Sweet Tea and Tacos

Baking the Perfect Southern Biscuit: Secrets, Tips, and Buttermilk Tales with Sweet Tea and Tacos

March 25, 2024 Sweet Tea and Tacos Season 1 Episode 9
Baking the Perfect Southern Biscuit: Secrets, Tips, and Buttermilk Tales with Sweet Tea and Tacos
Sweet Tea and Tacos
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Sweet Tea and Tacos
Baking the Perfect Southern Biscuit: Secrets, Tips, and Buttermilk Tales with Sweet Tea and Tacos
Mar 25, 2024 Season 1 Episode 9
Sweet Tea and Tacos

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Ever wondered why some biscuits rise to fluffy perfection while others boast irresistible flaky layers? Crack the code to biscuit nirvana with us, Dave and Jim, and our pal Devon—a bona fide baking aficionado. Together, we sift through the delicious details that make Southern biscuits a household staple, guided by the wisdom of Natalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart's cookbook. We weigh the pros and cons of convenience from a can against the allure of crafting your own dough, all while sharing a laugh and a love for all-purpose flour's forgiving nature.

Buttermilk takes center stage in our second act, where its tangy legacy in the biscuit's tender crumb is celebrated. We reminisce about the good old days of buttermilk as a buttery byproduct and tackle the chilled challenge that butter brings to the table—literally. Health enthusiasts and dietary devotees, fear not; you'll find solace in our personal trials and triumphs as we navigate the butter-versus-shortening battleground with your well-being in mind.

For the grand finale, we're disclosing top-secret baking intelligence that could very well turn your next biscuit batch into the talk of the town. Spoiler alert: non-aluminum baking powder might just be your new best friend. So, whether you're a baking newbie or a dough-slinging veteran, subscribe for a heap of tips and a sprinkle of laughs. Remember, you've got a standing invitation to our kitchen—where every biscuit tells a story, and every story is worth sharing on Sweet Tea and Tacos.


Southern Biscuits by Natalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart
https://www.amazon.com/Southern-Biscuits-Nathalie-Dupree/dp/1423603784
Kerry Gold Butter
https://www.kerrygoldusa.com/products/kerrygold-butter/
Bisquick
https://www.bettycrocker.com/products/bisquick
Pioneer Mix
https://pioneerbrand.com/
Baking with Julia by Julia Child
https://www.amazon.com/Baking-Julia-Techniques-Extraordinary-Child/dp/0688146570

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Ever wondered why some biscuits rise to fluffy perfection while others boast irresistible flaky layers? Crack the code to biscuit nirvana with us, Dave and Jim, and our pal Devon—a bona fide baking aficionado. Together, we sift through the delicious details that make Southern biscuits a household staple, guided by the wisdom of Natalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart's cookbook. We weigh the pros and cons of convenience from a can against the allure of crafting your own dough, all while sharing a laugh and a love for all-purpose flour's forgiving nature.

Buttermilk takes center stage in our second act, where its tangy legacy in the biscuit's tender crumb is celebrated. We reminisce about the good old days of buttermilk as a buttery byproduct and tackle the chilled challenge that butter brings to the table—literally. Health enthusiasts and dietary devotees, fear not; you'll find solace in our personal trials and triumphs as we navigate the butter-versus-shortening battleground with your well-being in mind.

For the grand finale, we're disclosing top-secret baking intelligence that could very well turn your next biscuit batch into the talk of the town. Spoiler alert: non-aluminum baking powder might just be your new best friend. So, whether you're a baking newbie or a dough-slinging veteran, subscribe for a heap of tips and a sprinkle of laughs. Remember, you've got a standing invitation to our kitchen—where every biscuit tells a story, and every story is worth sharing on Sweet Tea and Tacos.


Southern Biscuits by Natalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart
https://www.amazon.com/Southern-Biscuits-Nathalie-Dupree/dp/1423603784
Kerry Gold Butter
https://www.kerrygoldusa.com/products/kerrygold-butter/
Bisquick
https://www.bettycrocker.com/products/bisquick
Pioneer Mix
https://pioneerbrand.com/
Baking with Julia by Julia Child
https://www.amazon.com/Baking-Julia-Techniques-Extraordinary-Child/dp/0688146570

Support the Show.

Dave:

Welcome to Sweet Tea and Tacos. For this week I'm Dave.

Jen:

And.

Dave:

I'm Jenn and this week it's a second helping of biscuits. We had a really good conversation last week with our friend Devon about biscuits?

Jen:

Yes, absolutely.

