Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Southern all-purpose flour (low-protein, like White Lily or Martha White)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable shortening or lard, cold
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk, cold
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Red-Eye Gravy with Ham, or Tomato Gravy

This recipe contains: Dairy, Wheat

Recipe notes: This recipe comes from Screen Doors and Sweet Tea: Recipes and Tales from a Southern Cook (Clarkson Potter, 2008) which won a 2009 James Beard Foundation Cookbook Award in the American Cooking category. Southern flours are milled from soft wheat, which has less protein than the hard wheat used for most all-purpose flours and therefore does not develop as much gluten when kneaded. If you prefer to make biscuits with self-rising flour, remember to shape them with all-purpose flour. The leavening in self-rising flour can leave a bitter chalky film. Lard yields a crispier biscuit than shortening. Look for trans fat-free shortenings in the baking aisle. Hall Foose likes to cut the fat quickly with a food processor so the mixture is not warmed by fingers. Of course, purists can cut it with fingertips, or a pastry blender, or iced-tea spoons. Do not, however, ever add the buttermilk to the food processor. The resulting biscuits will be tough. If you cut your biscuits in rounds, make sure to use a sharp cutter; a juice glass will compress the sides and they will not rise so fine. For tender biscuits, bake biscuits with sides barely touching in a cake pan. For a shiny top on biscuits, brush with a little egg wash before baking. Owing to the buttermilk, these biscuits should be baked first if any are going to be frozen.

RECIPE

Apron String Biscuits

Martha Hall Foose

Adapted from Screen Doors and Sweet Tea: Recipes and Tales from a Southern Cook (Clarkson Potter, 2008)

"There are so many types of biscuits—buttermilk, sweet milk, beaten, dropped, cat head, and fist, just to name a few. I have grown accustomed to square biscuits. When cutting round biscuits, you have to take much care to produce as few scraps as possible because the next batch, made from rolled trimmings, won't be nearly as nice as the first. So, I just started cutting them in squares so they would all be nice, and started calling them 'apron string biscuits,' because if you don't have a knife handy a taut apron string will do the trick to cut them. Plus, my child is constantly tugging at my apron strings, wanting to know if they are still too hot to eat. The square shape also holds a slice of country ham better, for it is never round. While the biscuits are in the oven, Red-Eye Gravy or Tomato Gravy can be warming on the stove to serve, spooned in the middle of a split biscuit or two."

-Martha Hall Foose

Yield: 2 dozen biscuits

Method:

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Pulse several times. Add the shortening and pulse several times more, until the shortening is in pieces the size of baby English peas. Dump the mixture into a mixing bowl. Using a fork, stir in the buttermilk until all of the flour is moistened. On a floured surface, knead the dough for just 1 minute, then pat into a 1/2-inch thick square. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 450ºF.

With a sharp knife or taut string, cut 2-inch squares. Place squares 2 inches apart on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and then brush the tops with melted butter. Serve warm or place on a rack to cool. Serve with Red-Eye Gravy or Tomato Gravy.