I could listen to my friend Martha Hopkins talk about biscuits all day.
I met this lively Austinite, a Memphis native best known as the author of "InterCourses," through the cookbook world, and it seems like every time I see her, we end up talking about either biscuits or buttermilk.
Earlier this year, she hosted a biscuit-and-buttermilk brunch that blew me away. It wasn’t just the super flaky, out-of-this-world biscuits she served, but how laid back the brunch was because Hopkins had made all the biscuit dough ahead of time and simply had to throw them in the oven as guests ate platter after platter of them.
Even though I’d eaten her biscuits, I’d never had the chance to make them with her until last week when we got together for a little biscuit-making 101 for today’s lead story in the food section, and I should have known when I showed up that we wouldn’t just be talking about biscuits.
It turns out, Hopkins’ love of biscuits comes from her mom, who made them so frequently when Martha was a kid that she never had to measure the ingredients. Now, every time Hopkins makes biscuits, she’s channeling and remembering her mom, who died last year.
When I was talking to my co-worker, Christian McDonald, about what a sweet story this turned out to be, he told me his own story about learning how to make biscuits and chocolate gravy as a way to connect with his two high school-aged boys. Thankfully, he didn’t balk when I asked if he’d want to put his story into writing to run alongside Martha’s story in today’s paper.
So many foods, not just biscuits, turn out to be vehicles for family memories and bonding, and these kinds of stories are my favorite to write because they remind us that it’s worth the effort to make something from scratch if it means we’re preserving something greater than ourselves.
Hopkins published a version of this recipe in her bestselling book, "InterCourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook," which first came out in 1997. They were originally cut in wedges like scones, but if you cut them in circles, they become biscuits, and Hopkins says that most scone and biscuit recipes are as easily interchangeable. You could use just about any combination of herbs and cheese you’d like in place of the rosemary and manchego.
3 cups self-rising flour, preferably Martha White or White Lily
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
2-3 Tbsp. finely chopped rosemary, or less if desired
1 Tbsp. sugar
8 Tbsp. (1/2 cup) high-quality lard, chilled
1/2 to 1 cup grated manchego cheese
1 cup buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the flour, salt, pepper, rosemary and sugar in a food processor and pulse just to combine. Add the lard and pulse just until the mixture becomes the texture of coarse meal, but with some large pieces of lard still remaining. (Alternatively, just use your hands and work the the lard into butter-bean-sized pieces.)
Place the mixture into a large mixing bowl and add the cheese, tossing to combine. Add the buttermilk, and stir until just combined. Remove the mixture to a floured surface.
Using your hands, quickly pat the dough until it is about an inch thick. Cut the biscuits out of the dough and place on the baking sheet and brush with melted butter or cream. Bake for 13 to 18 minutes or until golden brown.
The biscuits are best eaten immediately, split open with a thick smear of softened butter or as a mini-sandwich of Serrano ham, sliced manchego, and a touch of mayonnaise to bind it all together.
— Adapted from "InterCourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook" (Terrace Publishing, $29.95) by Martha Hopkins and Randall Lockridge