Appalachian Thursday – Bread on the Table
We had friends over for supper on Sunday and I didn’t serve bread.
It took nerve, I know.
Whether you serve biscuits, cornbread, or light bread, there should ALWAYS be bread on an Appalachian table. Maybe because it helped simple ingredients go a long way. Maybe because it’s GOOD. Especially if you churn your own butter!
Even when my grandmother stopped making her own bread, she would still put a stack of store-bought loaf bread on a plate and sit it on the edge of the table. Unlike that basket of biscuits or homemade rolls, it didn’t go in the middle of the table, but it was there. “Push bread” the men called it because it was handy to push the last bites of food onto their forks.
I make biscuits for weekend breakfasts now and again. I like them split and buttered with maple syrup (I use a fork). Or apple butter! And I make my cornbread with creamed corn so it’s extra moist. (I also add a dab of sugar–blasphemy in the South, but common in Appalachia.) I never have been good at making light bread (yeast bread), but maybe that’s because I had too many ladies in my life who were masters at it.
If you’d like to attempt biscuits, I highly recommend it. They’re pretty easy to make and they’re SO much better than what comes in those supermarket tubes.
- 1/2 cup self-rising flour per biscuit
- 1 T shortening (or lard!) per 1/2 cup of flour
- Buttermilk (not sweet milk) to bind
To make a small pan of biscuits for my husband and me, I use 1 1/2 cups flour, 3 T shortening, and I couldn’t tell you exactly how much buttermilk!
- First, cut the shortening into the flour (I use a pastry cutter, but you can also use your hands if you work fast so the warmth from your hands doesn’t melt the shortening) until the bits of fat are no larger than a pea.
- Make a well in the middle and add the buttermilk a little bit at a time, stirring until the dough just holds together.
- Form a ball and turn it out onto a floured surface. Knead gently–just enough to make sure you have a relatively smooth ball. DO NOT over knead.
- Pat the dough out about an inch thick and cut it out with a biscuit cutter or jelly jar. Place in an ungreased biscuit pan. The sides should just be touching so they’ll meet and rise UP instead of OUT.
- Bake in a 425 degree oven until golden brown–say 15 to 20 minutes.
- Now butter that biscuit and enjoy! (And if you do, send me a picture.)