Butter Palm or Appalachian Biscuits
These are a delicious family recipe. This is the method that my mom, grandmother, granny, and her mother, and her mother made biscuits. I can only assume that this method that has been passed down in my family came from a time when no one had rolling pins, or thought to cut a biscuit out with a tin can. I have only heard of a few other families that used this method, and they lived in close proximity to my family. I have recently learned that this method is also known as Appalachian biscuits. Appalachian biscuits are made in the palm of the hand like I have been taught. Usually families made little ones for everyday, and very special occasions, giant biscuits were made called cat head biscuits. I can only assume they were called cat head biscuits because they were close to the same size as a cat’s head. Too funny! This recipe can be made completely authentic by substituting the crisco for lard. To make the cat head biscuits, just double the recipe and make biscuits in your hand the size of your cat’s head (or the neighborhood cat!). I make them a bit smaller than the size of my cat’s head, because he is a giant Maine Coon, a huge barn cat. I have never made them this way, because the thought of it makes my arteries clog, ad I know I would eat the whole batch by myself. My great grandmother started using crisco instead of the lard. The technique with this recipe is very easy once you get the hang of it, you just have to not be afraid of getting your hands messy. Just be sure to take your rings off first! You can even make this recipe straight on the counter by making a well in the flour for the milk. I know that this method is used when making pasta an old Italian way. If anyone knows any other information about this method or any similar experiences, I would love to hear them.
Yield: Serves 4
Butter Palm or Appalachian Biscuits
2 Cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
Butter to top biscuits
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Sift baking powder, salt and flour together. Add vegetable shortening and combine with a fork until mixture is crumbly. Then make a well in the middle of the mixture and add the milk. Mix with the fork till it begins to come together.
Then take out out and place on a lightly floured surface. Fold over and knead just a few times until everything is incorporated. Do not overwork the dough.
Then instead of rolling out the dough, tear away a golf ball size ball of dough, and with lightly floured hands roll around in the hand about 4-5 times till you get a uniform slightly flatted ball. Do this by having your left hand, if right handed, palm up , fingers together, and flat. Put the dough in the middle of your palm, and with the other hand make a closed dome with your hand so that the dough is enclosed in your hands.
Then take your right hand and move in a complete circle so that the dough is always touching the left hand, yet is moving around the palm of the hand. Do 4-5 quick complete circles in the palm. The dough should then be a circle that is slightly flattened. Then place on your cookie sheet. Use two fingers to press down in the center to create a slight depression.
Place biscuits just touching on cookie sheet for more of a rise and soft sides. For crunchy biscuits with soft centers, space then about an inch apart. Then place 1/2 a pad of butter in each depression on every biscuit. Then bake your biscuits at 450 degrees until golden brown.