How to make biscuits like Cracker Barrel

Funny that this question comes here from time to time, as we concentrate on healthful living and biscuits, at 110 calories each for a small one, are a little difficult to work in often.  But we take the long view that all foods are good, and that control and moderation are what’s important — knowing when to stop.  Which in this case is likely one or two.

I grew up with biscuits at least twice each day; large sheets of them in and out of a very hot oven.  Then when I moved out on the northern perimeter of all things Southern, I gradually became accustomed to that fact that there are few good biscuits north of Kentucky unless you’re at the Cracker Barrel.  Which is a sometimes place for me, as I do not wish to be a barrel shaped cracker.  But I digress.

For many years there was only one true biscuit flour — White Lily.  Maybe two, if you like Martha White, which was not quite as airy.  Pretty much White Lily was written into my family bylaws.   But a sad thing happened within the last few years.  White Lily was sold and moved north into northern Ohio where the wheat is northern wheat and is just not as good for biscuits.   Maybe the yankees can’t help making tough biscuits.    At the time of the move there was quite an uproar; you can find serious biscuit test results online and in every single case the old was airier than the new.  The old White Lily was close to a cake flour, sifted over and over.  Now, I’d pretty much call it a draw between White Lily and Martha White.

Cracker Barrel makes very fine biscuits.  Honestly they are a little light and cakey beyond what’s called for but people like them this way. Supposedly they don’t use any of the weird ingredients the copycat recipes have (mayonnaise?).  Supposedly they’re just White Lily self-rising flour, buttermilk, and Crisco, from the recipe right off the back of the bag.  Part of the key is they obviously use some kind of honeycomb cutter so that the dough is handled even less, no re-forming of the used dough into another sheet to punch through, and they’re buttered while still hot.  Everything used to make the biscuits needs to be as cold as practically can be accomplished, and you need to use only your hands, and they need to be handled absolutely as little as possible and popped into a 500 degree oven and carefully watched until they’re the level of doneness you like.

Different biscuits in different parts of the oven seem to brown too fast –I can’t imagine how this was done in the uneven heat of a wood stove — you’ll develop a sense of where to put them to get them to come out all at once.

If you can’t find either of the varieties above, Gold Medal makes an acceptable flour.  Just whatever you do don’t go to the Biscuick.  Life is too short for instant biscuit-shaped objects.

Do experiment with whole milk, 1% buttermilk, 4% buttermilk, and for a super special occasion even half and half or, for special company, heavy cream if you dare.  Remember, you’re just eating the one. Send the rest home with your guests.

Also you might like to try the beaten type of biscuits (with salty ham), or angel biscuits (for dinner), both are good breads.

I constantly remind myself that the reason we could have biscuits with 2 meals and for lunchtime dessert with jam and still not be able to gain any weight — because we were working outdoors from daylight till dark.  But those days are pretty much gone for most people, and now we need to concentrate on having smaller portions of better food, prepared skillfully, which is just as good.

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