I have had the pleasure of seeing Shirley make these biscuits at a yearly food conference, and believe me, there is always a line to sample them. Impossibly light, yet rich. Butter, shortening, cream and buttermilk all in one bite. This recipe is from her book BakeWise, a follow-up to her book CookWise. Both belong on the shelves of those who like to know why certain techniques have the effects that they do. For a Throwback Thursday entry, I present to you her Touch of Grace Biscuits; you can read below in Shirley’s words how they got their name. Read our full interview with her, too.
Here are my observations about her recipe. The caps in the recipe are Shirley’s. She means what she says!
- Search out the White Lily self-rising flour, if you can.
- When searching for an alternative, the protein content on the bag should be listed as 2 grams per ¼ cup.
- I store my shortening in the freezer so it is ice cold. It does not get too hard.
- Have more than 1 cup of buttermilk handy, in case you need it. The amount you use isn’t as important as the texture of the dough.
- As Shirley likes to say in caps – IT SHOULD LOOK LIKE COTTAGE CHEESE!
- I used the full cup of buttermilk in our test batches.
- I don’t place more than 2 scoops of dough into the flour at one time. This gives me room to sprinkle and coat the biscuits more easily.
- I like using an 8-inch pan, as opposed to a 9-inch, so that the biscuits are taller.
- These come together quickly while the oven is preheating. It is worth planning so that you can serve them hot out of the oven.
- Here they are baked:
- And slathered with butter:
Excerpted from BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking with Over 200 Magnificent Recipes by Shirley Corriher. Scribner copyright 2008.
As a little girl, I followed my grandmother around the kitchen. For breakfast, lunch and dinner she made the lightest, most wonderful biscuits in the world. I used her bread bowl, her flour, her buttermilk – I did everything the same, and I shaped the biscuits just like she did. But mine always turned out a dry, mealy mess. I would cry and say “Nanny, what did I do wrong?” She was a very busy woman with all my uncles and grandfather to feed three times a day, but she would lean down, give me a big hug, and say, “Honey, I guess you forgot to add a Touch of Grace.”
It took me over twenty years to figure out what my grandmother was doing that I was missing. I thought that the dough had to be dry enough to shape by hand, but she actually had a very wet dough. She sprinkled flour from the front of the bowl onto the dough, pinched off a biscuit-size piece, and dipped it in the flour. She floured the outside of the wet dough so that she could handle it. This wet dough in a hot oven creates steam to puff and make feather-light biscuits. A wet dough was the big secret. Now I make biscuits almost as good as my grandmother’s, and so can you, with a good wet dough and a Touch of Grace.
What This Recipe Shows: Low-protein flour like White Lily helps make tender, moist biscuits. A very wet dough makes more steam in a hot oven and creates lighter biscuits.
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 2 cups (9 oz./255g) spooned and leveled self-rising flour (low-protein Southern U.S. flour like White Lily or any self-rising flour)
- ¼ cup (1.8 oz/1g) sugar
- ½ teaspoon (3g) salt
- ¼ cup (1.6 oz/45g) shortening
- ⅔ cup (158 ml) heavy cream
- 1 cup (237 ml) buttermilk, or enough for dough to resemble cottage cheese (if you are not using low-protein flour, it will take considerably more than 1 cup)
- 1 cup (4.5 oz/127g) plain all-purpose flour, for shaping
- 3 tablespoons (1.5 oz/43g) unsalted butter, melted, for brushing
- Preheat oven to 425°F/218°C and arrange a shelf slightly below the center of the oven. Spray an 8- or 9-inch (20 or 23 cm) round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together the self-rising flour, sugar and salt. Work the shortening in with your fingertips until there are no large lumps. Gently stir in the cream, then some of the buttermilk. Continue stirring in the buttermilk until THE DOUGH RESEMBLES COTTAGE CHEESE. It should be a wet mess – not soup, but cottage-cheese texture. If you are not using low-protein flour, this may require considerably more than 1 cup (237 ml) of buttermilk.
- Spread the plain (not self-rising) flour out on a plate or pie pan. With a medium (about 2-inch/5-cm, #30) ice cream scoop or spoon, place 3 or 4 scoops of dough well apart in the flour. Sprinkle flour over each. Flour your hands. Turn a dough ball in the flour to coat, pick it up, and gently shape it into a round, shaking off the excess flour as you work. Place this biscuit in the prepared pan. Coat each dough ball in the same way and place each shaped biscuit SCRUNCHED UP AGAINST ITS NEIGHBOR so that the biscuits rise up and don’t spread out. Continue scooping and shaping until all the dough is used.
- Place the pan on the arranged shelf in the oven. Bake until lightly browned, about 20 to 25 minutes. Brush with melted butter. Invert onto one plate, and back onto another. With a knife or spatula, cut quickly between biscuits to make them easy to remove. Serve immediately. “Butter ‘em while they’re hot.”