Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Biscuit Trials

Southern-style biscuits come with my family history.

Unfortunately, I'm starting to fear that I might be the generational "fail:" the one who never masters the biscuit department, and single-handedly causes the collapse of a family tradition passed down for over a hundred years.

No pressure though, right?

My mom learned the family biscuit-making methods from my great-grandmother (who learned the method from generations before her). As the girl who loves all-things-cooking, it seemed natural that I would take up the biscuit-making talent as if it were second nature.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

Despite countless tutorials, and much dedicated effort, I'm completely incompetent at biscuit-making. In my own defense, the family recipe has no recorded amounts (it's not even written down)--my mom's verbal instructions are complete with "a pinch of this," "a little of that," "a scoop of shortening," and so on. I know the cardinal rule is not to overwork the dough--your biscuits will come out tough (hockey pucks, anyone?).

But the cardinal rule does no good if you don't have "the touch."

After recognizing that I'll never triumph in the family biscuit-baking department, I thought perhaps I could re-invent the tradition with my own recipe--a healthier version that I was also actually capable of making. I turned to the Moosewood Collective for their Buttermilk Biscuit recipe and (drumroll, please)...further demonstrated my incompetence.

Although they do taste scrumptious, and Adam and I thoroughly enjoy them, they still lack the flaky, soft texture (and "beautiful factor") of my mom's biscuits. I'm willing to admit it: it's not the's ME!

Maybe the magic touch will come with age. Or maybe just more practice. Either way, I'll settle for these simple biscuits here at home, and look forward to the family version at my parents' house. No use in re-inventing tradition :)

Do you have any family tradition recipe?

Lower-Fat Biscuits
(Adapted from a recipe in the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites)

These guys taste just delightful, and with the added bonus of being low-fat, they make an appearance on our dinner table often. As always with biscuits--make sure you don't over-work the dough! Add more milk if needed to help the dough bind together.

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 2 TBSP canola oil
  • 6 TBSP skim milk (plus a little more if needed to bind the dough)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a baking sheet with cooking spray.

2) Combine flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar in a large bowl. Combine the oil and milk. Add the oil and milk to the flour mixture, stirring lightly and continuously until a soft dough forms (add just a dash more milk if needed to help dough bind).

3) Place dough onto a floured surface, and roll out using a rolling pin. Cut into 4 - 6 pieces (Mine are usually awkward shapes!).

4) Place on baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, until golden brown.


  1. If it makes you feel any better, my grandmother was from Trion, GA and a great cook of anything...except biscuits. My grandfather used to give her a real hard time about it: "What kind of southern woman are you? Can't even make a decent biscuit!"

    She tried and tried and tried, but nope. Always came out hard as a rock and practically inedible.

    When I was growing up, however, she had finally figured it out and her biscuits were wonderful....they came from a can! ;)

  2. i never make biscuits. neither of my mum and anyone in my family makes these. i'm pretty sure i'll fail at that too haha unless its already mix from the box.

    but your biscuits look really gooood!

  3. these look good! my family has a ton of family tradition recipes. the kicker is the assyrian recipes (i.e. middle eastern)... baked rice, dolma, etc. i'm afraid to even attempt some of them...

  4. I would so eat those biscuits! And you can't go wrong with Moosewood. :) My mom would either make Bisquick biscuits or Grands, so there's definitely no biscuit tradition in my family...

    My grandma makes amazing chicken 'n dumplings which of course I can't have anymore. :( She passed the family recipe down to me years ago and it has funny measurements like "an eggshell of milk"! I'm planning to attempt to vegetarianize it one of these days... :)

  5. The only real "tradition" foods my family has are Irish Soda bread and potato soup! How Irish is that?!

  6. We have a "traditional apple pie" and we make it month after month (for holidays, birthdays, Sunday dinners). And I know that you will get those biscuits down one day...they are a hard thing to master! And thank you for all your kind words on my blog...your thoughts are so appreciated.

  7. biscuits are a tough thing to make! It's so finicky. I haven't attempted making them yet. But seeing that it's lower in fat, it definitely will lack the flaky texture since flakiness comes from the fat puffing up air while baking (or something). :-)

  8. Hi Kyle, I can't make flaky biscuits or pie crust either. Amanda was home this weekend and brought some of your apple pie muffins, OMgosh, are they good. Many compliments. Amanda and James will be here for Thanksgiving. Any ideas on a protein rich dish I can make for them while Kevin, Virginia, John and I eat turkey? We'll have the traditional sides (dressing, sweet potatoes, peas and onions, cranberries, etc). Stop by and see us sometime. Thanks, Kathy

  9. MMM biscuits. Your non-traditional ones looks pretty darn delicious to me.

  10. I am also in a family where recipes are very vague. I asked my mom for a recipe once, and she said, "Oh I'll have to make it and tell you as I go. I've never thought about it. I just do it." Hm, thanks.

    These look great. A great place to look for biscuit recipes is Martha Stewart's website. Shockingly, I think hers are some of the easiest to make!

  11. A. I'm beyond addicted to biscuits. Give me one with some raspberry jam and I'm yours for life.

    B. Our family recipe would have to be French Stew - it's a beef stew served over baguette. It was my grandmother's recipe so I was pleased as punch when I learned that I could actually make it!

  12. Despite being taught by expert biscuit makers - my mother and grandmother- I am a biscuit failure too! But talent can jump a generation -- my daughter makes wonderful biscuits!

  13. I am always looking for a healthy biscuit recipe. Can't wait to try this! Thanks for sharing!