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Pass the Biscuits, Pappy

Pappy O'Daniel Eats Fried Chicken Pappy O'Daniel enjoys fried chicken
Courtesy Texas State Historical Association
by Lori Grossman

Because food is necessary to sustain life, it plays a part in almost everything, even Texas politics. During the 1938 governor's race, biscuits were on the lips figuratively and probably literally, too, of many Texans.

Wilbert Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel worked for several flour-milling companies in Kansas before moving to Fort Worth, where he became sales manager for Burrus Mills in 1925. While handling the company's radio advertising, O'Daniel sponsored a radio program featuring a group of musicians called the Light Crust Doughboys.

The band, whose music O'Daniel disparagingly called "hillbilly music", went on the air in 1931. Listeners' enthusiasm for the group helped sell lots of Light Crust Flour. "Pappy" O'Daniel became the program's announcer and even wrote some songs.

Riding the coattails of his radio fame, O'Daniel decided to run for governor in 1938. He hit the campaign trail, accompanied by a band called the Hillbilly Boys. This style of campaigning, combining entertainment with speeches, forever changed Texas politics. Large crowds turned out to hear the music and the radio personality they had listened to for years. His popularity, especially in rural areas, won him two terms as Texas' governor.

Among "Pappy's" most notable contributions to Texas history were the Light Crust Doughboys (which originally included the legendary King of Texas Swing, Bob Wills), and his unofficial campaign slogan, "Please pass the biscuits, Pappy."

Now that you've had your history lesson, here are three biscuit recipes that would make "Pappy" proud.

Southern Cream Biscuits

  • 1-3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or pastry flour
  • 2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place a rack in the upper third of the oven.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, whip the cream until it is thick and beginning to peak, but not stiff. Fold the cream into the flour mixture until it is thoroughly combined.

Lightly flour your work surface. Place the dough on the work surface and pat out the dough until it is 1 inch thick. Fold it in half and pat it flat. Repeat this two more times. Lightly flour the surface and dough and roll or pat it out 1/4 inch thick.

Use a plain or decorative biscuit cutter (1-1/2 to 2 inches round). Dip the cutter in flour before cutting each biscuit. Cut - - without twisting - - 12 to 16 biscuits (yield depends on the size of the cutter). Gather leftover dough, fold the dough over, and pat flat about three times, or just until the scraps hold together. Then pat the dough until it is 1/2 inch thick and cut it into biscuits.

Place the biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet and bake about 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve hot.

Cheesy Chive Biscuits

These biscuits make a tasty accompaniment to broiled fish dishes.
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1-1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (2 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons margarine or butter, melted
Preheat oven to 450°F. In large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With pastry blender or two knives used scissor-fashion, cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

With fork, stir in buttermilk, Cheddar, and chives just until blended.

Drop dough by heaping tablespoons, 1 inch apart, on ungreased large baking or cookie sheet. Brush tops of biscuits with melted margarine or butter. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm. Makes approximately 24 biscuits.

Note: These biscuits can be frozen for up to 1 month. To do that, cool biscuits completely on a wire rack, then wrap in foil and freeze.

Blueberry Biscuits

We're all familiar with blueberry muffins why not blueberry biscuits?
  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon chunks
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries, cold
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar mixed with 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, for biscuit topping
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a heavy cookie sheet with cooking parchment paper; set aside. Use a sturdy sheet, or the biscuits will scorch on the bottom.

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and sugar in a medium-size mixing bowl. Drop in the chunks of butter, and using a pastry blender or two knives used scissor-fashion, cut the butter into pearl-size bits. Crumble the mixture between your fingertips until the butter is reduced to smaller flakes. This should take about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the eggs, heavy cream, and vanilla extract. Pour the wet mixture over the dry ingredients, scatter the blueberries over all, and stir carefully, using a rubber spatula, to form a dough.

With lightly floured hands, mix the ingredients into a slightly moist dough. Knead lightly in the bowl for 10 to 15 seconds, about eight light pushes. Be careful while doing this, so the berries will stay intact.

On a well-floured work surface, pat the dough into an 8 to 8-1/2 inch circle. Cut into eight wedges with a sharp knife. With a wide spatula, transfer the biscuits to the lined cookie sheets, spacing them about 2-1/2 inches apart. Sprinkle a little of the sugar-nutmeg mixture on top of each biscuit.

Bake the biscuits for 16 to 17 minutes, or until golden on top. Remove the biscuits to wire racks to cool, using a wide spatula. Makes 8 biscuits.

Don't forget the four "magic" words: Pass the biscuits, please!

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