Second only to nutty-flaky pie crust in terms of the heartache of non-lightness is the almighty biscuit! Chuckwagon cooks are judged by several criteria, and one of these is whether your biscuits can be used as ammunition, or hockey pucks, or if they are light and flaky! My own were pretty much in the door stop category until I was saved by my soul brother – cowboy cook Carl Hawkins.
Now my mother-in-law emphasizes the importance of working fast and keeping the ingredients cold, much like working in pie dough. Carl just says, “don’t mess with it too much!” He put me to work early one Sunday morning, saying
“okay, get out your flour and shortening and you’re going to make a couple batches of biscuits!”
In a cold bowl he had me dump a cup of flour, then add two tablespoons of baking powder, half a teaspoon of salt and blend it with a fork. Next he had me cut in a tablespoon of shortening until the dough looked grainy, kind of like cornmeal. Finally, we added about half a cup of buttermilk and kept working with the fork until the sticky dough just began to come away from the sides of the bowl, it looked too wet. We dumped in out on a lightly floured surface, flipped it over, rolled it out to a half inch thick and cut out rounds with a juice glass. I put them in a well greased dutch oven and after about fifteen minutes at somewhere in the vicinity of 400°F they floated out of the pan!
Don’t burn the biscuits — you’ll never hear the end of it!