I woke up a little blue this morning, a pall of sadness like thread bare lace around my edges.. melancholy, some would say. Perhaps it is this summer cold, the heat on what should be cooler autumn days or that the overcast sky has failed to produce the promised storms. Oh yeah, I’m a strange one that way, longing to be covered in dark woolen clouds and comforted in the claps of thunder.
Nonetheless, I hoisted myself up, zombie walked to the kitchen to make coffee, loving the way it’s aroma fills the house. My thoughts drift to a distant time, to my grandmothers kitchen where the glass percolator bubbled on the stove, filling the kitchen with the same familiar smell. I remember too, the white porcelain cup and saucer she’d set before me sometimes, filling it with warm milk, a teaspoon of sugar and a drop of hot coffee. I felt like such a big girl, sipping “coffee” with and like my grandmother. In this moment, I miss her with a deep yearning, longing for her arms to wrap me up tightly and rock away all sadness.
The night before, I had sat flour and clay baking pans out on the counter, a reminder of the cellophane wrapped biscuit dough in the fridge that needed baking before it’s lost. Perhaps in some way, it’s caused my gloom, old memories, my longing for her.
My youngest childhood years were spent in the home of my grandmother and these by far were my happiest childhood memories. She lived in a tiny 700 sqft home made of concrete that my grandfather had built for her, on a street named after her aunt and just behind her parents home.
The small livingroom would be more aptly called the parlor, a place for recieving guests who came to call but seldomly used otherwise. No, my grandmothers kitchen was the heart of her home and she, the heart of me.
My grandmother was a natural cook, a master of feel and touch. Everything she made was with a pinch of this, a handful of that and biscuits were no different. She would pull a chair over to the cabinet where I’d shimmy up to sit on the counter. She floured the wooden rolling pin and let me smooth the dough and punch out the biscuits with a jelly jar.
I wish I had the recipe to share with you my friends but alas, anyone claiming to have had her recipe would’ve simply watched and guessed, at best. But, I make due and found a recipe that I like so I offer it to you.
The recipe makes a hearty batch but what I like about it is the frugality of both ingredient and time. Though it’s a large batch, in all I made about 22 biscuits but don’t worry. The recipe is fine enough that you may bake as few as you wish. Simply wrap the dough in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge. The dough will keep for 5 days, allowing you the luxury of homemade biscuits all week!
The original recipe calls for baking in a cast iron skillet for 20 min but I’ve found it to be too long in the oven so bake for 15. I’m a huge fan of cast iron via my grandmothers and would consider cornbread baked in anything but, a heresy, as well as frying chicken, chicken fried steak or just about anything. In fact, a pie baked in a cast iron skillet….divine!!!
However, because of how cast iron conducts and amplifies heat, leaving that beautiful crisp crust to cornbread, I do not want that on the bottom of my biscuits. I opted for a softer, more delicate biscuit bottom so I chose clay baking pans. Baking on a clay baking pan evenly distribute heat and the bottoms are never burnt or over done. (Biscuit bottom! Lol Well butter my butt and call me biscuit!) If you don’t happen to have Buttermilk on hand, add 2 Tbsp of vinegar to milk and allow to sit for 10 – 15 minutes.
Cast Iron Biscuits (Off The Iron)
1/2 cup water warm , 100-110 F
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
5 cups all purpose flour
3 Tbsp sugar
5 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup butter cold
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup butter melted
Mix together water, yeast and 1 tsp sugar. Let stand for 5-7 minutes until foamy.
Mix together flour, 3 Tbsp sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until crumbly.
Add in yeast mixture and buttermilk and stir until dry ingredients are incorporated. Do not overmix
Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours up to 5 days.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times. Roll dough into a 3/4 inch rectangle, fold dough and repeat.
Roll out dough to 3/4 inch thickness and cut with a 2 inch round biscuit cutter.
Place biscuits into a 10 inch cast iron skillet, you may not use all the dough. Brush with 1/2 of melted butter.
Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and brush with remaining butter.
We had ours buttered, with honey and jam.
The house still stands today, repainted in an unfamiliar color with an updated porch. The bright oleander bushes that lined the side of the house and Chinaberry tree next to the drive, are long gone…as gone as my loved ones and my childhood days. Yes, those four walls and roof remains, bleak against my memories like a house without a dreamer.
But my blues have lifted…the rain finally tapping against the window, the smell of coffee and biscuits baking…filling all my empty spaces with memories of her.