Dave:

And her inspiration in creating biscuits and we talked about her techniques and you know kind of what she does and she likes and it was a great conversation. But we made us want to really deep dive into biscuits and kind of be geeks about it.

Dave:

So this is the food geek one about biscuits, because there's a lot of different ways to make biscuits, a lot of different techniques, a lot of different ingredients, what are some of the benefits of ones over others, etc. And kind of what was funny, where you got one of your recipes out of this. I got you this book and it's literally a whole cookbook about biscuits.

Jen:

It is. It's entitled Southern Biscuits. It's by Natalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart I'm not sure exactly how to say her last name, maybe Graubart Graubart Anyway, but it's a phenomenal cookbook and um.

Dave:

But it's a whole book. Yeah, it's nothing Of just biscuits.

Jen:

Nothing but biscuits. It does have a few extraneous things, like some jams.

Dave:

Yeah.

Jen:

And some gravies and things, but it is but still Just a biscuit book.

Dave:

Yeah, and that just tells you how many different ways there are to do this and how many different little techniques. And you look at those recipes, I'm looking, I'm having to go back and forth and there's just little bitty, subtle tweaks, but they make a different product.

Jen:

Right, right. And the biscuit recipe that I make all the time is actually out of this one, right? Um, just by the way. Okay, so I mean I've been real impressed with this cookbook. I have no idea if it's still in print, but if you can find it. It's a great one.

Dave:

We recommend it highly so. So what are the kind of the different types of biscuits? And I was trying to figure out. Okay, if I had to describe different kinds of biscuits, I thought, well, I think there, to me there's two main categories.

Jen:

There's fluffy and flaky yeah.

Dave:

Yeah, now, the fluffy ones to me are things that I've seen in like drop biscuits or you know, just I've seen this even rolled out and they're fluffy and you got a top and a flat top and a flat bottom.

Jen:

But they have kind of a crumb. Yeah, they have a crumb, but not those. Not the layers.

Dave:

The layers, yeah. So that that to me is kind of how I divide biscuits. You got fluffy and flaky, right, yeah, and then so then when you're making biscuits, I thought, okay, what's the how do you start out? And like, yeah, I think there's different tiers of biscuit making as you get geekier into cooking.

Jen:

Well, yeah, we kind of talked about that. Some some ways to make biscuits can be real-time savers, you know, if you just really want to kind of introduce that dynamic into your family, like Devin was talking about last week, the kind of church biscuits, you know, if you want to just build some traditions, Right. Well, like a certain, like a Saturday morning routine or a Sunday morning routine. You know there's canned biscuits, there's some actually really good ones out on the market. Yeah.

Dave:

And then and all kinds of options. There's lots of options, oh yeah, yeah.

Jen:

and then there's biscuit mix right and Then you know things like self rising and like a biscuit mix.

Dave:

would you just add water yeah, probably so or liquid I can't get some type.

Jen:

I'm sure I've ever used one, but I can't this quick yeah, something like this quick or. Devin mentioned that there was, I think, a pioneer mix.

Dave:

Okay, yeah, yeah, I.

Jen:

Think it was pioneer brand, but anyway. So yeah, I'm not just hugely familiar with them, but you know it could just be a good time saver right. And and then using certainly self rising flowers will save you the step of adding Salt. And then you're right, I love me right and we make.

Dave:

We use a hot rice cornmeal for some cornbread sometimes you know, we just that way you're just throwing an egg and oil in there and liquid ready to go, and so those are all time savers where you can kind of still adjust and Maybe choose your fatter, choose this and that.

Dave:

But then the next level really of geekiness would be the Components, you know right, and just having all of the different components right and then that gives you options of when you get into the flowers, because the type of flower you use Can make a big difference. Now, so you, there's all purpose three. Most people are very familiar with all purpose and maybe a bread flour, but a lot of these is interesting, these self rising Flowers, especially things that you see in the south, brands from the south like white, lily or sunflower Flower they use a soft winter wheat that is lower in protein, and Protein is what creates gluten and breads but you don't want gluten in a biscuit right, so those are really designed for biscuits.

Dave:

Yes, with the lower protein.

Jen:

They are, they are, and Devin was saying that she uses a flower like that right in hers. Now we and this is just, I guess, just because we, we like to have Versatility, I mean, you know, we just we just buy one flower Right and we need it for a lot of different things right and really, if we want to achieve our geekiness status, if we want to fully embrace the geekiness, we should have different flowers.

Dave:

But we're not there.

