Charleston's Nathalie Dupree is one of the South's great cookbook writers, so her book "Southern Biscuits" has been on my list since it came out in May. When I was in Charleston a few weeks ago for the Association of Food Journalists conference, Dupree and Lauren Vinciguerra of Callie's Charleston Biscuits made dueling biscuit batches to show a few tricks.
If you don't want to tackle your own biscuits, Callie's are available frozen at several local stores, including Reid's Fine Foods, Dean & Deluca and Fresh Market, or by mail order from www.calliesbiscuits.com. They're not a cheap luxury though, at $16.99 for a dozen at Reid's.
Making your own is cheaper, and eventually more fulfilling. Once you get a feel for it, you'll always be able to do it. Here's a simple refrigerated dough called Angel Biscuits, handy to keep around for up to a week so you can pat out a batch whenever you need fresh biscuits.
And I have a copy of Dupree's book to give away. Send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and put "biscuits" in the subject line. I'll announce a winner by random drawing. Deadline: 9 a.m. Friday.
From “Southern Biscuits,” by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart (Gibbs Smith, $21.99).
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
5 to 6 cups self-rising flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening, room temperature
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
Melted butter, for finishing
DISSOLVE the yeast and sugar in the warm water in a small bowl. Set aside.
FORK-SIFT or whisk 5 cups of the flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl, preferably wider than it is deep. Break the shortening and butter into pieces and scatter over the flour. Work in by rubbing your fingers with the fat and flour as if you’re snapping your thumb and fingers until the mixture looks like well-crumbled feta cheese.
MAKE a deep hollow in the center with the back of one hand. Stir the yeast mixture into the buttermilk and pour this mixture into the hollow, stirring with a long wooden spoon. Add flour as needed to make a very damp, shaggy dough.
FLOUR a clean work surface and turn out the dough out. With floured hands, knead the dough by folding in half, pushing out, refolding and turning dough until the dough is tender, about 10 minutes. Add flour as necessary. Refrigerate up to one week.
WHEN READY to use, take out some of the dough and roll into a 1/3 to 1/2-inch-thick round. Fold in half and roll or pat out again until about 1 inch thick. Cut into rounds with a 2-inch biscuit cutter dipped in flour. Place on a greased baking sheet and let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 30 minutes.
BAKE at 400 degrees on the middle rack for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the pan after 6 minutes. (If the bottoms are browning too quickly, slide a second sheet underneath.) Brush the tops with melted butter.
Yield: 30 to 40 (2-inch) biscuits.