Yes, there is a difference
I've made biscuits 7 times in the last two weeks.
A simple craving turned into a quest for the perfect recipe that would produce the perfect biscuit - light, fluffy, buttery. You know, the kind a Southern grandma would whip up for Sunday brunch.
I'm not from the South and had no family recipes to consult, so google it was. There were so many claiming to be "the best" or "my grandma's" that it was hard to decide which to try first. Then I stumbled upon this one on Recipe Zaar. The recipe was pretty similar to others I found (flour, buttermilk, baking power, etc.), but what made this one stand out was the directions. They were very simple, but included tips that sounded like they'd make a difference (pat, don't roll). Detailed instructions coupled with overwhelmingly positive reviews, and I decided to give it a go.
I followed the directions diligently and handled the dough as if it were a precious commodity. I mixed gently, patted gently, was careful not to overwork the dough, etc. As I placed the biscuits in the oven, I felt confident, a bit cocky even.
But ten minutes later, I presented hard hockey pucks to my family.
What happened? Back to google. A nice woman from Kentucky suggested that I check the baking powder expiration date. Ooops! October 2009. So back to the mixing bowl. Once again, I mixed gently, patted gently and was careful not to overwork the dough.
Ten minutes later? Soft hockey pucks.
What the?!? Back to google. Again and again. With each try, I got better, but something wasn't right. Where were the puffy soft, buttery good biscuits of my dreams? Finally, Amy from Georgia let the cat out of the bag:
"It's your Northern flour. You need White Lily flour."
White Lily Flour? Never heard of it. But I was invested in getting this right, so a few minutes later, I ordered some from Southern Connoisseur. It came late last week, and guess what? Great biscuits.
Granted, I also had practice. I learned that you could underwork the dough as well (biscuits don't rise), and that the biscuits had to touch on the pan or else they wouldn't be as soft. The whole process taught me something about regional cuisine: regional ingredients matter.
Next, I plan to make my friend Ken's gumbo (I'm on a Southern food kick). He provides the recipe and details his process in his book, and suggests that you order real cajun sausage.
Given the past weeks' lessons, I won't dare use a substitution, so I'm off to the Cajun Grocer.