To my way of thinking there’s not much that compares to the smell and taste of homemade biscuits hot from the oven. A simpler bread there never was, nor a more adaptable one. You can fill them or roll them up with sugar and cinnamon. You can serve them at any meal of the day, accompanied by butter, jam, honey or just bear naked; they never fail to please.
If you’ve got a big Kitchen Aid mixer or the like, it does the work for you, and if you’ve followed my advice and bought yourself a pastry mat, clean up is a breeze. So this is why it surprises me that those nasty baking mixes continue to line the supermarket shelves and can readily be found in homes across America. No one would make ’em if they didn’t sell.
And don’t even get me started on this abomination. He has creeped me out ever since I learned to spin the dial on the big Motorola floor model in Grammie Sue’s living room. That giggle, the fetal dough face, the neck scarf with no pants. Gives me a shudder just thinking about it. Always has. And if you’ve never taken a squint at the nutritional content (and I’m slinging the term nutritional around here with what can only be called reckless abandon) of Bisquick or the dough boy’s demon offspring, you really should. Nasty fats and sodium levels at least double what you find in scratch made biscuits.
If you’re familiar with my culinary ramblings, you’ll recall that I have a soft spot for the cuisine of the atomic age: casseroles, Jell-O, turkey divan and such. And until recently – like yesterday – I had thought that this kind of food had met a fate similar to that of Latin: more or less dead and just kind of limping along in places no one wanted to go, like church services and criminal court. Well, it’s easier to come by than you might think, and I’m big enough to admit I was wrong. In fact, after two days at the trough in Ohio I’m also big enough to land a fighter jet on.
That’s correct, I’ve just finished up a mini-tour through the heartland where the trees are turning, the air is clean, and the folks are unfailingly friendly. Unfortunately the coffee is thin, the gravy is white and apparently the Velveeta runs like a river through the entire region. Now, I have it on good authority that there is plenty of good food to be found in corn country, but I cannot honestly say that I encountered much.
That’s right, ladies, I said PIE CRUST. I’m opening strong, gambling that this will not scare off the one or two readers I have straight out of the gate, and I’m doing it because I am not afraid.
I grew up in Maine where chowder, baked beans and pie are the holy trinity of soul food and standards for all are ridiculously high. My Grammie Sue taught me to make crust from scratch, and I have even been known to do it from time to time; however, state visits are relatively rare in my house these days, and Anthony Bourdain doesn’t drop by as often as he once did. Generally, the folks I entertain are not what we would call gourmands, especially when it comes to baked goods. As a rule, they find a homemade pie sufficiently impressive to skip over a detailed investigation of what went into it. And I have never had a piece pushed away after one bite accompanied by a moue of distaste and an incredulous pie crust from a mix?.
That’s correct. I use a pie crust mix. And on the subject I have two words for you: BETTY CROCKER. The mix, not the book. It is the only palatable alternative to scratch crust, and in my world, unless you’re making lard piecrust – yup, lard as in rendered animal fat – there’s really no point in putting in the effort. In case you’re interested, here’s a good recipe for lard pie crust, though I think you can safely skip over the madness about the wood stove and canning up front.
Here’s what you should never do: use premade frozen crusts, buy those vile floppy rounds by Pillsbury (they taste like plastic), make crust using a Jiffy mix (beyond inedible). These are all gag inducing, utterly revolting.
Now, with the Betty Crocker crust mix, you do have to roll out the dough, but it’s a pie ferchrissakes, as my angel mother would say, and there’s no way to make a decent one without a modicum of effort. You’ll need a rolling pin, but a wine bottle will do in a pinch.
Want to make a pie? Here’s what you do.