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Well Intended / A warming tradition: Biscuits say 'flour power' with Southern accent

Published 6:31 am, Friday, March 28, 2014
  • Which flour has the power? For biccuits, Southern cooks favor White Lily over the King Arthur brand in the author's cupboard. Photo: Westport News/Contributed Photo / Westport News
    Which flour has the power? For biccuits, Southern cooks favor White Lily over the King Arthur brand in the author's cupboard. Photo: Westport News/Contributed Photo

 

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I spent last weekend in Charleston, S.C., where I escaped a few days of this tenacious New England winter and rekindled my love of biscuits. There was plenty to eat. We had shrimp and grits, banana cream pie, catfish, pecan pralines and barbecue. But the best part (in my opinion) was the biscuits.

I bake biscuits from a recipe I got off the back of a White Lily self-rising flour bag many years ago, cutting Crisco into the flour with an old pastry blender and then mixing in chilled milk or (if I have remembered to purchase it) buttermilk. I've neglected the habit of baking biscuits on Saturday mornings lately, opting for heavier scones or kid-pleasing weekend waffles instead.

This weekend, that will change. Over the jolly ramble of Saturday morning cartoons, breakfast is consumed with glasses of orange juice and warm mugs of coffee when the weekend is still before us and it is entirely possible to embark on a grand adventure or to do absolutely nothing at all. (The latter wins out more often than I would like.)

A delicate relationship of fat and flour, patted out and cut into circles with an inverted juice glass, our Saturday morning biscuits are baked in a hot (500 degrees) oven. I worry about the juice glass sometimes. Does it pinch down the sides decrease flakiness? I have considered purchasing a biscuit cutter.

White Lily flour is available at Fresh Market. Southern cooks attribute the lightness of their biscuits to the soft red winter wheat flour that is lower in protein and gluten than my standard King Arthur all-purpose. The self-rising White Lily makes biscuit making simple. Just blend in fat (butter, Crisco or lard) and add liquid. As with any baking, it's best not to overwork the flour. I like to fold the dough over itself a few times and pat it out flat again. I believe that this helps create more flakiness, though it may simply be meddling.

It's windy here today, and it's cold. According to the calendar, spring has arrived, but there is no sign of green buds on the trees yet, the crocus tips are still tucked under icy soil. "March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb." the children say. This year, the lion lingers. I'd like to remember last weekend in the South, where magnolias were just starting to bloom and the trees were dripping with Spanish moss. Our own spring will arrive shortly; it always does. But on Saturday morning, we'll be southerners again and will have the last of last summer's strawberry preserves on warm flaky biscuits.

Krista Richards Mann is a Westport writer, and her "Well Intended" column appears every other Friday. She can be reached at kristarichardsmann@gmail.com.