Finding my religion: Worshipping at the biscuit altar

Tupelo Honey Cafe soul saving biscuits

On a recent trip to Knoxville, I got my first taste of real, made-from-scratch Southern biscuits. They have forever spoiled me from anything I can get around here (at least so far, maybe someone in the Cleveland food scene will see fit to remedy that). I also learned that my arrival was about two weeks too late. I missed the International Biscuit Festival, a celebration of the biscuit and its holy trinity: flour, fat and buttermilk.

Hot bread with a meal (or cold with a slab of meat inside for a portable lunch), in the form of a biscuit or a yeast roll, has long been a Southern staple. I grew up with yeast rolls (or cornbread) at meals at my Kentucky-raised grandma’s house, so I didn’t know of the magic of a scratch-made biscuit.

Crisp and flaky on the outside, moist on the inside and given a butter bath when removed from the oven, biscuits are the closest thing to heaven on earth.

In Knoxville, I was converted and have dedicated myself to spreading the gospel. My call-to-biscuit moment occurred at the Tupelo Honey Cafe–you can have your own by making a batch of their famous biscuits. For tips on perfecting your biscuit-making skills, check out their blog post about National Biscuit Month (where the biscuit maker shared the recipe listed below).

Tupelo Honey Buttermilk Biscuits

Makes 10 biscuits

2 c. White Lily self-rising flour

1 T. sugar

1/2 t. salt

1/3 c. chilled shortening, cut into pieces

1/2 c. heavy cream

1 c. buttermilk

Melted butter

Preheat the oven to 425°F and position the oven rack slightly below the center of the oven. Lightly butter a round cake pan or cast iron skillet.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, sugar and salt. Snap the pieces of shortening with your fingers until the shortening pieces are no larger than peas. Make a well in the mixture and pour in the cream and 2/3 c. of the buttermilk. Using your hands or a rubber spatula, sweep in the flour and turn the dough until the dry ingredients are moistened and the dough resembles cottage cheese, adding enough of the remaining 1/3 c. buttermilk to reach this consistency.

Sprinkle the rolling surface with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and sprinkle the top with flour. With floured hands, fold the dough in half and pat the dough into a 1/3 to 1/2-inch-thick round, using additional flour as needed. Flour again if necessary and fold the dough in half a second time. If the dough is still clumpy, repeat the folding process for a third time. Pat the dough into a 1-inch-thick round. Dip a 2-inch biscuit cutter into the flour and cut out biscuits, ensuring you do not twist the cutter.

Place the biscuits in the pan, sides slightly touching. Brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until light golden brown, rotating the pan 180° after 6 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush the biscuits again with melted butter.