I stumbled across an unbleached cake flour, produced by King Arthur mills, and for the first time I am able to make something close to a southern style baking powder biscuit.  Most cake flour is super-refined (and bleached), which is what makes cakes (and biscuits) very tender and moist because of the lower gluten content.  Soft flour is more finely ground, the soft winter wheat is high-starch & low-protein, and also contains a percentage of cornstarch which decreases gluten even further.  Of course, whole grains are good for us – but who doesn’t need a dose of guilty pleasure every now & again?  Everything in moderation, including moderation as  Mr. Wilde said.  He also uttered the inimitable last words, Either this wall paper goes…or I do.

You can adapt virtually any standard baking powder-, or buttermilk  biscuit recipe by substituting cake flour for (AP) all-purpose flour.  In place of 1 cup of all purpose flour, use 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp of cake flour.  Also make sure to use low-fat buttermilk (as opposed to fat-free), or regular sweet milk.

I had one other special ingredient that I was excited to incorporate:  Home-rendered lard that my friend Gary & I made a few weeks back.  Here’s how I made my first batch of southern style biscuits.

2-1/4 c unbleached cake flour

scant tsp salt

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp sugar

a generous 1/3 cup cold shortening (I used 1/2 butter and 1/2 lard)

a cup of buttermilk, more or less (you want an alarmingly sticky dough, something that makes you scared that the recipe has somehow failed.  This is normal).

Measure your flour by spooning it into your measuring cup & leveling off, and whisk together with other dry ingredients.  Cut in the shortening so it is like roughly coarse meal – a few larger bits of fat here & there will actually make it flakier.  Add buttermilk & stir as little as possible – only till the dough comes loosely together.  Don’t even knead this if you don’t have to – this is a very soft dough.

I shaped the biscuits not by rolling them out, but between my floured hands.  Just take a big spoonful of dough and plop it back & forth deftly until it more or less resembles a biscuit & then deposit it on a baking sheet, as carelessly and carefully as possible, if possible.  Lay them somewhat close to each other and have a hot oven ready (425F- 450).  You can get 12 biscuits, more or less, according to these proportions.

Some cooks bake biscuits in an iron skillet, or brush them with butter before baking, or all of the above.  Bake them till golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.

I sopped my biscuits (that is swirling equal amounts of sorghum syrup and soft butter together on a plate – and you push your hot biscuit around in the delicious mess until the butter melts.  Sorghum has a flavor that is sort of like the love child of molasses and corn syrup), and honestly I had eaten about four of those biscuits before I even knew what hit me.  Then I ate two more.

Have you ever heard of Maryland Beaten Biscuits?  I think I’m going to make them next, even though they use ordinary flour.  I will use home-rendered lard for that as well, because nothing else will do.  And I hope you have a Cuisinart– or a stump in your back yard, with a good beating stick, to prepare your Beat Biscuits.  Also, get you some good quality ham, because that’s what goes inside these little sandwiches.

Nota bene:  I don’t endorse specific products, but I do report on special finds.