Sunday, September 23, 2012
The Biscuit Quest
It practically became my own, personal, maddening Quest For The Grail.
I had a better chance of finding The Lost Ark Of The Covenant.
Indiana Jones couldn't find this.
I wasn't trying to rule The World, hold The Damned in my sway, or get a direct line to The Almighty.
Just wanted a little Taste Of Heaven: my grandmother's buttermilk biscuits. Or at least somethin' close.
Just for the record, I understand that a lot of people cannot abide the taste of buttermilk. No way can I down a glass of it, but I like it in biscuits, or gravy. Or dumplings. And I had a buttermilk candy recipe---think Divinity---that I got from my ex-mother-in-law. That I have managed to lose. I'll have to hunt it down on the net. It would take a Ouiga Board to get it from Myrtice now, and she didn't like me when she died anyhoo. I lost recipes in the divorce.
But my Grandma Estelle made the best buttermilk biscuits, hands down. Roughly the size and shape of a cat's head (my father always called them "cat-heads"). Golden brown on top, soft and moist inside, with a crispy brown crust on the bottom. And a flavor that was out-of-this-world. You could taste the buttermilk................
You could slice one and put meat, eggs, cheese, whatever in it for a breakfast sandwich, sop syrup or honey, or dip them in gravy and they would hold together without being tough. You can't use a wussie biscuit for all that.
She would heat up the oven and pour oil in a heavy castiron skillet. She kept a worn, wooden bread bowl full of flour in her pantry, wrapped in a clean pillow case. She would dig out a little "well" in the center of the flour and mix in cooking oil and buttermilk, mixing it with her fingers. She mixed it slowly until she had a soft dough, and then she'd pinch off the biscuits, shape them with her hands, and place them in the skillet. She pressed her floured knuckles on top of each biscuit, and the indentions were still there when the biscuit was done. Pop them in the oven for a bit, and let the smell of biscuits fill the air................
Add the smell of coffee brewing and bacon frying for a small step backward to my childhood. Nice........and comforting.
When I was grown with a family of my own I gave it a try. And what a colossal failure it was. I called my mother, who informed me that she never could make the things.
When I got a by-golly bread bowl, I tried again. And failed again. I guess it doesn't matter what you mix it in; I would have used a hog trough if I had thought it would help.
I tried a recipe that called for shortening and had slightly better results, but by then I had more kids and abandoned The Quest in favor of canned biscuits. I am almost an authority on "whop" biscuits after having tried them all. My apologies to Lewis Grizzard..........Moment Of Silence, Please..............but Lewis didn't have three kids to get to school or a husband who worked on the clock. I didn't have the time for homemade biscuits even if I had the Know-How.
I dabbled with a biscuit recipe here and there. I tried Bisquick. My Ex could care less when it comes to Bisquick, my current husband doesn't want it in the house. And it STILL isn't like Grandma's. Hell, I even tried the powdered milk biscuits and flopped those, too. Easy my ass.
I have a butter biscuit recipe that you can turn out in a flash with a food processer. It's a decent biscuit. At one time, I babysat three little boys who went home one day and told their mother that I made biscuits better than she did. Made points with the boys, lost 'em with their mama; she made better biscuits than I did as far as I was concerned. I didn't ask her how she did it because I didn't want to be laughed at. I did steal her chicken and dressing recipe, though, and copped her hamburger technique.
When frozen biscuits hit the stores, I tried all of them. I couldn't find what I was lookin' for, but T-Bird liked them and I settled on frozen. To Hell with The Quest. Grandma's secrets are in The Grave and gone.
Frozen Biscuit Pergatory. Close, but no grandma-biscuit. I became resigned to the fact that I cannot make the danged things. Until the fateful morning when T-Bird went to a local diner and came back with breakfast biscuits.
There was Grandma's Buttermilk Biscuit!!!!! Packed with sausage, scrambled eggs, and cheese!!! And a little mustard. Knuckle prints on the top, crispy crust on the bottom, and the taste and smell of buttermilk. I actually went back in Time!
The Quest was back on!! T-Bird said that the woman who made them would probably let me watch her while she cooked, but I had to be there at 4:00 a.m.. I decided I'd try that as the last resort. I don't want to get up BEFORE 4:00 a.m., and I am sure that this poor cook didn't want to have to trip over my stupid self on her job first thing in the morning.
I scoured the internet and finally found one that was close as far as ingredients go. I tweaked it just a tad, slid it into the oven in an oiled cast iron skillet and Great Gloriosky..............TRIUMPH!!!!
SHE SHOOTS SHE SCORES!!!!!!!!!!!!! THE CROWD GOES WILD!!!!!!!!!!!!! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!
I don't use a bread bowl, and, unlike Grandma, I do have to use a measuring cup. I also mix the dough with a fork and she would laugh at that.
It really doesn't matter that I cannot do it just like my beloved grandmother.
When the smell of buttermilk biscuits fill the air with the smell of coffee brewing I start to slide backwards to another time and another place. When I taste them, I go home.
Posted by Slick at 1:12 PM