Confession time: I almost burned the house down on Christmas Day. I was nearly responsible for the party foul of the decade. Never-ending clouds of smoke coupled with the incessant and obnoxiously loud beeping of the smoke detector suggested that my biscuits had burst into little nuggets of flame. Thankfully, the cause of the smoke was (only) a boiling vat of grease at the bottom of the oven. (Note to self: don’t grease a pan without lips on the edges…) Given a few more minutes to sizzle, the vat of oil probably would have transformed into an orange and red flaming ball of fury igniting the oven and kitchen and would have definitely ruined the Weir Christmas cheer.
I’ll admit, the Baking Gods might have had it coming for me. I had been confidently talking up my batch of southern, homemade buttermilk biscuits for Christmas dinner to celebrate being back in the South. My brothers begged me to craft a seasonal pie or whip up another fruit galette, but I insisted on making regular old homemade biscuits. I hadn’t had a real southern biscuit since my pilgrimage (is using this word here sacrilegious…?) to Bojangles over Thanksgiving break. My brothers failed to successfully veil their disappointment about my choice to bake regular biscuits. To be fair and to support my side of the case, the closest biscuit joint to them is less than 10 minutes away, while I currently reside in rural Vermont, located 864.36 miles from my southern abode. So biscuits it was.
So back to the chaos…When I opened the oven in attempt to salvage my biscuits, I was attacked by a furious cloud of smoke that ferociously tumbled out and swirled around the kitchen. (I’m hardly exaggerating). It slightly resembled the evil Smoke Monster in LOST (yes, I still mourn the ending of this incredible TV show). I sacrificed my eye vision to check on the biscuits, half of which happened to be perfectly done. I snatched them out of the oven, quickly turned it off, and immediately began batting the smoke away from the oven.
By the time we had waved the smoke out of the kitchen and out both the front and back doors, I had unfortunately already been named and ridiculed as the embarrassment of the night throughout the house. At Christmas dinner my brother made comments such as, “my biscuit tastes a bit smokey—does yours?” and, “isn’t she a baker?” when it was clearly too early to make jokes about my basic biscuit blunder. But it happens, right? Thankfully, the house (and biscuits) were okay.
Besides fearing that I would ruin Christmas, our holiday dinner was a typical Weir Family event. My grandmother prepared her famous raspberry vacherin dessert, my mom glared at my brothers when they were on the brink of making inappropriate comments, my dad helped himself to another Christmas beer, my dog took turns lounging on all of our different feet under the dinner table, and I tried to retain giggles and maintain a frustrated facade at my brothers while they made jokes about my baking skills.
By the time we could hear utensils scratching against plates, stomachs were full, and glasses were empty. And even though my brothers were originally hesitant about the regular ‘ole biscuits, they did happily guzzle them down alongside their venison roast. Here’s the recipe, and to avoid burning your house down, here’s a helpful hint: don’t grease your pan; the butter in the biscuits will stop them from sticking. Happy baking!
Old Fashioned Buttermilk Biscuits
Source: Foster’s Market Cookbook
Yield: 1 dozen 2 ½ -inch biscuits
Ingredients: 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt, ½ pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter (cut into ¼-inch cubes), 1 ¼ to 1 ½ cup buttermilk, Egg wash: 1 large egg beaten with 2 tbsp milk
- Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
- Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
- Add the butter and cut it into the flour mixture using a pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal. (Or pulse 10 to 12 times in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade). Transfer the mixture to a large bowl to continue making the dough.) The dough can be made up to 1 week in advance to this point and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Add 1 ¼ cups of the buttermilk and mix lightly just until the dough begins to stick together; don not over mix. Add up to 4 tablespoons more buttermilk, 1 tablespoon at a time, if the dough is dry.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and press together lightly just until the dough forms a ball; do not overwork the dough.
- Roll or pat out to ¾ inch thickness. Cut with a 2 ½ inch biscuit or cookie cutter, dipping the cutter into flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking.
- Place the biscuits on the baking sheet and brush the tops with egg wash (egg wash is optional).
- Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.