Friday, March 9, 2012

Traditions of Southern Biscuits

Biscuit Heaven...I have just entered that hallowed ground established by my ancestors before me!! I have achieved that light and fluffy texture that my great-grandmother's biscuits were famous for.....and I used olive oil!! From the time that I was small, I can remember walking into my great-grandmother's kitchen just in time to see her pulling out a large cast-iron skillet full of mountain high biscuits from the oven. They were quickly flipped out upon a plate to expose their crusty browned bottoms. Then, the plate of biscuits, big and feathery light, circled around the family table with hands grasping from all sides as her words echoed, "Don't just take one, have two..., there are plenty more!"

At first bite, your teeth slid into the creaminess of melting butter slowly infiltrating the hot feathery softness and finally landed to rest upon the crunchy brown bottom.... You soon understand. It is hard to eat just one. Biscuits are the bread of life in the South, not just for breakfast or dinner, but also for demonstrated at our family table where they are savored with a slathering of fresh fruit preserves or jelly.

I learned the craft of making biscuits from my great grandmother.  In her early years, she would make her biscuits in a wooden dough bowl and then transitioned into using a large vintage bowl. Her process included making a well in the always used Gold Medal self-rising flour and incorporated vegetable oil and milk. I would diligently watch her form the sticky dough into smooth balls. I was amazed at how quickly she could whip up a batch of biscuits. The biscuits were baked in her well seasoned cast-iron skillet. If her cast-iron skillet could talk, it would probably share of the hundred plus years of use by my great grandmother's mother and her and the story of how it lost its handle.
"The crackle, snap, pop of the fire rang in my ears as the bubbly gravy warmed my bottom. The intense heat creeped to my handle in a fiery fury then suddenly it ceased." - cast-iron skillet

The act of recreating her biscuits but putting my own twist to them was the challenge. Olive oil and I have a strong bond. I not only love the intense peppery and sometimes fruity flavor of extra virgin olive oil but also its health properties. I wanted to incorporate it into a biscuit dough.

Olive Oil Biscuits
2 cups self-rising flour plus 1 to 2 Tbsp. more if needed
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil plus 3 Tbsp. for greasing the skillet
1 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch cast-iron skillet with 3 Tbsp. olive oil.
 After sifting the 2 cups of the flour into a medium mixing bowl, make a well in the center of the flour. Pour the olive oil in the well and then add a few tablespoons of the milk. Using one hand, carefully stir the liquid mixture while incorporating more flour and gradually adding more milk.
Once a wet dough forms, begin using a folding technique to incorporate the rest of the flour and milk, if the dough is too wet add 1 to 2 tablespoons more flour.  
The dough will have a wet sticky consistency. Be careful not to overwork the dough.
Working with floured hands, pinch off a handful of dough and quickly roll into a ball in the palm of your hands.  Tuck any rough edges into the topside of the ball.  Carefully place the smooth side of the ball into the skillet to coat with oil and flip over.  Repeat the process with 5 additional dough balls. The dough balls will be touching each other in the skillet.
Bake on 425 degrees F for about 12 minutes or until biscuits have fully risen.  Do not overcook. If tops are still white, change your oven setting to broil and cook until the tops are golden brown.

Serves 6 (1 biscuit)


  1. Wow, that is an easy recipe. I will have to try it tomorrow.

  2. Can't wait to try! Are those two biscuits pictured in your cast iron skillet? They look wonderfully huge! :)

  3. A made a small batch using only 1 cup of flour and baked the three biscuits into two small cast-iron skillets. If you didn't know, I guess it would look like two BIG biscuits.

  4. OMG, that looks so tasty. Been watching the old Master Chefs and I'm still amazed. Success in everything you put your hand too Miss Miller.

  5. I have never used self-rising flour. what is the difference between the two? Can I add baking powder/soda with the ordinary flour and follow the rest of the recipe?

  6. @sheenam_puri self-rising flour has baking powder and salt already added. I am not sure the amount of baking powder to add for the amount of flour used.