Foolproof Biscuit Making 101
When a Cajun moves away from south Louisiana there is a need for much adjustment to the new culture. Being so satisfied with our surroundings right down to its climate, landscape, language, food, music, and its people can make a change to a new location a difficult task. Especially since there is no other place on earth like Acadiana and it’s Cajuns.
We are a people steeped in tradition with a love of living life to the full. I believe it comes down to a sense the Cajun people gained when finally finding a land to call their own after being booted out from the northern French country. Only God could provide such a place for such a people. After all, He’s done this before, hasn’t He?
Right after Steve and I married, 37 years ago, we lived with his grandparents in the country outside of Laurel, Mississippi. It was only for a few weeks until our apartment was ready to move into. Although I was still in the south it was a culture shock for me. Thank God for our Mississippi family who helped me adjust by their love in making me feel at home. Not working outside of the home at the time I was able to experience Mamaw’s cooking firsthand.
I was found her biscuit making fascinating. Homemade biscuits were not common in our home when I was growing up. I think it was because my Mama’s dad preferred bread, therefore her mama seldom made biscuits. Plus, we had our couche- couche with coffee milk and toast made from that famous Evangeline Maid Bakery for our breakfasts. On occasion, when we did have biscuits, they usually came from a box or from the kind you popped open on the edge of the counter. That’s all okay, but I sure have learned to enjoy a good homemade biscuit hot out of the oven.
Every morning Mamaw would take her wooden bowl filled with self-rising flour from the cabinet and add just the right amount of shortening and buttermilk to make the perfect biscuit dough. I can still see her forming those biscuits with her hands into thick round disks. She’d bake them in the oven in a cast iron skillet, but not before patting them with a little cooking oil from the backside of her fingers. Then she’d stick them under the broiler for a few minutes to get them nice and golden. We ate these with either homemade syrup mixed with butter or gravy made of fried chicken drippings from the night before.
Mamaw could make those biscuits in her sleep! The way she’d throw them out without having to measure any of the ingredients intimidated me so that I never attempted to make them myself even when she offered to show me how. Later, after moving back to south Louisiana, I met a lady from Monroe named Louise who has become a treasured friend. She gave me a biscuit 101, step-by-step lesson that eased my fears and gave me the confidence to make them for my family. I can still hear her say, “Now, you always bake your biscuits in a hot oven,” in her north Louisiana accent.
You may have your own biscuit making method, but if you don’t or want a foolproof recipe to share, here is the way I’ve learned to make them:
2 cups self-rising flour, sifted
1/3 cup butter (cold and cut into cubes) or shortening
1 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Cut butter or shortening into flour in a medium bowl until it resembles cornmeal. You can pass your fingers through to press butter or shortening into the flour to make sure it’s incorporated enough before adding the buttermilk.
Stir in buttermilk and mix well into a ball. Knead wet dough in some self-rising flour on your counter-top until dough is no longer sticky.
Then pinch off enough dough to form into 8 biscuits. No need to roll out and cut.
Place biscuits on a parchment lined baking pan. Put a pat of butter or a little oil on top of each biscuit and bake for 12 minutes. Serving hot out of the oven is best!
Don’t wait any longer if you’ve not tried or been successful in making homemade biscuits before. Go ahead, it’s easy!
Slap some bacon on a biscuit and let’s go! We’re burnin’ daylight!” John Wayne