Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock, authors of The Gift of Southern Cooking (Knopf, 2003), are well-known American chefs with Southern roots. An unlikely duo with a 40-year age difference, they were brought together by their love for Southern cooking. According to these two, there are five secrets to making great biscuits: soft Southern flour; homemade baking powder; good, fresh, very cold lard; good, fresh, very cold buttermilk; and a very hot oven. Peacock made these for Lewis for her 75th birthday.
- 5 cups sifted White Lily flour, measured after sifting
- 1 tbsp. plus 1/2 tsp. Homemade Baking Powder
- 1 tbsp. kosher salt
- 1⁄2 cup (1/2 lb.) packed lard, chilled
- 1 1⁄4 cups buttermilk
- 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 500°. Put the flour, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl and whisk well to blend thoroughly. Add the lard and, working quickly, coat it in flour and rub between your fingertips until approximately half the lard is finely blended and the other half remains in large pieces, about 1⁄2" in size. Pour in the buttermilk and stir quickly just until the dough is blended and begins to mass.
Turn the dough immediately out onto a floured surface and with floured hands knead briskly 8-10 times, until it becomes cohesive. Gently flatten the dough with your hands into a disk of even thinness; then, using a floured rolling pin, roll it out to a uniform thickness of 1⁄2".
With a dinner fork dipped in flour, pierce the dough completely through at 1⁄2" intervals. Lightly flour a 2 1⁄2" or 3" biscuit cutter and stamp out rounds, without twisting the cutter in the dough. Cut the biscuits from the dough as close together as you can, for maximum yield. Transfer them to a parchment-lined baking sheet, placing them so that they just barely kiss. Don't reroll the scraps. Just arrange them around the edge of the sheet and bake them—cook's treat.
Put the baking sheet immediately on the center rack of the preheated oven. Bake 10-12 minutes, checking after 6 minutes or so and turning the pan if needed for even baking. When the biscuits are golden brown, remove them from the oven and brush the tops with the melted butter.