MABLE’S BUTTERMILK BISCUITS
Mable Stanley, now 89, is the mother of my dear friend Sharron Sadacca. Mable is a Southern classic with deep roots in Mississippi and people are drawn to her as if she were a magnet. She possesses many talents, not the least of which is the way she makes her buttermilk biscuits. I thought my great grandmother or mother’s were the best until I tried Mable’s. The only other person in America who made such delicious biscuits was another good friend, Edna Lewis. If you really love biscuits, you probably already have Edna’s recipe; if you don’t, you need her books anyway, such as The Taste of Country Cooking and In Pursuit of Flavor. One ingredient you’ll only find in this recipe is self-rising flour. Mable swears by it and it makes the recipe much simpler as it already contains baking soda and salt. To my surprise, self-rising flour had been around longer than I expected: Mable says her grandmother used to bake with it. While I’ve never used it before, the proof is in the pudding ~ or in this case, the biscuits.
- Vegetable Shortening - 4 teaspoons
- Unsalted Butter - 5 tablespoons
- Self-rising Flour - 1½ cups
- Buttermilk - ⅔ cups+1 tablespoon
Preheat the oven to 400° F. Place the butter in a 9½ -inch skillet. Place the skillet in the oven for 5 minutes to heat through and to melt the butter.
In a mixing bowl, crumble the shortening with the flour, using your fingertips, until the mixture is crumbly and the size of small peas. Add the buttermilk in 3 or 4 additions, while stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula, and mix until the buttermilk is thoroughly incorporated. Do not overbeat. The dough should be quite sticky and hold together.
Turn out onto a floured surface and lightly flour the top of the dough. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a circle about ½ inch thick. Cut the biscuits into 2½ -inch circles (or 2- or 3-inch circles if you prefer). Dip each biscuit on both sides into the melted butter in the heated skillet, and arrange them in the skillet.
Bake in the oven on the middle rack for 8 -10 minutes, or until the biscuits have risen and are lightly browned on the bottom. Turn on the broiler, transfer the skillet to the upper rack of the oven, and bake for 4 – 5 minutes more, or until the biscuits tops are browned. Turn out onto a rack to cool.