Jen:

Well, I don't know maybe we're. You may be a more of a baker than I am, but well I. I've never been so much of a baker, except for the biscuits, but we just do an all-purpose. Yeah, it's kind of where right, even in even in the all-purpose Depending on the brand in the type of wheat it uses.

Dave:

You can have different protein levels. So if you want to have an all-purpose and you don't want to have a specialty flower and you want to make biscuits, look for one with lower protein right, I'll help you out, right, but I will say and I hope I'm not jumping too far ahead, but I will say that we Make.

Jen:

I mean we're very satisfied with our product.

Dave:

Oh yeah.

Jen:

Of of biscuits with an all-purpose flower. I mean, you know some of the other you might. Can you know, geek it out a little bit more?

Dave:

like David said, Right, and these are little bitty tweets.

Jen:

Yeah, a little bitty tweaks, but I mean, if you know, for us it works right. Have a, have a good quality, all-purpose.

Dave:

And then you talk of.

Jen:

Then there's the bleach, and right that that was my next thing that I was gonna say. I'm sorry, is that? Oh no, you're fine. Uh, just that you know some people might not mind this at all, but some of the bleaching agents that can be used are chemicals like benzoyl peroxide or chlorine gas, and those speed up the aging process, which can make the the wheat softer, and so if you want to avoid that, then just look for maybe an organic, non-gmo and and definitely the unbleached right. So yeah.

Dave:

So you know, the bleached it's gonna make it a wider product. It's gonna be finer in texture and softer, which are all things that are desirable. Yeah, biscuit, yeah, but you certainly can use an all purpose unbleached or a, if you can find a soft winter wheat that's lower in protein, that's unbleached. The unbleached will tend to be a little bit denser than a bleached. Yeah, but again, these are minute differences, right? So so what you're looking for is a soft wheat in protein, about 9%, all purposes. All purposes can range from 10 to 12. I think the one we use is about 11.

Dave:

So you're looking at just a couple of percentage points difference, right, you know, and if really we did a size by side, I think it would be you'd be really hard-pressed sometimes to probably really be super critical to find those differences. So what about after? If the flour, you know, and these all these hot rise or the self-rising, they already have the agents in them. So if you're not going to use that and you're gonna have the rising agents, there's a couple different types. What are those, right, that we would use?

Jen:

so you've got baking powder which has both an acid and a base, and then you have baking soda, which would need to be combined with an acid, so it's just the one right now, baking soda is in baking powder okay, there's other ingredients in baking powder so that's its base in baking powder. The baking soda is the base in baking powder um, I'm not sure exactly what, and then it was one of the bases?

Dave:

well, the acid.

Jen:

One of the acids is cream of tartar cream of tartar was the acid right, but anyway, all right. So, for example, in how to use those, like if you wanted to just use milk or maybe half and half or heavy cream or something, right biscuits it. That's not the milk's, not acid okay, so you would need to use, and so you could use baking powder because it has it, has it, has, it, has it right okay, but then the baking soda.

Jen:

You wouldn't want to put that with milk okay, because you need an acid, so you want to use something like buttermilk, or you could even do sour cream or yogurt or something. Yeah, and then those, those react and the chemical. You know the rising okay, chemical reaction.

Dave:

Now let's talk about there's also double acting baking yeah, this is.

Jen:

I mean this was part of our research, that I mean I've probably seen that out there on the market, but I had not really paid much of what that meant. Attention to it, yeah so basically it means that there will be two rises. Okay, initially, when the liquid combines with the baking powder, whatever liquid you use, that will start as soon as you mix it with the liquid, that chemical reaction starts, you have that liquid and then later in the oven you get the second rise with the heat okay, the heat is the activator of right, so that that's the double gotcha now versus baking soda, so it's a single right.

Jen:

So when you mix it with that acid, the buttermilk, it immediately, immediately starts the reaction and that's why you want, if you use the baking soda and something like buttermilk, you want to work very quickly and get those immediately in the oven. Right gotcha?

Dave:

you got a little bit more leeway, right, if you're using the baking powder okay and you know a little bit in and then you know a little bit further into that research. So you know, a lot of people use buttermilk We'll talk about fats in a minute or liquids and different things, and for the tanginess right. Well, you've got to you know that base and that acid of the buttermilk are going to react and that tanginess can go away If it's used, if it's used all up in that chemical reaction.

Jen:

Right.

Dave:

So one thing we were reading was that maybe, if you want the tanginess of buttermilk and as a flavor component, you might mix a little baking soda and baking powder or use the baking powder only with the buttermilk so that it's got bases and acids already, so that acid in the buttermilk is not used up and you'll get some of the tanginess.

