Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Old Fashioned Biscuit Bread

A quick biscuit bread, sometimes called hoecake bread, fried in bacon drippings in a screaming hot, cast iron skillet on top of the stove.
A quick biscuit bread, sometimes called hoecake bread, fried in bacon drippings in a screaming hot, cast iron skillet on top of the stove.

Old Fashioned Biscuit Bread

Though skillet bread has been around since pre-Colonial times, this biscuit bread was likely a staple during the Great Depression and probably most often eaten for breakfast, typically just torn from the cake, rather than cut.

Not much more than simply flour, fat and milk back then, and often only water, when there was no money for milk. Thankfully we can be just a tad more indulgent and use a little butter and some buttermilk in ours. If you're in the mood for biscuits but don't want to bother with the rolling and cutting out part, this is a great way to get them, because essentially this is pretty much just one giant biscuit, with a different preparation.

Some southerners call this skillet biscuit a hoecake, and as always, we southerners can get a little bit, well... let's say passionate, about something we grew up with, especially when it comes to food. Some of us insist a hoecake is a small medallion of cornmeal cakes cooked in a skillet, sort of like a pancake. Others of us say that this flour rendition is a hoecake, and their cornmeal cousins are something altogether different. I say that, just like cornbread and potato salad in your gumbo, I think it honestly just depends on where you grew up and what you grew up knowing. No one way is the only right way, except your mama's way!

No matter whether you call this a hoecake, biscuit bread, flour bread, flitter bread, flour pone, ponecake, pone bread, biscuit pone, skillet bread, skillet biscuit  or gallettes - just a few of the many names this bread is known by - there seems to be at least two solid rules to this biscuit bread. It should be cooked in a cast iron skillet and always on the top of the stove, though a third rule for using bacon fat doesn't really hurt either if you ask me.

I like to cover the skillet when the bread is cooking, because it seems to help to retain the heat, giving a better rise on the dough and cooks it through more evenly and faster.  I also like to pour some melted butter on top after I turn it, but that's just me, so it's optional. You can just add your butter as you pull off a chunk.

Biscuit bread is suitable for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and it's as good drizzled with syrup or honey, as it is as a side bread for soup, beans, chicken and dumplings, or with Sunday supper.

Here's how to make it.

In an 8-inch cast iron skillet, melt the bacon fat over medium high heat.

Meanwhile, cut the cold butter into the flour. Although I didn't show it here, I just used a pastry cutter as usual.

Add only enough buttermilk to form into a stiff, shaggy dough - like a biscuit dough.

You could potentially just dump this mass of dough in your hot skillet and mash it in real quick, but I prefer to gather the dough up a bit first. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and sprinkle a little flour on top. Pull the dough together to form a disc.

Turn over and tighten the disc, shaping it slightly smaller than the skillet. Sorry for the shading - I apparently had a lighting issue with my camera. Hey, I never said I was a photographer!

Use a wide spatula to carefully lift the dough up and transfer to the hot skillet. This actually works easier if you can get the dough and the skillet in close proximity to each other, but if you don't get it in there perfect don't sweat it either. The dough should sizzle - pretty much the same as it does with your skillet cornbread. Reduce heat to between medium to medium low and cover the skillet.

Cook until the bread browns then flip over. Cooking time is gonna be dependent on how your heat is set and how hot your skillet is, so just use a spatula to peek under it every once in awhile and don't go running off to check your Facebook page. By the way... if your dough sticks, then it's time to re-season your skillet.

I like to go ahead and pour melted butter on top once I flip it, but that is totally optional. You can omit it and just save the butter for later. Cover the skillet and cook until browned on the other side.

Cut into wedges or break off pieces and tell me you don't just love this old fashioned recipe!

Serve your chunks with pure butter, honey, sorghum or cane syrup, or use your favorite jam, jelly, preserves or fruit butter, or eat it as a bread for supper.

For more of my favorite quick bread recipes, visit my page on Pinterest!

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Posted by on February 22, 2012
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