Driving in central Alabama in October with my daughter Laura riding shotgun in the Subaru, the cosmos were in bloom and the biscuit kitchen at Reverie beckoned. A little bit later I found myself getting a biscuit booster tutorial from Chef Scott Peacock in the kitchen at Reverie.
Before the baking begins, I’ll set the scene.
Reverie is “a state of being pleasantly lost in one’s thoughts; a daydream.” Reverie is also the 20th century name given to an 1858 Greek Revival mansion in Marion, Alabama. Every crook and corner of the home features something old and something unexpectedly beautiful.
While the rest of the home is very formal, the kitchen is parts rustic and modern, with amazing, Instagram-worthy light.
The October visit was my third to Reverie, to learn the ways of iconic Southern foods from Chef Scott. In March 2019, I was a charter Biscuiteer, and returned in October 2020 for the Chicken & Dumplings Experience.
This visit was the centerpiece of a mother-daughter road trip to the Black Belt of Alabama. A chance to take pictures, soak up history, and taste some iconic Southern food.
In the Biscuit Kitchen, Chef Scott literally elevates ingredients that he discusses at the Biscuit Experience. We learned about the best flour, the best country ham and the best butter.
Chef Scott says you can make good biscuits from grocery store flour (like King Arthur brand) but to make great biscuits, try sourcing special, local flours. Whatever flour you use, make sure it’s unbleached. Your biscuits will have superior flavor.
The butter here is Kerrygold (I like Plugra, too). You can use good quality unsalted butter, as well. For the buttermilk, Chef Scott recommends Marburger brand (and I agree. Marburger is my favorite for buttermilk scones). Whatever brand you use, look for a full fat, whole milk variety.
The baking powder is homemade, mixed from cream of tartar and baking soda. This fussy step really does make a difference. (Refer to Scott Peacock’s recipe for Homemade Baking Powder)
Chef Scott sifts the flour and tosses the dry ingredients in a bowl. Icy cold butter is diced, tossed in the bowl and the pieces crushed into the flour.
Straight from the fridge, cold buttermilk is poured into the butter and flour mixture.
Chef Scott stirs the mixture with a wooden spoon until the batter comes together, then turns it out onto a lightly floured board.
“Gather and guide.”
“Support and cradle.”
“Think of it as a sponge full of water.”
The next steps are all about technique. Be sure to keep a gentle touch and a confident approach because, as Chef Scott says, biscuits can smell fear.
Gently shaping the dough and lightly pressing with a rolling pin create a uniform size for your biscuits.
I got distracted and missed some important steps, like docking the dough with a fork, and cutting out the rounds (“never twist”). Chef Scott also never re-rolls dough. Instead, he tucks the “leavings” into the edges and corners of the baking sheet, alongside the perfectly round biscuits.
A Meditation on Biscuit Making
Put the biscuit tray into the oven and do not walk away.
Spend the 8 to 10 minutes of oven time meditating on the miracle of biscuits. They are the white flour food that graced poor Southerner’s celebratory meals (cornmeal for cornbread was cheaper and more readily available, making flour biscuits a special occasion bread in rural Southern households). We think of biscuits as everyday bread, after all you can pop open a can, or pull them straight out of a freezer bag, or order from any number of fast food drive-thrus. But authentic biscuits, carefully crafted, are a connection to the past and a culinary delight.
You’re close enough to smell them now.
For the full recipe, check out Chef Scott Peacock’s biscuits.
I brought along a guest on this visit, my daughter, Laura. She’s a photographer and enthusiastic cook.
We sample the biscuit leavings first, hot out of the oven. With butter or without, eater’s choice. (The heavy browning is desirable in these crispy, buttery biscuits.)
After we pulled the biscuits from the oven, I rushed around to plate and make a beauty shot, because that’s what we do among friends. (It’s so reassuring to be in the company of people who understand.)
Laura brought along a large format camera. During the biscuit experience, she stole away from the kitchen to explore the grounds and take pictures.
The front porch selfie makes it official. And, sadly, we didn’t get a front porch selfie with the chef.
On the grounds of Reverie the sasanqua camellias put on a show.
We departed from Reverie with full bellies, precious memories, a bag of biscuits and a buttermilk container full of cosmos.
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