Biscuits and I have never been friends. From my first time eating them, to versions prepared by famous chefs from across the South, I never warmed up to them, even when they were warm. Now I realize, I had been tasting biscuits that had either gone too gourmet (and not tastier for that) or some that were just not good enough. Luckily for me, a visit by Bret Bannon, a dear friend from Minneapolis, changed this forever.
The last 16 months or so have brought biscuits to the center of our breakfast table. Every visiting guest is treated to these. Made in minutes, they delight, charm and change peoples thoughts quite easily. Those that have always loved biscuits get to experience biscuits many call the "biscuits of all biscuits". Our friend Sally Longo, left this doormat outside our door during the holidays, as a gag gift. Why? Because she spends some weekends with us, as we entertain dear friends, and each morning, we all wake up to the sweet smell of buttery biscuits.
I was surprised that these biscuits are made in a cast iron skillet. Not on a sheet. a couple of tablespoons of butter are melted in the skillet, and the biscuits are then ducked into them and then the buttered side left up. Shaped between your two hands, they are made quickly without fuss, and with a gentle hand.
The other day I had the pleasure of making some in the Bake Oven at Sally Brillon's hearth. They were even better than the already fantastic biscuits we have come to expect from Bret's recipe. A recipe that he learned from his grandmother and mother in Florida. Bret would wake up to the sound of the fat being cut into the flour.
At our home, biscuits take on a global flair. You always find creme fraiche besides them. An array of home made jams and jellies, and even some made by friends that have brought some to our home as hostess gifts. Blueberry and lemon jam, strawberry jam, cherry jam, sour-cherry jam, white-peach jam, peach jam, rhubarb chutney and this year, we were lucky to also have gooseberry jam that our friend Hiroko Shimbo had brought to us. Cut into half crosswise, we end up serving the first ones our way, to those willing to experience them our way. A smear of room temperature Cultured Butter with Sea Salt, then a dollop of creme fraiche and then a pouring of homemade jam or jelly over that. First bite, and the expression on the faces of our friends, tells one everything you need to know. You can tell they are enjoying biscuits like they never have before. If you check the photos above, you will see how the cast iron skillet gives the biscuits a wonderful crusty outside, the inside is flaky, crumbly and light as air.
Depending on what I am serving with breakfast, and if we have something savory or not, I add a tablespoon of sugar into the flour. If I know we will eat the biscuits wholly as something sweet with breakfast, then I also throw in some lemon zest. Charlie and I have made them with all whole-wheat pastry flour as well, and they are still a lot better than biscuits you find in most places. There is something about the Bannon-Family recipe, that is very forgiving and very special. Bret asked that I share the recipe in my next book, and that he too would share it in his, and I will respect his wishes. One part of me wants to give it to everyone, so if there are others like me, who are on the fence about biscuits, they can taste biscuits the way them must have been prepared once. For those like Charlie's grandmother, from West Virginia, that are older now, and unable to make their own, these are biscuits that take them to their own grandmothers cooking. It was funny that during Christmas, Charlies grandma loves me making them almost daily. And she asked if I would come back with her to Huntington, so I could continue making them for her. She called them the "best-ever-biscuits" and that was the best compliment I could have gotten. But the compliment is not mine to have, it belongs to Bret Bannon, and his family. And I am in deep gratitude to him for having brought such amazing biscuits to my life, and that of all that we know.
You can learn more about Bret by visiting his site. If you live in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul) reach out to Bret. He will teach you how to cook great food, with minimal fuss, and he will also add to your life some magic, that will transform how you cook, eat, entertain and think about life. Bret is special, his recipes wonderful and his soul the kindest and sweetest there can be. And as you can see, his families recipe for biscuits changed my opinion about biscuits and thereby, sweetened our breakfast table, and elevated the experience people would take from it.