Sunday, June 17, 2018

Cathead Biscuits

Hand-formed, extra large, lard-based cathead biscuits, baked in a hot cast iron skillet.
Hand-formed, extra large, lard-based cathead biscuits, baked in a hot cast iron skillet.

Cathead Biscuits

It's hard to believe from modern-day biscuits, that southern biscuits were once teeny, tiny little things. Not so much anymore, because like many foods, we've super-sized them!

Who can blame us, though. From skillet biscuits, to cream biscuits, to sweet potato, classic buttermilk and everything in between, we do love our biscuits in the south and we pretty much love them large.

Enter, Cathead Biscuits.

A free-formed biscuit, about twice as large as the typical southern biscuit, it is believed that the name came from them being compared to the size of a cat's head.

As to the ingredients, to be honest, all biscuits are pretty basic. It's really not rocket science. Flour, some kind of fat, a little liquid and some sort of a leavening agent is pretty much all that is required. In my opinion, there is only one proper flour for successful biscuits here in the south though, and that is White Lily brand.{affil link}

White Lily brand flour makes the best biscuits!

And no, they don't pay me to say so or even know who I am. It just is. Doesn't matter a bit to me where they're located now either, because it is still a superior low-gluten, soft wheat flour that makes for perfect southern biscuits. I've just not seen another flour perform the same with biscuits.

Cold ingredients are the key!

The preferred fat here is either lard or a vegetable shortening, like Crisco, in place of cold butter that is typically used, and mix very quickly with your fingers. Then stick the whole bowl in the freezer while the oven preheats to get it very cold. Stir the buttermilk in with a fork and then, turn the dough out, trying not to handle it much, only enough to gather it together. Instead of rolling and cutting out the biscuits, I like to sort of pat the dough into a tube shape and then cut it into four equal pieces.

That's more than twice as large as my regular buttermilk biscuits. You can also simply pinch off four equals size pieces of dough and round them out, but cathead biscuits should be hand shaped. For this recipe you'll want four biscuits and place into the greased, preheated iron skillet.

Cathead Biscuits!
They'll surely fill you up real good y'all.

If you're a novice at biscuit-making, these are a super easy one to start with. Serve these catheads up all on their own, with some sawmill gravy, homemade sausage gravy, tomato gravy, or even some chocolate gravy, or just butter 'em up and devour them as is.

What is sawmill gravy?

By the way, while most everybody refers to classic sausage gravy as sawmill gravy, did you know they really are not the same? Authentic sawmill gravy is actually made with cornmeal instead of flour!

It is said that it came about when the kitchens that fed the lumberjacks in the Smoky Mountains ran out of flour one day and substituted cornmeal instead. The result is a gritty gravy, that sort of looks like thin grits, or cream of wheat. The cooks joked and referred to it as gravy made from sawdust, it stuck and sawmill gravy was born!

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Recipe: Cathead Biscuits

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 min |Cook time: 15 min |
Total time: 25 min Yield: 4 biscuits

  • 2 cups self-rising flour (White Lily recommended)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup lard or vegetable shortening (like Crisco)
  • 3/4 cup cold buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Coat a 9 or 10-inch cast iron skillet with a spoon of lard or shortening; set aside. Place flour in a medium sized bowl and whisk in the baking soda; add the 1/4 cup of shortening. Using your fingers, quickly crumble the flour and shortening together. Set bowl in freezer to chill. Don't skip this step! Place skillet into oven and preheat to 450 degrees F.

Using a fork, stir the buttermilk into the flour; dough will be shaggy. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, sprinkle a bit of flour on top and gently knead the flour together, just a few times. Don't over-handle; you don't want the fat in the dough to warm.

Tear off four equal pieces of dough, hand shape into biscuits and press a small dent into the top with your knuckles. Carefully remove hot skillet and place biscuits, sides touching and centered in the skillet. Spoon a bit of the melted butter on top of each biscuit, and return to oven, baking about 12 to 15 minutes, or until tops are light golden brown. Brush with the remaining melted utter before serving.

Cook's Notes: After kneading dough, I like to gently push it into a tube shape and cut the tube into four equal pieces. Shape each piece into a round shape and place into the prepared cast iron skillet; continue as above.


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Check These Other Biscuit Recipes Out Too Y’all!

Perfect Southern Buttermilk Biscuits
Sour Cream Biscuits
Garlic Cheese Biscuits

Posted by on June 17, 2018
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