Regina Charboneau’s Butter Biscuits

The Biscuit Queen

My sweet mother, a sixth-generation Natchezian, often admitted that her least favorite room in the house was the kitchen. In Natchez, Mississippi, you’d encounter biscuits at many meals — both breakfast and dinner. Most every household had a qualified biscuit maker who, more often than not, had a special wooden bowl used daily for the sole purpose of making biscuits.
My mother could not make a biscuit without the sound of a pressurized tube being popped open.
It was not until I was a culinary student at La Varenne in Paris, and French friends requested Southern biscuits, that I attempted to make my first biscuit. I was a mere 24 years old.
I knew the basic ingredients for biscuits were flour, sugar, baking powder, Crisco and buttermilk. But when I went shopping in Paris, I could not find Crisco. I thought of replacing it with butter, but I knew that if I used all butter I would have a shortbread instead of biscuits. So I decided to use three parts margarine, which seemed a better substitute for Crisco. I kept one part butter for richness.
That decision served me well, and the biscuits I made that day in Paris nearly 40 years ago are the biscuits I make today — it’s still my go-to recipe.

—Regina Charboneau

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup baking powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, chilled and cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) salted margarine, chilled and cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1-3/4  cups buttermilk, chilled

Directions

  1. Put flour, baking powder and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Turn the machine on low and blend the dry ingredients for 15 seconds.
  2. Add the butter, margarine and buttermilk to flour mixture before turning mixer back on. Turn mixer on medium and count to 10. This goes very quickly; the key is to not overmix the dough. There will be large chunks of margarine, the size of quarters, in the dough.
  3. Scrape dough from the bowl onto a generously floured tea towel (or other floured work surface) and shape into a long, vertical rectangle about 2 inches thick. The dough will seem rough and messy. Using the edges of the towel, fold the lower part of the dough (about one third) toward the center, then fold the top portion down. With a rolling pin, roll dough out to a 2-inch thickness. Fold the two ends in again, lifting the edges of the towel to help move the dough. Give dough a one-quarter turn, and roll it out again to a 2-inch thickness. Continue folding, turning and rolling dough until it is smooth, with noticeable yellow ribbons of butter and margarine throughout.
  4. Roll dough to a 1-1/2-inch thickness. Using a 2-inch biscuit cutter, cut dough into rounds. Punch cutter into dough cleanly, without twisting. When refolding and rerolling the dough, gently stack it to retain the layers. Do not overwork.
  5. Place biscuits on a baking sheet and freeze. Once they are frozen, transfer biscuits to plastic bags. The unbaked biscuits can be frozen for 2 months.
  6. To bake, heat oven to 350 degrees. Place frozen biscuits in the cups of muffin tins, and let thaw in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. Bake until golden brown, 23 to 25 minutes.
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