Monday, May 21, 2012

Southern Cast Iron Biscuits

by Nate
A recipe from an old woman who grew up in Mulberry, Florida.  She learned cooking from her mother, grandmother, and her “nanny” which was a term used for black housekeepers who lived with rich white families and worked for room & board.  According to Sister Johns, this was a common practice for older black women who had no family to take care of them.  I asked her once if nannies were slaves, she just chuckled at me and tactfully changed the topic.

Sister Johns would cook for the missionaries once a week even though she must have been in her late 70s.  

Her cooking was the stuff of legends in the mission.  These biscuits were a staple at her table.  Apparently, Sister Johns passed away several years ago. I got the recipe from a sister missionary that was in my zone at the same time who admitted to modernizing the recipe (added microwave steps where you are supposed to set everything out hours ahead of time so it gets room temperature). 
Makes 15-18, cooked in 2 or 3 batches

Dry Ingredients
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 /12 teaspoons sugar
Wet Ingredients
  • Two blocks of butter (softened, 16 oz)
  • Approximately 1.5 cups of whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
·         Dry ingredients in a bowl.
·         Soften butter in microwave, but not completely melted.
·         Set aside 2 tablespoons of softened butter
·         Mix remaining softened butter into dry ingredients until the mixture is small crumbles.
·         Warm milk slightly in the microwave to prevent butter from going hard.
·         Make a well with flour mixture and slowly add milk into the middle. While kneading the dough with your fingers.  
·         Add milk until dough barely pulls away from your fingers and the sides of the bowl without leaving residue.
·         Roll out dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll or pat to approximately ¾ inch thickness.  Thickness will increase 100-200% while cooking. 
·         Cut with either a 2 inch or 3 inch round cookie cutter depending on desired size of biscuits.
·         Using a pastry brush, paint both sides of cut biscuits with remaining butter.
·         Heat cast-iron skillet or dutch oven to medium heat. 
·         Place biscuits in pan with a hair of space between each biscuit.
Nate’s notes:
·         Cook covered until golden brown on the bottom and turn once (think pancakes).
·         When done, biscuits will form a natural break in the middle where the cooked dough is weakest.
·         There is no need to grease the skillet.
Cheese Biscuits – Cube 4 oz of a hard cheese, or strong flavor cheese into buckshot size cubes (approximately ¼ inch cubes), and mix into dough before rolling it out.
Fruit Cobbler Topper:
·         double the sugar,
·         add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to dry mix,
·         roll dough to ½ inch thickness,
·         cook biscuits on one side only
·         place the biscuits raw-side up on the cobbler before baking and press gently into the cobbler.
·         Sprinkle the uncooked tops of the biscuits with a light coating of cinnamon and sugar.

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