Jen:

Right, and there's also ways to add even more of that kind of tangy or zingy and you can put like lemon juice in products you know, like in milk or whatever, and it kind of curdles it almost.

Dave:

Right, so let's talk about buttermilk for a second. So buttermilk is the liquid left over from making butter.

Jen:

Right, you think of the old fashioned kind of butter churn, you know, and you're separating those butter solids out, and then the liquid that's left over is the buttermilk. Gotcha and people used to save that and drink that.

Dave:

They called sweet milk the stuff that was directly from the cow. So milk, milk, our milk, just plain milk is called sweet milk.

Jen:

That was, that was kind of the old fashioned term of sweet milk.

Dave:

But the buttermilk that we have today.

Jen:

Yeah, the buttermilk that we have today is not not true buttermilk. Really, it's kind of a faux buttermilk, right? Because?

Dave:

real buttermilk has to be made with unpasteurized milk Right For the organisms and the whatever in there to work.

Jen:

Right, and so what they do is they add some kind of like lactic acid to milk, and then it kind of brings out that sour or zingy flavor Right. But it's. It's the buttermilk that we know and we buy in the grocery store. Doesn't look anything like real buttermilk would have.

Dave:

Yeah, and so then there's something called clabber, which I thought was really interesting.

Jen:

Yeah, and my mom used to talk about how my grandmother loved clabber and I guess it kind of like my mom's generation they were. They were born sort of I guess around World War II that era and but anyway. So but it grossed, I mean it grossed them out. They just didn't like that whole concept of clabber.

Dave:

So buttermilk is the milk left over from making butter. Yes, so it's already sour. So if you've ever experienced our buttermilk, imagine even more sour. Now, clabber is essentially buttermilk that you leave out on the counter. Is that what I'm understanding?

Jen:

I mean, and I don't know that the buttermilk actually was all that sour, but I guess it had a little bit of acid in it. Yeah, the clabber got left out. It was the buttermilk that got left out. And then it kind of turned and got all curdley or something. But it apparently is wonderful for for baking and making biscuits and things and it reminds me we're talking about.

Dave:

it reminds me of a sourdough starter. Yeah, yeah, I'm sure there's really micro organisms and and the sourness and the gassiness of it, right, right, okay, so you got buttermilk clabber and sweet milk. So the buttermilk we're getting in the store is really the best we can do at the moment to get that buttermilk type flavor, the tanginess, right. But you could also, like you said, add lemon to milk and kind of curdle, it Curdle it.

Jen:

Or you could do like you said, some yogurt or sour cream, that type of thing that has some cultures in it.

Dave:

Okay. So then you've got. So you've got your flour, you've got your liquid, you got your rising agents and then you have your fats. So, other than your, probably your liquids, I guess fats are your biggest thing. That you, I think you hear in the differences in the biscuits you know, or so in your fats. You're looking at mainly butter or shortening Right, so why one or the other?

Jen:

Well, yeah, that's kind of a good question Butter is going to add a lot of flavor.

Dave:

Yep.

Jen:

Shortening is kind of flavorless really you know Um, let's see. Butter is how you do lamination, which is what we've talked about how you get those flaky layers.

Dave:

Because when the butter is cold, because it needs to be cold in order to work and it's firmer.

Dave:

So then you can roll as you roll it, and you, you, you and like, what you do is you grate it and you put flour, and then you roll that and it becomes these long sheets of flour, and then you fold it, Sheets of butter, sheets of butter, thank you. And as you fold it, then when you roll out those biscuits, there's different layers of butter, and when you put them in the oven they puff and they get so and so in the butter and versus shortening. So shortening is pure fat.

Jen:

It's just a fat.

Dave:

Butter is about 80 to 85% fat and the rest is water. So what happens is is your butter when you're working it. The danger with butter is as if it melts, then that water combines with the flour and creates gluten, which you don't want in a biscuit. So that can be a little challenging, a little problematic.

Jen:

That's why you want to make sure your butter is really really cold, really cold. And you want to work quickly and so if you, just if that bothers you, if you, don't want to have to worry about that, then I would say go shortening. But I would recommend and you know well if you followed us, maybe you've kind of picked up on this, but this is kind of just who we are. We're into health and just trying to.

Dave:

We try to eat clean. Try to eat clean and maybe avoid just some things and, honestly, it comes a lot from the health challenges you've had. You've had a lot of issues with ingredients and food Right.

