the Woodlands) to downhome (new Rudy's BBQ on 290. Buy the sauce.)
-Scenic drives - what is spring in Texas without bluebonnets?
-Shopping - outlet mall, Katy Mills, and for the guys...comic book stores.

Up next is the baby shower with the Mulberrian bunch. Watch for pictures of Kelsey's newest cakestravaganza.