Before I visited North America, my concept of a ‘biscuit’ was Parle-G or Marie, which I fondly remember dipping in tea and eating in our neighbour’s fluorescent tube-lit living room in Mumbai, while watching Hindi movies on the TV. The hot tea and biscuits became even more comforting if it was pouring outside.
Biscuits in the US are completely different. They resemble small bread rolls, but are much lighter with a flaky crust. Americans love biscuits with eggs and sausage either for a special breakfast, or at cheap 24-hour diners very late in the night after several hours of drinking to “soak up the alcohol.” I don’t know how well that works but you can certainly enjoy them with gravy. Of course, in America, what Indians call gravy is just curry juice. American gravy is a sauce made with flour and the fatty drippings from roasting a chicken or turkey. It is common to find a basket of warm biscuits served at Thanksgiving, alongside the turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes.
Biscuits with fried eggs have become my American comfort food, but I also love biscuits drizzled with honey.
There are quite a few different ways to make biscuits. Southerners make it with buttermilk. I learned this recipe for a very dear Southern friend, who taught me many wonderful lessons in Southern hospitality and cooking.
Note: The recipe calls for shortening. Shortening is hydrogenated vegetable oil and is 100% fat, with 0% water content. Shortening itself does not have flavour and produces flaky biscuits. Depending on the country of origin, butter is typically between 82-86% fat, and the rest is water. Butter can be substituted, though the biscuits will be far less flaky and will take on some of the flavour of the butter. Shortening causes the biscuit to rise more in the oven, whereas biscuits made with butter are slightly flatter.
• 3 cups flour, sifted
• 2 tsp baking powder
• 1 tbsp sugar
• 1 tsp salt
• ¾ cup shortening (or butter)
• 9 grams yeast (1 ½ packets yeast)
• 1 cup buttermilk
1. In a mixing bowl, mix the sifted flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.
2. Add in the shortening. Mix. (If using butter, cut the cold butter into small pieces and mix with the dry ingredients until the mixture has a coarse texture, like breadcrumbs.)
3. Dissolve the yeast in ¼ cup of warm water. Add it to the buttermilk. Add the liquids to the flour mixture.
4. Mix the dough. It should be quite soft. Knead it and form a cylindrical roll. Cut into biscuits. The dough should make a dozen biscuits.
5. Cover the biscuits with a dry towel and let the dough rise for 2 hours in a warm place.
6. Preheat the oven 225 degrees (or 400 degrees Fahrenheit). Bake for approximately 12 minutes. The biscuits are done when they are light brown.
7. Serve warm, drizzled with honey.
It might just become your comfort food as well.