It's a bold statement on my part to call a recipe the best. While I always attempt to uncover the "ultimate" version of a dish, it is virtually impossible to conclude whether something is or isn't, in fact, the greatest in the world. Personal taste, in addition to the countless other external factors that effect a recipe, can all swing the pendulum of perfection either way.
But when it comes to Southern biscuits, I'd like to think I have a pretty decent grasp of the qualities a good one should possess. I worked at a Cracker Barrel for goodness sake, home to the airiest, most angelic of them all. (And no, the following is not their recipe. This is soooo much better.) And just in case you were wondering, here are my personal requirements for an unparalleled biscuit:
1. A superior biscuit, to me, is featherlight and fluffy as a cloud. It should spring to the touch, crumble when cupped, and melt away the minute it hits your lips.
2. I want—wait, scratch that—I demand big flavor. A biscuit needs plenty of salt, and a biscuit isn't good if it must be slathered in condiments to be edible. Hot-from-the-oven, it should be a divine sensory experience all on its own.
3. Last but not least, a biscuit needs butter. Lots and lots of butter—I'm talkin' inside, on top, and everywhere in between. Trust me here, this is definitely not the time to be holding back on the calories.
Are y'all with me?! You see, biscuits are practically in my blood. One of my fondest food memories involves my six-year-old self, devouring a Tyler's all-butter biscuit in the backseat of my parents' yuppy station wagon. We were headed to church, and I vividly remember the look on my mother's face when she saw streams of butter dribbling down my chin, grease splattered across my pressed cotton jumper and formerly-white tights. Boy was she mad. (And lets just say it wasn't the first time, and definitely not the last!)
I've spent many years since trying to recreate the perfect Southern biscuit—the one that requires a fistful of napkins; I've even blogged about the search here (and here and here). I've found pretty good recipes, and less-than-decent ones, but none that ever pulled me from the power of Pillsbury. At least until I discovered Shirley Corriher, the apple of my biscuit-lovin' eye. More importantly, I discovered her "Touch of Grace" Biscuits. Deemed a "genius recipe" by the smart gals at Food52, it was unlike any biscuit recipe I had ever seen. Which is why after reading it, I headed straight to the kitchen to see what all the fuss was about.
Let's just say my prayers were answered—no other biscuit recipe will pass through these oven doors again. Seriously, they are that good. So good, that you just want to devour them all by yourself, straight from the oven, afraid if you take them any further there won't be any more left to eat. And with that, my friends, I leave you with the best. biscuit. ever.
P.S. Pair with sausage gravy if you're feeling particularly indulgent.
As much as I love the original recipe, I couldn't leave well enough alone. I have made significant changes to suit my tastes, which are reflected in the version below. To see my detailed notes, scroll to the end of the recipe. To view the unaltered version, follow the Food52 link below.
Source: Inspired by Shirley Corriher's "Touch of Grace" Biscuits via Food 52 Yields: 6 biscuits
2 cups spooned and leveled SELF-RISING flour, preferably White Lily 2 tablespoons granulated sugar 3/4 teaspoon table salt 1/4 cup very cold shortening 2 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter 2/3 cup heavy cream 1/2 cup buttermilk 1 cup plain ALL-PURPOSE flour, for shaping Melted butter, for brushing
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease a cast iron biscuit pan (or use a cake pan according to Corriher's original recipe).
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the SELF RISING flour, sugar, and salt. Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the shortening and butter into the dry ingredients. Toss gently to evenly distribute the fats. Stir in heavy cream and buttermilk until the mixture becomes a very thick, wet batter (cottage-cheese texture, according to Shirley.)
Spread the ALL-PURPOSE flour into a shallow pan. Roughly divide the batter into 6 dough balls. Turn each ball around in the flour, dust off excess, and pat into the biscuit slots (there will be one empty one).
Bake the biscuits until they are light golden brown, about 17 - 20 minutes. Generously brush the hot biscuits with melted butter. Allow to cool in the pan for a few minutes, then remove with a small offset spatula or knife. Get 'em while you can!
Recipe notes and alterations:
— Reduced amount of sugar from 1/4 cup to 2 tablespoons — Increased amount of salt by 1/4 teaspoon — Added 2 tablespoons butter to the recipe in addition to shortening — Reduced amount of buttermilk — Changed baking equipment from cake pan to cast iron biscuit pan — Included my personal method for grating cold butter & shortening into dry ingredients