Step 1: Follow the recipe to a “T”, the way she told you, showed you how and wrote it down for you (at least half a million times, I swear!).
Step 2: Try your hardest to make sure to do everything the same way she did.
Step 3: FAIL!!
HAHA! This is how my every attempt at making my mother’s perfect, light, fluffy, mouth-watering biscuits has always turned out. Of course, they don’t teach you this stuff in school! Home-Ec never saw anything like my mother, coming or going, OR her biscuit making abilities.
I watched her all of my growing up years. I saw how she did it, morning after morning. I thought I was taking mental notes of her technique and I just knew I could do it. Let’s see now, how did she describe it…?
Okay, so you take out your big old vintage McCoy bowl that Dad bought at a flea market in Knoxville…no, wait, I don’t have one of those. Oh well, any old glass bowl will do, right? It’s not as big as the McCoy, but that’s okay. Check! Now, fill it about half full of flour, then make a “well” in the middle, shoving all the flour up on the sides of the bowl, but don’t – under any circumstances – go all the way to the bottom of the bowl. Leave some flour on the bottom too, so that when you put in your wet ingredients it doesn’t stick to the bowl. Check! (This isn’t so hard, I got this!) Now drop in some lard…
At this point I’d like to interject that I don’t believe I ever saw my mother with a measuring cup or measuring spoon in her hand. That’s not to say she didn’t have them. I think I remember some yellow ones that use to hang above the sink in our kitchen. On a nail. Out of reach. Dusty.
Get my drift?
Now where was I? Oh yeah, the lard. Drop some of that in. Was it two spoonfuls or two cups? (Just picture me, if you will, standing over my own glass bowl, flour everywhere from trying to make it look like it did in Mom’s bowl, with my head cocked trying to see far enough back in my memory to that lowly lump of lard…)
Oh, sweet Jesus, a good fistful should work!! Check! Now how in the name of all that is sacred did she even get the milk out with that lard on her hands?? She did use two hands for the lard, right? I mean, you have to use one hand to grab that fistful, and the other hand to scrape it off of the hand that grabbed it in the first place…
Well, now it occurs to me as I’m washing my hands for the sixty-fourth time, that maybe that was the dough she was getting off her hands after the mixing.
Have I messed up already? Oh surely not…
Okay, back with clean hands, putting in the milk. Oh no, how much of THAT did she use?! Okay, be calm, just pour til you think it’s enough (I tell myself). There. Check!
Alright, now if memory serves me correctly, she said NOT to squeeze or dig your fingers down into the flour. She said to just squish the lard and milk together and once that’s mixed, you take your fingers and just swirl it around and around and the wet mixture would start to collect flour off the sides of the bowl, and as you just tossed that around, eventually your dough would come together…
And hers did.
Flawless and without fail or mess, my mother’s biscuits would just appear. Once her dough “came together”, she would pat on it for a moment and then begin “choking off” the biscuits.
She laid each one either in a cast iron skillet or a baking sheet and put them all nice and close together. As if she hadn’t already put magicians to shame with her ninja-bread-making skills, she bent her first two fingers and made knuckle imprints in the tops of every one of them. (Please, Lord, don’t ask, I have no idea).
And then, a few minutes later, out came the sheer perfection…
I know, right? Perfect. I never knew her to burn a batch or make a batch that didn’t get completely devoured.
What happened to mine, you ask?
Oh, haha, well, right after the whole lard and milk thing, I did try to “bring it all together”. I’ve lost a lot of bowls that way, come to think of it. Anyway, have you ever seen ‘Edward Scissor Hands’? Well, you could just as well have called me ‘Stacey Dough Ball Hands’ because at about this point in my own feeble attempt to make those biscuits her way, I would inadvertently wind up standing there, dough covering both hands (none left in the bowl now) screaming at the top of my lungs for someone to “please turn the water on!!”
Annnd, out come the whop biscuits. You know, the ones in the can you have to whop on the side of the counter to bust open? Yeah.
Hey, step 3 was “FAIL”. Might as well fail all the way.
Ahem, now I can’t exactly close here without saying that I CAN, in fact, make biscuits from scratch. They are good and tall and fluffy and my family absolutely loves them and my heart gets all warm and fuzzy… I found the recipe on the side of a baking powder tin and I even use measuring cups and spoons, the whole nine yards.
I can’t help but feel like I’m cheating though, especially when I take the whole lump of dough and plop it in my cast iron skillet and cut it with a knife while it’s still uncooked. I even learned (the hard way) to brush melted butter on top before doing that, so it doesn’t make a huge mess, use up the last of my patience, and get thrown in the trash. Again. Anyway, cutting the dough before baking means we can just tear them apart when they come out.
Ah, my nice square “not Mom’s” biscuits. Not Mom’s, but not bad, so I guess it’s not a complete loss.
I’ll share my own recipe, with pics, a little later. In the mean time, I’d like to thank my mom for sending me the picture of her biscuits.
I love you Mom!