I woke up this morning remembering a whimsical fact: When my youngest child was a very small grasshopper, he nicknamed one of his best buddies “Buttery Biscuit” : ) No particular reason, Charlie shrugged when asked why. He just liked the name. Moving to the sunny kitchen today, I thought, “Why not make some now?” which led to a search through recipe card files, for the first recipe I was ever given: Meta’s Buttery Buttermilk Biscuits. Tall, with tender layers inside and perfect golden tops that crumble when you bite ‘em, the biscuits were part of the farm breakfasts my first babysitter, Meta, made me in Riesal, TX, where I was born.
Meta gave me the recipe on my last visit to her farm, when I was 17. I had been up early with Meta’s husband Arthur, a very tall, very quiet man, with a shock of wavy white hair, twinkling eyes and an impish sense of humor. Arthur farmed the land and raised some sheep and chickens. I think he had a milk cow, too. That rainy Spring morning, we’d gone to the feed store, bought stiff blue coveralls to put on over our clothes, and came back to the farm to plant some rows of sweet corn in a plot near the house.
Arthur dug long furrows, with the fresh black dirt mounded in soft, crumbly rows alongside. He handed me a handful of corn kernels and told me to plant them about a foot and ½ apart. Which I did, in the mounds—much to Arthurs amusement, as the kernels were supposed to go in the furrows. Or was it was the other way around? Anyway, I got it wrong and by the time we’d finished digging up and replanting the seeds, Meta had a breakfast of homemade sausage, eggs, coffee, jam and these biscuits ready for us. I will never forget all the smells! The rain, the fresh earth, the sausage and biscuits, with the aroma of good strong black coffee threaded throughout.
I hope you will enjoy these biscuits as much as we do. I make them with a quick jam—any pint of blue, black or raspberries will do. You just smash the berries in a pot with 1/3 cup of sugar, stir and heat over low flame until bubbling, and stir in 2 Tbsp of tapioca starch to thicken.
When making the biscuits, just work with light hands, pinching the butter bits into the flour quickly, and tossing until none of the bits are larger than peas. Meta used a ¼ cup of cream with the ¾ cup buttermilk, but if you want, you can make these with all buttermilk. Don’t overhandle the dough, just pat it out, fold and pat it out again. The folding is what will give you nice flakey layers in the biscuits. Use a 2 ¼-inch round biscuit cutter, dipped into flour and pressed straight down in the dough to cut out the biscuits. Don’t twist the cutter, or the biscuits won’t rise properly. Enjoy! (Photo below: Charlie on the right, with Aiden–aka Buttery Biscuit)