Cathead biscuits are an old Southern tradition. These biscuits are huge and round, just like a cat’s head, hence the name. As times change and technology go forward, many of the old Southern recipes and terms, such as cathead, fall out of favor. But nothing beats sitting down to the table and having one of these huge, fluffy biscuits either slathered in homemade jam, sausage or chocolate gravy, or buttered with either syrup or molasses.
My mother was not a biscuit maker. The few times she made biscuits, the NHL called and wanted their pucks back. I think she didn’t make homemade biscuits, because her mother, my grandmother, wasn’t a biscuit maker. Luckily, I have a few friends, including Julie, who taught me how to make biscuits.
A few notes on biscuit making: Normally, I use my hands to mix my biscuit dough, and I mix it until it ‘”feels right.” That’s not very helpful to someone who’s trying to follow a recipe. I have included another way to do it, with some “signs” they are being mixed correctly. Biscuits aren’t hard to make, they just take practice. Also, I mainly use shortening, never oil. Shortening just seems to blend better and makes the biscuit light and fluffy. Finally, I have had biscuits made with lard and I will say those are the best tasting, flakiest, moistest biscuits I have ever put in my mouth. Even I draw the line somewhere in my cooking. If I used lard to bake with, I wouldn’t fit at my chair here in front of the computer. If you get a chance to try lard for baking, I encourage you to do so. I just don’t recommend it on a daily basis.
2 and 1/4 cup self-rising flour Note: I recommend White Lily brand flour. Some of my “Yankee” friends have told me that they have trouble finding White Lily up in the northern regions of the U.S. I recommend buying a regular type of flour and a fine cake flour and combining them in equal parts.
1 cup of buttermilk Note: You can use plain milk, but it has to be whole milk. Buttermilk gives the biscuits their slight “tang” and I recommend its use, but whole milk can be substituted.
4 and 1/2 tablespoons of shortening, lard, or even unsalted butter. Note: I usually use a “scoop of shortening that looks right.” I actually measured the last time I made these and this is the amount of shortening I found that I used.
Yield: 6 cathead Biscuits or one dozen regular size
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F ( 205 degrees C )
2. Place the flour in a large mixing bowl and sift it a little with your fingers. The flour does not have to be run through a sifter, it just needs to have no large clumps.
3. Add shortening, lard or butter, a little at a time, using a pastry blender or fork to cut it into the flour. When the flour is the consistency of a rough ground corn meal, then it’s right.
4. Make a well in the center of the flour and add your milk. Using your hands, or a spoon, mix the milk in well until all the flour is wet. Make sure you scrape the sides of the bowl and get all the dry flour. Do not over mix, as this will cause toughness in your biscuits. The dough should be lumpy and slightly sticky.
5.Knead the dough down two or three times. Just pick it up a little and fold it over.
6. There are two ways to get your biscuits onto the pan. One way is to just grab some dough ( a ball about 3 inches around) and pat it down a little, much like making a hamburger patty, only not thin, and placing it in your iron skillet, or baking pan. Another way is to transfer your dough and roll it onto a flat surface, like your kitchen table, and then use a biscuit cutter to cut the biscuits. Either way works fine. Don’t have a biscuit cutter? Do what I did. I saved one of my large tin cans from my vegetables, and washed and dried it and use it to cut my catheads.
7. Place the biscuits onto either an ungreased cookie sheet or a large cast iron skillet, with the sides touching. Note: The sides touching helps the biscuits to rise “up”. If the sides don’t touch, the biscuits have a tendency to rise “out”.
8. Bake 15-20 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown.
Sources: This recipe came from the author’s own recipe files.