Naysayers will say that they're inconsistent, that the service is slow and sometimes surly, the baked goods dense and exceedingly--perhaps too--rich.
Strangely, those are all the same reasons we love it. Sure, it can be frustrating at times, but it feels deeply human and homey somehow. And our very favorite item there? The buttermilk biscuits with fresh preserves.
Now, a Southern purist might be appalled by these biscuits--made with buttermilk, shortening, pastry flour and yeast, they seem to be on a different wavelength than the light-as-air, fluffy White Lily flour and lard sort from days of yore. Due to folding the dough three times before baking, they attain a level of flakiness that seems somehow denser than other biscuits, and works wonderfully with a morning coffee. And at approximately 7:15 a.m. in the morning, shortly after the bakery has opened for the day (we never go right at 7 because the biscuits are never out first-thing), we couldn't imagine anything sweeter than the rows and rows of golden-hued biscuits, still warm, each with a glistening jewel-like dollop of fresh preserves.
- 2 tablespoons warm water
- 1 teaspoon dried yeast
- 3 cups pastry flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cups vegetable shortening, cut to 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 cup buttermilk
- egg wash made from 1 egg and 1 teaspoon water
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, combine warm water and yeast. Mix with whisk to dissolve yeast, and let sit for five minutes while yeast blooms.
- Sift flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl. Toss with your hands to combine. Drop pieces of shortening into bowl. Using pastry cutter or fork, cut in until coarse and crumbly.
- Add the yeast-water and buttermilk, and mix with a wooden spoon, but only until it all comes together--do not overmix.
- Coat hands with flour and pull dough from bowl on to a floured surface. Pat dough into a rectangle, approximately 9 x 5 inches, so the long side is facing you. Dough will be sticky so keep flouring your hands as needed.
- To achieve a flaky, layered effect, it's important to give the dough a series of tri-folds: fold into thirds like a letter, folding the left third over the center third first, and then the right third on top. Sprinkle more flour and roll out to a 9 x 5 rectangle again, repeating the tri-fold step twice more (for a total of three tri-folds), ending with a rectangle 3/4 to 1 inch thick.
- Cut into six equal rectangles and place on the baking sheet. Brush with your egg wash and sprinkle on raw sugar.
- Bake on center rack for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown on top and bottom (ours only took 18 minutes to get to the point we liked). Let cool for ten minutes or so, then dent the top with a spoon and fill with a generous dollop of your preserves.