Shirley Corriher's "Touch-of-Grace" Southern Biscuits
As a little girl, I followed my grandmother around the kitchen. For breakfast, lunch, and dinner she made the lightest, most wonderful biscuits in the world. I used her bread bowl, her flour, her buttermilk—I did everything the same, and I shaped the biscuits just like she did. But mine always turned out a dry, mealy mess. I would cry and say, "Nanny, what did I do wrong?" She was a very busy woman with all my uncles and grandfather to feed three meals a day, but she would lean down, give me a big hug, and say, "Honey, I guess you forgot to add a Touch of Grace."
It took me over twenty years to figure out what my grandmother was doing that I was missing. I thought that the dough had to be dry enough to shape by hand, but she actually had a very wet dough. She sprinkled flour from the front of the bowl onto the dough, pinched off a biscuit-size piece, and dipped it in the flour. She floured the outside of the wet dough so that she could handle it. This wet dough in a hot oven creates steam to puff and make feather-light biscuits. A wet dough was the big secret. Now I make biscuits almost as good as my grandmother's, and so can you, with a good wet dough and a Touch of Grace.
What This Recipe Shows:
Low-protein flour like White Lily helps make tender, moist biscuits. A very wet dough makes more steam in a hot oven and creates lighter biscuits.
Preheat the oven to 425°F/218°C and arrange a shelf slightly below the center of the oven. Spray an 8 or 9-inch (20 or 23-cm) round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the self-rising flour, sugar, and salt. Work the shortening in with your fingers until there are no large lumps. Gently stir in the cream, then some of the buttermilk. Continue stirring in buttermilk until THE DOUGH RESEMBLES COTTAGE CHEESE. It should be a wet mess—not soup, but cottage-cheese texture. If you are not using a low-protein flour, this may require considerably more than 1 cup (237 ml) of buttermilk.
Spread the plain (not self-rising) flour out on a plate or pie pan. With a medium (about 2-in/5-cm, #30) ice cream scoop or spoon, place 3 or 4 scoops of dough well apart in the flour. Sprinkle flour over each. Flour your hands. Turn a dough ball in the flour to coat, pick it up, and gently shape it into a round, shaking off the excess flour as you work. Place this biscuit in the prepared pan. Coat each dough ball in the same way and place each shaped biscuit SCRUNCHED UP AGAINST ITS NEIGHBOR so that the biscuits rise up and don't spread out. Continue scooping and shaping until all of the dough is used.
Place the pan on the arranged shelf in the oven. Bake until lightly browned, about 20 to 25 minutes. Brush with the melted butter. Invert onto one plate, and then back onto another. With a knife or spatula, cut quickly between biscuits to make them easy to remove. Serve immediately.