The host of public television's How She Rolls and owner of Callie's Hot Little Biscuit reveals how she acquired her expertise in biscuit-making.
Posted in , Oct 11, 2021
I’m all about a good biscuit, and homemade biscuits have no equal. Making them from scratch is a surprisingly simple process, using simple ingredients, but with love the simplest things can be the most beautiful. Like the manger that held Christmas’s perfect gift.
Biscuits were part of every meal around our Southern table when I was growing up. Both my grandmothers were biscuit makers from way back. My mother’s mother, Grandmama, was a sophisticated lady who believed it wasn’t ladylike to eat a big biscuit. She taught my mom how to make elegantly small buttermilk biscuits that would become the staple of my business.
My father’s mother, Mama (pronounced ma-MA), came from more practical roots. With a husband and five hungry boys to feed, Mama knew the value of serving big hot biscuits on demand. She always kept plenty of dough in the fridge for baking Angel Biscuits.
Her recipe calls for a key ingredient. Instead of using only self-rising flour or all-purpose flour with baking powder and baking soda, Angel Biscuits also include yeast. This elevates the basic biscuit to new heights. Plus, using shortening instead of butter allows the dough to keep nicely for a few days without excessive hardening. You can pull it out of the fridge when you’re ready to bake.
For us, Angel Biscuits make a hearty Christmas breakfast, before my husband, three daughters and I start preparations for the holiday dinner party we host every year. Use your thumb to push in the top of the tall biscuit and fill the well with maple syrup—my girlhood treat that required many napkins.
For our fancy Christmas dinner, I serve Grandmama’s “ladylike” biscuits with an array of whipped butters, both savory and sweet. We set up a buffet in our kitchen but showcase the biscuits and butters on the dining table (safely out of reach of our white English Lab named Butter).
No need to be intimidated if you’ve never made biscuits from scratch. If I can do it, anyone can. With Mom, Grandmama and Mama vying for space in the kitchen, I didn’t make my first biscuit until I was in my thirties. I started my business with the idea that Mom would make the biscuits while I ran the operations, so I named the company for her.
When the Callie of Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit decided to retire, it was time to become a baker myself. Like most things, the more you make biscuits, the better at it you become. And butter is a fantastic form of insurance: Melt the butter and brush it on top, and just about any biscuit is bound to taste good.
I’ve got a few tips to help you along if you’ve got misgivings. Some recipes will say that you can use a pastry cutter to mix ingredients, but the best biscuit makers get a feel for the dough. Let your bare hands tell you just how much liquid to add a little at a time so that the dough is neither too wet nor too dry. I like to call it “wetty.”
Will your hands get gooey? Yep, but embrace the mess and use a gentle touch. I don’t recommend hand mixing when you’re rushed or frazzled—the dough will know! Even though biscuits are my livelihood, making the dough is a comforting ritual, never a chore. One more tip: When you put your biscuits in the pan, make sure they’re touching. This helps the rise. Just like families during the holidays, biscuits love to get close.
Carrie Morey is the author of Hot Little Suppers: Simple Recipes to Feed Family and Friends, Harper Horizon, November 2021.