Getting caught up… From sorbet to biscuits; that’s right… biscuits. I have to remind myself that Alton didn’t know his “Good Eats” show would do so wonderfully. Therefore, he picked applications he thought the majority of people would want to learn… so of course, homemade biscuits rank high and are appreciated in the southern state of Georgia where he’s located.
I was thrilled at the opportunity to make my own biscuits. I remember, my mom would dream about having a bread machine… She would list off the doughs she’d be able to make and how good homemade bread smells when it fills your home. She asked for it… year after year, I want to say… until finally someone heard. My Papa gave my mama a bread machine for Christmas one year, and she was elated. I can still faintly remember sitting on the white kitchen counters and watching her make bread. That was my seat — the kitchen countertops… and whenever I go home, I still sit up there. Now while I can’t recall the exact bread my mama used to make with her brand-new bread maker, I do remember how happy she was to have it… and that’s how I felt when I realized I’d be making my own bread, my own biscuits. While I don’t have a machine, it seems to be a rite of passage for females who cook, and I was beyond ecstatic to be taking that huge step, to becoming a real cook.
Episode 7, Season 1: “The Dough Also Rises.” We start with good ‘ole “Southern Biscuits.” Maybe biscuits are nostalgic, because Alton too talks about his family here… He says he tried to create better biscuits than his grandmother… and was never 100% successful. He writes about how she had arthritis and couldn’t knead the dough as well… and that once she passed, he realized her non-kneading was the ingredient to the biscuits he remembered. Reading this, I almost felt like I was sitting on the kitchen counter again… but this time learning from Alton’s grandma.
Now this application was pretty easy… and exciting, but that could be because I love any time I can use my hands as a tool with food. I mixed all the flour, baking powder and soda, and salt (yes, salt… strange, I know)… and then rubbed the butter and shortening into it, until I had a crumbly mixture.
After that, I made a little trench in the middle of my crumbles so James could add the buttermilk.
Then, it was time to kneaded… and kneaded.
After that, we cut our dough ball into several inch-thick circles… and pushed our thumbs in the middle to keep the centers from ballooning up.
And our last step, rubbing butter on top until it melted down the sides… then placing the finished GBD (yes, a real technical term for golden, brown, and delicious) biscuits into a towel-lined bowl.
I’ll be honest — The biscuit-making process was more desirable than the outcome. I wanted, so badly, to love these biscuits… and I did… but they just didn’t taste like the biscuits I’d been raised on. The biscuits I expected to tasted. Now granted my mama may have made homemade biscuits for my family… but those aren’t the ones I remember. I (maybe sadly) smell and taste the Pillsbury biscuits… you know, the very buttery, flakey ones. Ummm… They were so flakey and buttery they melted in my mouth… and almost every Sunday, my mama would make “Biscuits with Cheese” for me… a simple slice of cheddar cheese, tucked inside a warm, buttery-melting biscuit. And that’s the biscuits I remember. Without a doubt, Alton’s biscuits are original southern biscuits. They are the ones that are kneaded by hand, aren’t smooth on top and on the sides. No, Alton’s biscuits tasted homemade… and not in a bad way. They tasted like true, honest biscuits. Probably the biscuits my grandmother, too, used to make.
Since this post became so family-focused, I want to point out something else Alton wrote. He said, “…the most important recipes you can collect are family recipes. When a couple gets married, the best gift they can receive is a handmade book of recipes from both sides of the family.” Now, my mama’s first gift to me when I went away to college was a recipe box — filled with handwritten recipe cards, containing her and my favorite recipes, ones that meant “home.” It’s funny because I said “maybe biscuits are nostalgic” earlier, but I was wrong. Food is nostalgic. If someone asked you — What food do you smell when I say the word “home”… what would it be? Mine is spaghetti sauce. A big pot of homemade meaty, spaghetti sauce. This was one of the recipes in my box, even though I knew — from watching my mama a million times over — how to make it with my eyes closed. But soon, I hope to expand my recipe box even more. In a little over a year, I’ll have another “mom”… my mother in law… and I’m so excited, I can hardly wait. I already feel like she’s my second mother… and I feel greedy, but I want to collect every possible memory James has of her growing up so that I can bring it into our soon-to-be home. I told my mama, the gift I want from James’ parents when we’re married, it’s their family recipes, just like Alton suggests. I want as many recipes as many as she’ll give me. I want to be able to make food so similar to his favorite “home” dishes… so that when my soon-to-be husband walks through the door, he’ll inhale the aroma, smile, and give me a kiss.