Biscuits are a popular topic of conversation here at Alabama Chanin. We’ve enjoyed their flaky goodness in friends’ company at Blackberry Farm, pondered the great question of butter or lard (butter trumps here), and – of course – given you our favorite recipe in Alabama Stitch Book. Just when we think we know all there is to know about biscuits, Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart teach us even more in their glorious cookbook, Southern Biscuits, that pays homage to the floury, doughy concoctions.
“I’ve never met a biscuit I didn’t like. Fat, skinny, crumbly, tender, moist, tall, hard, stuffed, flavored, short, tart, blousy, tiny, sweet, cheesy, or creamy- they all have their own origins and reasons for being….” says Nathalie. We whole-heartedly agree; like people, biscuits have their own personalities. With pictures by Rick McKee and a plethora of tips, how-to’s, and secrets along the way, this book could very well be the be-all and end-all biscuit bible. Included are easy recipes for the novice and more technical efforts for a skilled baker. Skinny, crumbly, tender….there is a biscuit to suit everyone.
While we at Alabama Chanin embellish our garments with appliqué, embroidery or beading, Nathalie and Cynthia find ways to do the same with biscuits. In the section aptly titled, “Embellished Biscuits,” they describe how to make everyday biscuits more special using ingredients like black pepper, dried fruit, and pecans. We decided to dress ours up with a favorite ingredient – ginger.
For this richer, “warmer” biscuit, we used our local ginger ale – Buffalo Rock – which is (very) hot and spicy, and oh-so-good. The sharp taste of the ale, paired with a hint of lemony aroma from the ground ginger, make this biscuit a charming choice in the winter months. This very easy recipe will warm you through-and-through.
A few notes: Because these biscuits lack the incorporation of a fat, they are on the more heavy side of the biscuit spectrum. Be careful not to use too much flour, as they will turn out dry. Use a pastry brush to dust off extra flour from the exterior before you place them in the oven. Also, use unsalted butter for finishing – you don’t want the salt to overpower the ginger. We crisped the tops by turning on the broiler for two minutes with the oven door cracked. Watch them carefully so they don’t burn!
Julia’s Double Ginger Biscuit
2 ¼ cups commercial or homemade self-rising flour, divided (We use White Lily.)
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¾ cups ginger ale, divided
Butter, softened or melted for finishing
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Select the baking pan by determining if a soft or crisp exterior is desired. For a soft exterior, select an 8- or 9- inch cake pan, pizza pan, or oven-proof skillet (we use a Lodge Cast Iron Skillet) that allows the biscuits to nestle together snugly. This will create a soft exterior while baking. For a crisp exterior, select a baking sheet or baking pan that will allow the biscuits to be placed farther apart, giving the air room to circulate and creating a crisper exterior. Make sure to brush the pan with butter.
Fork-sift or whisk 2 cups of flour and the ground ginger in a large bowl, preferably wider than it is deep, and set aside the remaining 1/4 cup of flour.
Make a deep hollow in the center of the flour with the back of your hand. Slowly pour 1/2 cup ginger ale into the hollow, reserving 1/4 cup, and stir with a rubber spatula or large metal spoon using broad circular strokes to quickly pull the flour into the liquid. Mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened and the sticky dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. If there is some flour remaining on the bottom and sides of the bowl, stir 1 to 4 tablespoons of reserved ginger ale, just enough to incorporate the remaining flour into the shaggy, wet-ish dough. If the dough is too wet, use more flour when shaping.
Lightly sprinkle a board or other clean surface using some of the reserved flour. Turn the dough out onto the board and sprinkle the top of the dough lightly with flour. With floured hands, fold the dough in half and pat out into a 1/3 – to 1/2-inch-thick round, using a little additional flour only if needed. Flour again if necessary and fold the dough in half a second time. If the dough is still clumpy, pat and fold a third time. Pat dough out into a 1/2-inch-thick round for a normal biscuit, a 3/4-inch-thick round for a tall biscuit, and a 1-inch-thick round for a giant biscuit. Brush off any visible flour from the top. Dip a 2-inch biscuit cutter into the reserved flour and cut out the biscuits, starting at the outside edge and cutting very close together, and being careful not to twist the cutter. The scraps may be combined to make additional biscuits, although these scraps make tougher biscuits.
Using a metal spatula if necessary, move the biscuits to the pan or baking sheet. Bake the biscuits on the top rack of the oven for a total of 10 to 14 minutes, until light golden brown. After 6 minutes, rotate the pan in the oven so that the front of the pan is now turned to the back, and check to see if the bottoms are browning too quickly. If so, slide another baking pan underneath to add insulation and retard the browning. Continue baking another 4 to 8 minutes, until the biscuits are light golden brown. When the biscuits are done, remove from the oven and lightly brush the tops with butter. Turn the biscuits out upside down on a plate to cool slightly. Serve hot, right side up.
Get Southern Biscuits by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart – DELICIOUS.