Monday, April 20, 2009

Angel Biscuits

My friend, Butler, makes the best biscuits! I have been so envious, because biscuit making is not a kitchen skill I have mastered. He has given me his recipe, explained it, and shown me his techniques, yet my biscuits still turn out dense, hard, crumbly, and ugly.

I have worked with yeast dough for too many years. The handling of the two is so completely different. Yeast dough loves a good and thorough deep massage, driving in the heels of your hands. I love the kneading of bread. It is a relaxing and meditative exercise. The resulting mound of smooth, warm dough, after about 10 minutes of kneading, feels so alive, rather like a pregnant belly.

And there is my problem. Biscuit dough is delicate, and doesn't enjoy that kind of treatment and I don't seem to be able to hold myself back. I do, however, love and appreciate a good, tender, Southern-style baking powder biscuit, hot from the oven.

I was pondering all this the other day, when I suddenly remembered a few times, in my youth, when my grandfather would make a rare appearance in the kitchen to cook breakfast. He would bake a very different and wonderful biscuit he called Angel Biscuits, and he served them with butter and sorghum syrup.

Further, I remembered that a few years ago, a former co-worker had given me a recipe for Angel Biscuits, which she had gotten from her sister-in-law. Angel Biscuits have been floating around the South for at least 50 years, that I know of. Angel Biscuits are a cross between a biscuit and a roll, slightly sweet.

Because they contain yeast, I had hope that I could make them successfully. I was rewarded with light and airy biscuits my husband, Pritchard Parker, and I both loved. The aroma, as I was removing them from the oven, was very intriguing--and smelled just exactly like what it was--a blend of both baking powder and yeast.

Angel Biscuits
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 packet yeast, dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup warm buttermilk

Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add yeast mixture and buttermilk; stir to combine. Turn onto a floured surface and fold the dough over itself a few times until all is blended.

Roll out to 3/4 inch thickness, then cut into 2 1/2 inch biscuits. Place biscuits on a baking pan which has been spritzed with cooking spray. Cover and let rise for about 45 minutes.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes until done.

Note: Some cooks skip the rising step and put the biscuits directly into the oven after placing them in the pan. My grandfather could have done it that way, I don't know. I do know from experience, if you let yeast dough have plenty of time to rest and rise, you will be richly rewarded.

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