Jen:

Just because we don't want to have information. So here's the thing about shortening and how it's made. Shortening is made by introducing hydrogen into vegetable oil, and if you've heard the term trans fat, what that means is that it's been partially hydrogenated and it makes for a very shelf, stable product. Right, is it not so wonderful for inside your body? So there are some good non hydrogenated shortening on the market. So if you go that route, I would definitely do some research and find a good one.

Dave:

Right and before commercial shortening, they used. People use lard.

Jen:

Right.

Dave:

Now there's a product called leaf lard that they render the fat of in leaf lard is from certain areas of the animal Right.

Jen:

I think it's around the kidney.

Dave:

Kidney and they render it and then it's in these sheets and it's fairly flavorless lard.

Jen:

It's supposed to be, I guess, kind of a real high quality lard.

Dave:

Correct. So that's kind of the natural alternative to a shortening. But again, either lard or shortening, it's all fat. It doesn't have the water content, right, it can make things softer. And now butter also has some milk solids in that fat and those milk solids contain sugars, right, and those sugars brown.

Jen:

Yeah, so that's where you get that kind of pretty golden brown color on your biscuits.

Dave:

Right, so a butter biscuit is going to be a brown or a biscuit, a shortening biscuit is going to be a wider biscuit.

Jen:

Right and you know you might think, okay, like if you're using a shortening. You might think, oh, are my biscuits done yet, because I don't see the brown color. They could be Right, Because they're not going to turn real brown no matter, unless you just burned them and then.

Dave:

So some people have to kind of be careful Right. Some people use a combination Right, so that you get kind of the best of both worlds.

Jen:

Yeah, and I think probably, if I'm not mistaken, that maybe that was what Devin does. Yeah, yeah.

Dave:

So you know that's kind of your, you know the different and then from there you know you've got the different techniques of rolling and mixing. You know, devin does the grating and she does a little envelope Right.

Jen:

She grates for butter.

Dave:

And that helps with that flakiness. Matter of fact, I did a. I have a the Baking with Julia book, if anybody has that yeah. Julia Child. She has a pie crust recipe where you you roll the butter out and you roll it into these long sheets. You have to like, yeah, almost frozen butter, roll it, do a little rolling, put it in the fridge, come back and work. You just got to keep, keep it really cold, but you literally have these long sheets of butter yeah and it's this incredibly flaky pie crust.

Dave:

It's the same concept. It's the lamination, right, right, so we're not spending that much time. It's a little easier to do with the biscuits when you grate it in and do that, yes, but so there you go. That's kind of the you know, the geek out on the biscuits. Everything you didn't want to know, or maybe you did want to know and you had no idea it existed. That's what we're here for. So you know, hopefully you've learned something and Miss Jen has something couple other things, sorry, keep going, going, keep going all right.

Jen:

So all right on your baking powder. If you use baking powder, look for one that has that doesn't have aluminum okay, what's the? Non-aluminum. Well, it's a. It's a cheaper ingredient, and but the downside is that it can have sort of a metallic taste gotcha okay.

Dave:

So if you ever had too much baking powder and I've had this and it tasted kind of metallicky yeah- that's what it was an aluminum right. Well, and then also on your baking soda. If you add too much baking soda, it's not used up in the acid right chemical reaction. It could taste a little soapy. Yes, so if you've ever had that, that could be a part of the reason right.

Jen:

And then just a reminder, kind of like you know when we did the podcast about the spices yeah just be mindful of how old your products are yeah and I would say, not go past maybe six months right, especially the leavening. Yeah, those really make it they just they won't be fresh, and then they won't activate and you know you'll be somewhat disappointed.

Dave:

Well, and one more. No, we're on, now that we're on remembering things, on the fats, one of the things, devin, and when we talked about what during that was the Kerry Gold butter, the Irish butter right, like they said, european, but your butters have less of a water right, and that's why it was interesting.

Dave:

I hadn't really thought about. That's why we gravitate towards that, but they do. They have a higher fat content and a less water content, and they're more than 85 to 90% fat content, right, so that again, that's another reason to maybe use that in a biscuit with less water content. So well, cool, you got anything else?

Dave:

I think that's okay so we hope you enjoyed geeking out on biscuits as much as we did and hope you learned some stuff and you know, let us know what you would like to hear about or talk about, or if you have any comments about biscuits. Or can we even take it to a geekier level and there be a third helping?

Dave:

well so that's sweet tea and tacos for this week. Be sure to subscribe. Send us an email, let us know what you're thinking about and write us a review. Write us a review if you enjoyed it, if you enjoy.

Jen:

It right if you enjoy it don't leave a apparently it helps a lot in the podcast world so for sweet tea and tacos, I'm Dave and I'm Jim.

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