By Kelly Jaggers
My friend Kelly Jaggers is back with another wonderful family recipe! Her nostalgic memories behind this recipe, beautifully expressed, make it taste even sweeter.
My Aunt Ruby lived a long and amazing life. She was a hard worker, devoted daughter, mother, and grandmother, and she was the best Aunt a girl could ask for. In many ways she was more of a grandmother to me, willing to put up with my shenanigans as a child with a smile and a thick slice of cake. Some of my fondest memories growing up are at Ruby’s kitchen table, listening to her stories as she made pickles or worked on dinner.
When she was near the end of her life she was bedridden, so when I would go and visit her I would make her all of her favorite foods to keep her spirits up. She particularly loved my buttermilk biscuits. She said they reminded her of her childhood on the farm, a time when she was very happy, so I was glad to make them for her. I would even make an extra batch or two and stash them in the freezer so my cousin could bake them for her after I had returned home.
Ruby had a massive stroke a few weeks before she passed away. I went for a final visit with my mom to say goodbye. My cousin pulled me aside and said that Ruby was not eating much, but she would eat the biscuits I made for her. I immediately went to the kitchen and made a couple of batches so she would have them for her. She held on for another week – just long enough to eat most of the biscuits I made her. I can’t make a batch of biscuits now without thinking of her and how much she loved them. It is bittersweet.
Ruby’s favorite biscuits are very easy to make. They bake fluffy and tall, you can pull them apart into layers, and they freeze like a dream! I like to make a couple of batches, cut them out, and then freeze them before baking. Once frozen I put them in a resalable bag and I have biscuits for any day of the week. To bake from frozen just pop them on a parchment lined sheet pan and bake for about 20 minutes at 350°F.
The secret to super flaky biscuits are simple. It comes down to butter, technique, and a good rest in the refrigerator.
- For the butter, you want half the butter to be completely rubbed into the flour to help inhibit gluten development. Keep the other half of the butter fairly large, between pea and hazelnut sized, as these larger bits will create the steam that will make your layers.
- You do not knead these biscuits. You fold them. The folding creates all the delicate layers that will make this biscuit so very flaky. It also reduces the amount of gluten you will develop. The less gluten the better for a tender biscuit.
- Letting the biscuits chill will make sure the biscuits are tender and also that the butter is very cold, so when they go into the oven the butter forms steam to puff up the layers rather than just melting into puddle around the biscuits.
Butter is my fat of choice for biscuits, but you can easily substitute vegetable shortening for all or part of the butter if you prefer. The method does not change if you change the fat. The only real difference is the biscuits will not be quite as crisp on the bottom, but they will still be tender, fluffy, and delicious!
These are great for breakfast with some jam and butter (my Aunt Ruby’s favorite way to eat them), or wonderful alongside dinners like pot roast, chicken fried steak, or roast chicken. I even like these for lunch made into little sandwiches with meat and cheese.
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- In a large bowl combine the flour baking powder, sugar, and salt. Whisk until the mixture is well combined.
- Add the cubed butter.
- With your fingers, rub the butter into the flour mixture until half the butter has been thoroughly combined and the other half is in small and medium sized pieces – roughly pea to hazelnut sized.
- Add the buttermilk and mix with a spatula until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Add additional buttermilk a tablespoon at a time if the mixture seems too dry.
- Lightly dust a work surface with flour, then turn the biscuit dough out and press it into a rough rectangle with your hands.
- Carefully fold the rectangle in half (it may look rough and crumbly, that is ok), turn the dough 90 degrees and flatten it out again. Repeat this process three more times. The dough should be fairly smooth.
- Roll the dough out until it is roughly ¼-inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter cut as many biscuits from the dough as you can. Be sure to cut straight down, making sure not to twist the cutter, then shake the cutter gently to release the biscuits.
- Place the biscuits on a parchment lined sheet pan about 1-inch apart. Place the sheet pan into the refrigerator for 30 minutes. The remaining scraps can be re-rolled one time. To re-roll the scraps, form the scraps into a rectangle and fold in half one time, then roll and cut as directed above. These biscuits will not be as pretty, but will taste just as nice!
- Heat the oven to 350°F. Once the biscuits have chilled transfer them directly to the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the biscuits are golden brown on the bottom and firm. If the tops are a little pale you can place them under the broiler for roughly 2 minutes, but keep a careful watch as they burn easily. Serve hot.