Monday, November 17, 2008

CATHEAD BISCUITS

Of Course, the only way to make real catheads is to make them in a BIG bowl of flour, sorta digging your fingers into the depths and pushing back the flour til you form a good-sized crater in the middle. You drop a clop of Crisco from your hand into the center and fingertip-rub it into the flour, picking up little bits as you go, and making your little pile of “size of small peas” clumps of dough.

Pour in the buttermilk, and use your hand again to bring in a little flour, skirting all the way around the crater to make little avalanches into the muuush in the middle. You keep mixing it in with your fingertips, sorta petting the growing mass, keeping the flour drifted at the edges, until it’s thicker than cornbread batter, but not nearly as stiff as cookies.

Your dough should be soft---I never fail to think of Miss Shirley Corriher’s “Wet Mess” that she described on some cooking show years ago. A very moist dough is kinda like having all those wonderful layers in croissants or in puff pastry; the steam created inside the flour-covered gooshy nuggets gives them a good rise in that very hot oven, and they’re wonderfully soft inside, ready to cuddle and absorb that pat of good rich butter. And the flour crust, glistened by the brush of butter---that’s what makes a golden, beautiful biscuit that will greet your tongue with the taste of the rich saltiness of buttery crust.

I also learned about measuring Crisco from my High-School Home Ec teacher: Use a GLASS measuring cup, one of those Pyrex ones with the red lines on the sides---there’s not a kitchen below the M/D which does not sport at least one, and usually several, of those, and what would a wedding shower be without a nesting set of bowls and the three sturdy cups?

Put 1/2 C. water in the cup. Then scoop out a good-sized spoonful of Crisco and scrape it off into the water. Push it under, and look at your measure. Try a little more or less to get the right amount. Spoon the Crisco out onto a paper towel to soak up most of the water, then upend the towel over the bowl of flour. Takes ten seconds---way less than time to tell it.

Until you want to be REALLY hands-on:

2 ¼ Cups Martha White SR Flour
¼ Cup Crisco
1 ½ Cup Buttermilk

Flour for hand-rolling, or for the board
Melted butter

Oven 425. Pam-spray a cookie sheet if you like your biscuits separate and round; use a cake-pan or black skillet if you want some soft sides. Biscuit cutter at LEAST 2” for semi-catheads. Scatter a good handful of flour onto a non-terry dishcloth, at least 14" square.


Put the flour into a bowl, and cut in the Crisco until it’s the size of small peas---I think of those little crunchy white rocks in the bottom of the aquarium---that size. (No, Wait. Maybe that wasn't the best comparison). Pour in the buttermilk, stir well, but not too long---that makes the gluten make the biscuits like BREAD and not tender as they should be.

Spatula-scrape the bowlful out onto the floured cloth, then pick up each edge one at a time, rolling the dough a bit away from the edge, to cover the whole mass with flour. Pat out the dough with your fingers about ½” thick, dip the cutter into the little bowl of flour, and cut the biscuits (dipping each time). Lay the biscuits on the sheet or in the pan.

OR: For authentic CATHEADS, flour your hands, pinch off good-sized pieces (or go ahead and cut the dough into 10 pieces) and roll between floured palms til rounded, then lay them in a sprayed 10” black skillet. VERY gently brush tops with melted butter.

Any biscuit benefits from that little two-knuckle Poomph on top to hold pools of butter. It's a Family Tradition.

Bake 20—25 minutes for cookie sheet, 25—30 for touching-in-the-pan, or until golden brown on top. Brush ‘em again before taking out of the pan, if there’s butter left.


You can take the whole cookie sheet, stick it into the freezer til they're like white hockey-pucks, then bag them up to bake anytime. The supper ones tonight came out of the freezer.



2 comments:

RS said...

You must know that I think of you when I think of biscuits- and I will have Kiddle make these with me sometime soon.

racheld said...

DEAREST R,

I didn't see this until just now!! I hope you've had and enjoyed some good biscuits several times over by now. I seem stuck on the subject of baked goods today.

Best!
r