Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Food of the Gods - The Low Fat Southern Biscuit

There is something about Southern Food which causes Southerners to swoon with glee and non southerners to give that tight lipped grimace of hate.  Southern food? Oh No, they shout!  Southern Food just has way too much butteroilflourporkbadstuffgalore! It's bad for you, it's bad for the environment and will cause the downfall of modern civilization as we know it!  (Deep Breath, Calm now...) But as much as people hate Southern food, or hate what's in it, there is something that Southern food has that you can't find in any other kinds of food.


Southern Food is not pretentious.  It is what it is. No frilly white aprons or gold bespangled dishes needed. (Some of the best southern food is found on paper plates!)  Southern food is flavorful and filling and its roots in the early years of our country are evident in the ingredients as well as the flavors and comfort they convey. 

One of my favorites is the Biscuit (with the requisite capital B.)  I grew up not eating biscuits.  When I was a kid, I eschewed biscuits because they fell apart as you ate them. They were dry and flavorless bombs of dough which required half a jar of jelly just to get it to slide down my throat.  No, I was not a fan.  Until I got to the South and had one of those big biscuits from that chicken place down the street that left me in a butter daze for days.  My life then revolved around finding the Perfect Southern Biscuit. 

Fast Forward 20 years and I'm sitting in my Doctor's office as he speaks to me of high cholesterol and health hazards.  My love of biscuits crashes to the polished Italian Travertine tile of his office. But, wait, this is not going to be an indictment of the Southern Biscuit.  No, this is a re-imagining of that most American of breakfast breads.  After much work on my own part, (and the quiet suffering of my biscuit loving spouse) I have created a Very Low Fat Biscuit which is (almost) Too Good To Be True.  I present the recipe here for your enjoyment. 

Preheat the oven to 410-425 (You know your oven. You want the biscuits to be a lovely golden brown on top and done inside but not black on the bottom.)

2 Cups Self Rising Flour
2 Tbl Sugar
1/4 Cup Liquid Fat Free Butter*
7/8 Cup Fat Free Buttermilk

In a large bowl, combine the Flour and the Sugar.  Add the fat free butter and work this mixture until it has a consistent 'sand' like look. (This is an important step.  You want NO lumps. Flour looks like powder, but this will look like 'sand'.  It may take a while to work it into this state, but it is important to the quality and consistency of the biscuit. I use a large fork and work the lumps against the side of the bowl until the mixture looks all the same.)

Add the buttermilk and again stir and work the mixture to get all the 'sand' mixed in. This doesn't take very long and you end up with a nice doughy lump the consistency of soft clay. 

Put a small amount of flour on your workspace and turn the dough onto it.  Now, work the dough carefully.  Press it down until it's flat (about an inch thick) and then fold it over onto itself and pat it down. (Add a sprinkle of more flour to the work surface to keep it from sticking if you need it.)  I do this about 6-8 times, leaving it about 3/4 inch thick after the last fold. 

Using a biscuit cutter (I use a glass with a 4 inch mouth) press out the biscuits and place them on a cookie sheet - at least an inch apart.  You may need to re-combine the dough to complete the last few biscuits, but be careful not to 'over work' the dough as this will make them tough.  I get 5-6 big biscuits, or 6-7 medium biscuits. 

Bake them on the top rack of the oven until the tops of the biscuits are a dark golden brown, about 10-12 min (which can vary according to your oven. This can take a couple of batches to learn what works best in your oven.)

My mother in law is a great lover of biscuits and is also one to call a bad biscuit a bad biscuit (as well as the biscuit maker!) She loves these and asks for them whenever she visits. 

Score 1 for the Southern Son In Law (with the low cholesterol!)

A final note: These may be LOW fat, but they are by no means Fat Free. They also have caloric content, and gluten.  They just have LESS fat than true Full-Fatted-Stick-Of-Butter-Age-Old-True-To-Southern-Recipe Biscuits.
*Because someone is going to ask, I use one of these low-fat 'fake' butters:

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