Homemade Biscuits

I admit, this is a modified recipe from Alton Brown's Good Eats from the episode where he and his real grandmother squared off making biscuits. They each used a slightly different method, but overall the same method. This is sort of a combination of those two recipes with some modification by myself.

Biscuits are simple. The key is to try to work with the dough as LITTLE as possible. Less is almost always better. Honestly, if you treat it as if it would explode if you work with it at all, you will likely make the best ever. It is simple, the more you work with it, the more gluten is formed. Gluten is key in making a hard crust with Italian breads. You don't want hard biscuits, so you don't want gluten, so you want to work with the dough as little as possible.

You can also keep gluten down by using flour with a low protein content. This automatically rules out bread flour which is usually 4g of protein per 30g of flour. All purpose flour usually has 3g of protein per 30g and will usually make good biscuits. I have seen some bags of flour with "biscuit flour" or "better for biscuits" written on them but if you look at the nutrition label, they still say 3g of protein per 30g. I call that a liar liar situation. True biscuit flour, in my opinion, is made from winter wheat and that typically has a protein content of 2g per 30g of flour. If you find that, that is perfect. You can also get close by mixing 1/2 all purpose (3g per 30) and 1/2 cake flour (1g per 30). Although I find that too much trouble and just stick to biscuit or all purpose flour.

Anyway, here is the ingredient list:

2 cups + more of biscuit or all purpose self-rising flour (self rising will take care of your baking powder and salt and I find this is more fool proof. If you use too much baking powder, you will make the biscuits bitter)
1 oz by weight of unsalted butter (1/4 stick), cold
2 oz by weight of chilled lard (1 hr in fridge) (or use shortening, but lard is better)
1 cup of buttermilk

And here is the procedure:

Preheat oven to 415 degrees F. Place rack in the middle position. Have a large ceramic plate ready on the counter.

In a large bowl, put in two cups of biscuit flour.
Cut up the butter unto 1/4 inch pieces. Dump the butter into the flour and with tips of fingers, break the butter up in the flour until the butter pieces are about the size of a pea.
Take small hunks of the lard and break up into the flour until they are also about the size of a pea. (lard, especially non-hydrogenated lard, has a very very low melting point, try to work with your hands as little as possible so it doesn't melt).

Pour in the buttermilk and stir just long enough for it to come together (leave the lumps!) this may only be 5 or so stirs or 5-10 secs worth, not long.

Dump on wax paper (makes cleanup easy). Sprinkle just a little of the extra flour on top so it doesn't stick to your hands, pat down to a flat mound about 3/4 inch high. Use the wax paper to fold in half. If needed, place a little flour on top so it doesn't stick to your hands and pat down to a 3/4 inch high mound. Repeat folding in a direction you haven't used before and repeat until you folded 5 times and then STOP!. Pat as LITTLE as possible. The more you work this dough, the harder a biscuit you will have. This is the critical part of making great biscuits. The later folds likely don't require adding flour, so don't if you don't need to.

With a biscuit cutter, cut out the 1st set, try cut to get the most biscuits out of this mound. The biscuits that are cut after regathering will be tougher. Between cuts, dip the cutter in some flour so the next cut the biscuit doesn't stick to the cutter. Place on a sheet pan in two rows, all touching each other. Gather up the scrap dough and as lightly as possible, reform the mound and cut the remaining biscuits.

Use two fingers and make a light dimple on top of each biscuit. Take a small dab of lard and place on the dimples of each biscuit.

Place sheet of biscuits in the oven, on the middle rack. Cook for 12-13 minutes. Then turn off oven, and place under broiler (if your oven has the broiler in the top of the oven area you can leave it on the rack it is already on. Cook under broiler until it JUST starts to brown and remove the pan from the oven. Remove the biscuits from the pan and place them on the ceramic plate on a counter as soon as you can so they don't overcook. They may just be a little undercooked in the middle, that is fine. The heat in the biscuit should cook the center within the next couple minutes.

Eat fresh. You can store, but you should wait til they cool before placing into any plastic bags or covering them or they will get soggy from the steam. Even when they are cool, I recommend you leave a hole in a plastic bag or don't completely cover with plastic wrap, otherwise the water from them will condensate and make them yucky.

Hope they work out for you!