Jackie Garvin's Biscuit War
How a blogger turned cookbook author mastered making the perfect Southern biscuit.
When Jackie Garvin started her food blog Syrup & Biscuits in 2009, she was looking for a creative outlet after working in the health care field for many years. The name is a nod to the breakfast her granddaddy ate every day of his life, but it didn’t take long for Garvin to realize canned biscuits weren’t going to cut it in her own kitchen any more.
She had collected an audience on Facebook by posting stories about summers spent in Alabama picking blackberries with her grandmother, making jellies and cobbler, but that grandmother had stopped making homemade biscuits by then. “I didn’t have anybody to teach me,” Garvin says. “I had experimented with biscuits, failed every way that you can fail, hard or soggy or burned or raw. I had given up.”
But with a growing following on her blog to consider, she rolled up her sleeves and tried again. Drop biscuits using Bisquick came first, but Garvin wasn’t satisfied. “I thought I would get real brave and try my hand at rolling and cutting biscuits,” she says. “They turned out OK, but just weren’t fluffy.”
After that, Garvin began to approach biscuit making as more of an academic venture. She studied techniques, watched videos on YouTube and wrote up bullet points. “I went into my kitchen and we were going to duke it out,” she says. The first time she tried her newly learned techniques, her biscuits turned out just like she wanted them to. “I remember putting them in the oven and looking through the window to watch them to make sure they were going to rise,” she says. “You really can demystify the process. I can teach anybody to make biscuits based on my failures.”
To get all of Garvin’s biscuit secrets and recipes, you’ll have to purchase her new book BISCUITS: Sweet and Savory Southern Recipes for the All-American Kitchen, available from Skyhorse Publishing this week. We did persuade her to give us a few hints though.
She says the essential ingredients — soft wheat flour (Garvin prefers White Lily) fat and buttermilk — make a difference. Your fat and liquid should be cold, and the real secret is in the way you cut in the fat either with a biscuit cutter or your fingers. “Don’t rely on a recipe to tell you what the appropriate ratio between dry and wet ingredients should be,” Garvin advises. “That’s where touch comes in and you have faith and pray for grace.”
As for the syrup part, Garvin, who lives in Florida, recalls her grandmother mixing in softened butter with the cane syrup. “You didn’t spread that on your biscuit, you tore off a piece and sopped up the syrup and the butter,” she adds.
Get more of Garvin’s biscuit tips and her recipe for Buttermilk Biscuits here.
Jean / May 21, 2015
My Aunt Mary made the best biscuits in my family in rural Alabama. She would not divulge her secret, however. I picked up the techniques from watching her but could not duplicate the recipe. I finally learned that the secret was yeast. She was making angel biscuits, and that is what I make when I make biscuits now. I even learned a shortcut, using biscuit mix and yeast. By the way, she preferred White Lily flour too.