Perfectly flaky, light and tender biscuits might be the holy grail of Southern baking. Heritage recipes abound and there’s no lack of opinions on the best method and the right ingredients.
Now Erika Council, chef and owner of Bomb Biscuit Co., has written what might be the quintessential guide to biscuit making, “Still We Rise: A Love Letter to the Southern Biscuit With Over 70 Sweet and Savory Recipes” (Clarkson Potter, $26), which releases Aug. 8.
“Although much has been written about biscuits, I felt something was always missing from these stories, something that seemed representative of me,” she writes in the introduction to the cookbook. “In my research into biscuit books, none highlighted the contributions of Black bakers and chefs, yet my entire education on the subject has been guided by Black hands,” she writes in her introduction.
In an interview, Council said biscuits are something she’s always been good at making. “I learned to make them working at my grandmother’s restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She served biscuits at every meal. I learned them from my other grandma who was a baker for the church. I thought about being a chef, but I saw the reality of the restaurant business, and decided to go into computer software.”
Then she found herself baking to relieve the stress of her corporate job in information technology. “Baking calmed me. First I was just cooking for friends, but they would recommend my baking to other friends. Then I started doing pop-up dinners.”
In 2016, she opened a biscuit delivery service that drew national attention. Today she’s operating a brick-and-mortar location in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood.
There’s often a line out the door at Bomb Biscuit Co. Biscuits are available a la carte, but also serve as the platform for sandwiches like her classic breakfast and brunch biscuit with bacon, egg and cheese, as well as the “glori-fried” (fried) lemon pepper chicken biscuits. Recipes for these favorites plus jams, spreads and butters are all included in the book’s more than 70 recipes.
There are more than 20 variations on basic biscuits, almost a dozen savory variations, as well as almost a dozen sweet variations. Council also provides a thorough discussion of biscuit fundamentals including ingredients, tools and techniques.
Council writes that the cookbook is a love letter to the African American women and men who have both inspired and taught her along the way. “As my mother would say, ‘They’re still here, because I’m still here.’ By the end of this cookbook, you’ll know them all a little bit, and a little more about me.”
Erika Council’s cookbook is a love letter to biscuits and the generations of biscuit makers that came before her. It offers more than 70 recipes, including these sky-high classic buttermilk biscuits, buttery bliss biscuits and throw-back biscuits made moist with evaporated milk.
The Bomb Buttermilk Biscuit
This recipe is the classic buttermilk biscuit perfected and the foundation of Erika Council’s success as a biscuit entrepreneur. Council includes detailed explanations and tips to help you duplicate her high-rising tender flaky biscuits.
We found we did not need the full 1 1/2 cups buttermilk when making these biscuits, so follow Council’s direction to add part of the buttermilk and adjust the total amount as needed.
Published with permission from “Still We Rise: A Love Letter to the Southern Biscuit With Over 70 Sweet and Savory Recipes” by Erika Council (Clarkson Potter, $26).
Butter Swim Biscuits
“Butter swim biscuits are made by letting buttermilk biscuit dough literally swim in a pool of melted butter,” Council writes in her introduction to this recipe.
“Butter swims are close to my favorite way to bake biscuits, mainly because they defy all the cardinal ‘rules’ that one MUST supposedly follow to master the perfect biscuit. You don’t need very cold or frozen butter; you can even use room-temperature buttermilk.” The dough is mixed in one bowl as your butter melts in a baking dish, and then you pour the biscuit batter over the melted butter. “The biscuit dough will look like over-oiled focaccia, but don’t worry, the butter will bake right into that batter, giving you crispy-crust biscuits with soft and fluffy interiors. Call it buttery bliss in a baking dish. Now say that five times fast.”
Fellowship Hall Biscuits
“In the past, the cost of butter and buttermilk made these ingredients more of a luxury than a necessity in biscuits and other baked goods. Most of the older cookbooks and cooks I referenced didn’t automatically suggest these items were needed to make great biscuits,” Council writes in her introduction to this recipe.
“Common ingredients were instead likely to be lard and whole or canned milk, or maybe even water. Evaporated milk has always intrigued me. From its use as a brine for fried chicken to its role as an ingredient for biscuits, evaporated milk is an economical liquid substitute that plays a recurring role in a lot of my family’s recipes from the late ‘50s and ‘60s. In these biscuits, evaporated milk acts as an enriching agent by adding both moisture and an intense milky flavor.”
We found we did not need the full 1 1/2 cups of evaporated milk when making these biscuits, so start with about half and then add as much as needed to make a shaggy, sticky dough.