If you walk into our Test Kitchen today, you’ll walk out veiled in White Lily flour. All week we’ve been cutting butter and pouring buttermilk into thousands (yep, thousands) of biscuits, in preparation for this weekend’s festival honoring the buttery, flaky, fluffy cornerstone of Southern cuisine.
The folks running Knoxville’s 3rd Annual International Biscuit Festival—they call themselves the Biscuit Brain Trust—aren’t messing around. Sure to satisfy any biscuit lover, there will be a maze of bakers serving their best along a Biscuit Boulevard (we’ll be there!), shopping in a Biscuit Bazaar, a Biscuit Songwriting Competition, and, of course, a Biscuit Bake Off that’ll crown the best of the best.
I’ve accepted the precarious task of demonstrating, in front of hundreds of biscuit fanatics, how to make a biscuit. I’m apprehensive about the demo because the truth is, there are tons of differing opinions (usually rooted in family recipes) as to what makes a biscuit great. A couple of years ago, I even wrote an article about the variety of ingredients common to biscuit baking and how the end result will change when you use, for example, White Lily vs. cake flour or butter vs. lard.
Instead of talking about the merits of various ingredients, I’ve settled on dishing one piece of advice to the crowd of devotees: you’re golden if you stick with a recipe that calls for cold fat, a hot oven, and one that makes you happy while your baking. It’s something I was reminded of this week as our Test Kitchen baked batch after batch. We used a Buttermilk Biscuit recipe that’s more than a decade old. Sticking with a dead simple, familiar recipe made the baking fun for our team and something you can taste in the end result.
Join us in Knoxville this Friday and Saturday to celebrate all things biscuit! If you can’t make it, bake a batch of biscuits at home. On Saturday, we’ll be serving those buttermilk biscuits, draped in Pickled Strawberries and finished with a pillow of whipped cream. That’s right, Pickled Strawberry Shortcake Biscuits.
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, thinly sliced
1 tsp. whole allspice
1/2 tsp. whole cloves
Cheesecloth and Kitchen string
3 cups sugar
3 1/2 cups white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
6 to 7 lb. fresh strawberries
1. Place first 4 ingredients in a 6″ square of cheesecloth; tie with kitchen string.
2. Place sugar, vinegar, nutmeg, 2 1/2 c. water, and cheesecloth bag and vinegar in a large non-aluminum saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to low; add strawberries and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes or until strawberries are tender.
3. Remove hot strawberries with a slotted spoon, reserving syrup in saucepan. Pack fruit into 8 (2 pt.) jars, filling 1/2-inch from top.
4. Bring syrup to a boil over high heat, and boil, stirring occasionally, 12 minutes or until thickened. Pour hot syrup over strawberries filling to 1/2-inch from top. Cool completely (about 30 minutes). Cover and chill 2 hours. Refrigerate up to 1 month.