Chemo and Biscuits

When I was being treated for breast cancer a couple of years ago, chemotherapy did a number on my taste buds. It was like having bad “cotton mouth” for weeks on end. But I still had an appetite of sorts, because they give you really good medicines to counteract potential nausea. Food still smells good, but then you taste it and . . .ugh. Not so good. For whatever reason, I found that I craved biscuits. Not fresh baked biscuits, but the toasted leftovers.

Toasted Biscuits

I remember when I was a little girl my mother used to buy these par-baked biscuits. They came in a little rectangular pan and were small. Maybe 1 ½ inches square. Mom would heat them up for breakfast. At the next meal, she would toast the leftovers, splitting them in half and putting a little pat of butter on top before they went into the oven. They would come out all crispy and golden and buttery. Wonderful.

Marshall's Buttermilk Biscuits

Marshall’s Buttermilk Biscuits

THEN, the leftovers from toasting would go into a baggie and we would eat those at room temperature later. Now, I don’t know why any biscuits would have lasted long enough to go into that bag. You would think with a family of five, a tray of biscuits would disappear in a heartbeat. I don’t know. But I do know that the leftovers in the baggie were my favorite. They had a crispy, buttery, salty crust, with tender biscuit inside. They kind of crumbled in my mouth with a texture that is different from any other kind of bread or cracker.

Marshall's Buttermilk Biscuits

I don’t think the packaging has changed a bit!

When I began to crave biscuits during chemo, it was for those toasted ones. I found them at the East Nashville Piggly Wiggly, which has become my favorite spot for frozen biscuits.

I know biscuits are not the healthiest food for someone fighting cancer. I do. But I figured that since I was going through chemo I could make some allowances. Besides, I still did not have a great appetite. When I found something I wanted to eat, I did not judge.

More Toasty Goodness

More Toasty Goodness

Want to make your own shards of buttery toasted biscuity goodness? Just split any biscuit in half, spread a generous dollop of butter or margarine on top, and bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Biscuit Making Begins

Finally! All this talk of biscuits and none to be found in my own kitchen? Time to fix that. I’d been obsessively pinning biscuit recipes, scouring cookbooks, and looking through my grandmother’s old recipes and newspaper clippings, trying to find the best recipe. I had also read several posts from people who have lots of advice to give on how to make the very best biscuit. Eventually, I just had to bite the bullet and choose one.

fresh baked biscuit

Where did this biscuit recipe come from?

It originally came from a cookbook of recipes provided by Tupelo Honey Cafe, aka Biscuit Mecca. Here is a link to the Project Foodie post I found with the recipe.

Tupelo Honey Cafe Cookbook

Why choose this biscuit recipe?

Hello – Tupelo Honey! Also, there is lots of butter and buttermilk involved so it seemed like a no brainer. At the same time, I cannot believe that Tupelo Honey would share their actual biscuit recipe. I mean, isn’t the real one locked up somewhere?

Tupeolo Honey Biscuit

What is Persnickety about this biscuit recipe?

I was most fascinated by the idea of grating frozen butter – I had never heard of doing that before. I also found the choice of bread flour intriguing. Everything I’ve read says that when baking biscuits you want to use flour that is low in protein, like White Lily. Bread flour is actually higher in protein even than all purpose flour. But did I let that stop me? Of course not.

grated butter

Look at all that butter!

Was the biscuit recipe altered in any way?

The first time I made these, I stuck with the recipe. The second time, I used shortening instead of butter, which also meant that I could skip the grating part. Shortening does not get as hard as butter in the freezer so it is not necessary. It also would have been impossible!

biscuit baking

I like to pull out all my ingredients when I bake.

So how were the biscuits?

The first time I set the biscuits several inches apart when baking. The outside was more crisp than I like. Rookie mistake. I learned that you should bake biscuits close together – actually touching – to keep them as moist on the sides the way I like them. But they still rose well and were flaky and had a good flavor.

baking biscuits

The second time I baked them right next to each other and was happier with those results. I still found them flaky, but a little too dense. I was looking for a more moist, fluffy biscuit.

second try biscuits

The third attempt was actually a variation on the first two. I had heard you could freeze biscuits uncooked and then just bake them directly from the freezer. It makes sense. I’ve bought commercial frozen biscuits before and that worked great. So I froze some from each batch and tried baking them later. I found that it worked ok. They did not seem to rise as much as the originals but were still pretty good. Makes me wonder, though, if the commercial biscuits have different ingredients.

Would you make them again?

Probably not. They were good but definitely not of Tupelo Honey quality. I realize that could be due to my inexperience, but need to try more recipes before I’ll know. The quest continues.