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Southern-Style Buttermilk Biscuits

Makes 12 biscuits

Where I grew up in Pennsylvania, biscuits were not that popular. My mother made them occasionally but, even though she made most things from scratch, her biscuits always came from a boxed mix and they were very good. (She made her pancakes and waffles from that box, as well. Sorry Mom, the secret is out.) When I moved to the south, I had a rude awakening. Biscuits are served everywhere, for breakfast and with many dinner meals. When I married into a southern family, it was obvious that there was an unspoken marriage vow that I had to learn to make biscuits.

I watched my former mother-in-law, who was born and raised in the south, many times as she made biscuits from scratch, never measuring an ingredient except for the flour. I never quite got it right because, even for her, it was hit-and-miss. After reading many recipes, I discovered that most buttermilk biscuit recipes include baking soda because it is not in self-rising flour. It took a long time to learn to make these biscuits, but I finally got it. Once you get the technique and the feel for the dough, biscuit making is very easy and the results are delicious.

Ingredients

Preheat oven to 450° F. In large bowl, combine the flour, sugar and baking soda. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut the shortening into the flour until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the buttermilk and stir with a fork just until the dough pulls together, no longer.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Dip your hands in flour, bring the dough together and pat until it is 1/2-inch thick. Using a glass or biscuit cutter dipped in flour, cut into 2-1/2 inch rounds. Bring remaining dough together and continue. Place biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet. (For biscuits with soft edges, place touching. For biscuits with crispier edges, place slightly apart.) Bake for 12 minutes or until golden.

Notes: If you do not have self-rising flour, biscuits can be made with two cups all-purpose flour mixed with 1 tablespoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. The other ingredients and preparation remain the same.