When I was growing up, I truly loved my grandmothers’ big Southern, country breakfasts. They would put out salty country ham, sausage gravy, bacon, eggs, biscuits, fried apples, sliced tomatoes, homemade apple butter, and just about anything else you could think of to put on a biscuit. My maternal grandmother made these pinch biscuits, which she learned from her mother, and my paternal grandmother made rolled biscuits. These next three posts will honor my favorite foods from both grandmothers’ big country breakfasts.
I was always mystified by how my grandmother made these biscuits. She never seemed to measure any ingredients, and she mixed them in a metal bowl using only her hands. She pinched off pieces of dough and shaped them in her hands, never using a cutter. I tried to emulate her technique many times and could never quite get it down. My mother makes wonderful pinch biscuits, and I was able to capture her at work for Easter morning breakfast.
Disclaimer: My mother doesn’t measure ingredients, either, so we’ve estimated as closely as possible. Makes about a dozen biscuits.
[Updated April 20, 2011.]
SOUTHERN PINCH BISCUITS
Adapted from my mother Germaine McClure, passed down from my grandmother and great-grandmother.
Makes 12 biscuits.
large mixing bowl
greased baking sheet
6 cups White Lily Self-Rising Flour
3/4 cup shortening
16 ounces buttermilk
1. Preheat oven to 500° F.
2. Add flour to mixing bowl and make a well in the middle. Add the buttermilk and shortening.
3. Work the shortening with your fingers, breaking it up into very small pieces.
4. Start working the flour into the liquid, pulling it in a little at a time. Work in just enough flour to make a soft dough, neither sticky or dry. There should still be some flour around the edges of the bowl. You should NOT use all the flour.
5. Dust some flour on your hands. Pinch off pieces of dough about the size of a small orange or tangerine, about 1/3 cup. Work the dough in one hand, using your fingers to move it in a circular motion. Don’t press hard, you just want to shape them.
6. Lay each biscuit on the greased baking sheet right next to each other, with no space in between. Once you have all the biscuits on the sheet, press three knuckles lightly in the top of each.
7. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Remove from pan immediately, place in a basket, and cover with a tea towel.
Mom says that she doesn’t know why you are supposed to press knuckles into the biscuits, that’s just how all the women in her family have done it for generations.
My great-grandmother raised 12 kids on a tobacco farm during the Depression. With so many mouths to feed you have to be thrifty, so she would sift any lumps out of the remaining flour and save it for the next time she made biscuits.