Being a born-and-bred Southerner, it’s with some trepidation (and embarrassment) that I admit to being biscuit-challenged.
I just wasn’t fortunate enough to inherit the biscuit-making gene that my grandmothers put so often to good use. Try as I might, every effort I make at creating light, fluffy biscuits results in my being rewarded with a pan full of dense little discs suitable only for use as doorstops.
In fact, the only edible bread I’ve been able to make is what my grandmother Juanita called a hoe cake. She made one whenever she was out of “light” bread (her term for store-bought loaf bread). There’s no recipe for her hoe cake; it consists simply of self-rising flour, shortening and milk, mixed together in varying amounts until the “right” consistency is reached. She usually baked it in a small metal frying pan, whose handle had broken off years before, until it was golden brown and looked like a big, fluffy … well, biscuit.
But once in a while, usually on special occasions like Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas, she would make Angel Biscuits. Sort of a hybrid biscuit and yeast roll, I can still see them put aside to rise in a muffin tin, three little round balls in each cup, like a cloverleaf. The best part, though, was when they were fresh from the oven, broken apart, smeared with butter and light as an angel’s wings.
I will admit, too, that I have never tried to make my grandmother’s Angel Biscuits. But with Easter on its way, it might be just the special occasion to give them a try.
(Note: Although the recipe calls for rolling the dough and cutting it with a biscuit cutter, my grandmother shaped it into little balls, putting three in each cup of a muffin pan to form a cloverleaf roll.)
1 package active dry yeast
2 Tablespoons warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
1 cup shortening
5 cups self-rising flour
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups buttermilk
Dissolve yeast in warm water. Cut shortening into flour, sugar and baking soda with a pastry blender until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in buttermilk and yeast mixture until dough leaves side of bowl (dough will be soft and sticky). Turn dough onto generously floured cloth-covered board. Gently roll in flour to coat; shape into a ball. Knead 25 to 30 times, sprinkling with flour if dough is too sticky. Place dough in lightly greased bowl; cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours but no longer than 3 days. Use as needed.
Roll or pat dough ½-inch thick. Cut with floured 2-inch biscuit cutter. Place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Let rise in warm place until double, about 1 hour.
Heat oven to 400. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Immediately remove from cookie sheet. About 3 ½ dozen biscuits.