Sunday, October 5, 2014

Biscuit Traditions and Love on Wheels

A search for made-from-scratch biscuits brought me to Nashville, the home of country music and also the home of the food truck Biscuit Love. I had just learned about Biscuit Love from a blog post by Southern Foodways Alliance announced on Twitter.

Biscuit Love has garnered quite a following since 2012 when it began rolling the streets around Nashville. The husband and wife team of Karl and Sarah Worley source about 80 percent of their ingredients locally, which they creatively use to prepare a rotating menu of seasonal biscuit choices.

The line for biscuit orders starts early.

Chef Karl (right) keeps biscuits
moving in Nashville.
Karl is also known for his ability to make “beaten biscuits,” described by Southern Foodways Alliance as “an art form.” Karl, who learned how to make these biscuits from the late John Edgerton, noted Southern food author, is supplying them to SFA’s fall symposium later this year.

“Beaten” biscuits were the first biscuits in the South, according to food historians, and were an improvement on hardtack, the bread of traveling warriors and sailors. This “lighter” version of hardtack was made by beating the dough. In the recipe for biscuits in The American Cookery of 1796, the directions specifically call for the cook to “break” the dough while the oven was heating.

My order: farm cheese grits; biscuit with pumpkin spice and chai cheese;
biscuit with smoked sausage, fried egg and cheddar cheese

To break meant to beat with a rolling pin or other instrument – very tough work typically relegated to slaves or servants in the antebellum South. The “beating” process creates pockets of air and develops glutens in the dough that make the biscuits lighter. The recipe’s ingredients were simple: 1 pound flour, 2 ounces butter, 1 egg, wet with milk.

Deciding on which biscuit to order is not easy.

Beaten biscuits, which were made without leavening agents, declined with the arrival of baking powder and baking soda and the introduction of self-rising flour. The legacy of making beaten biscuits was preserved by several food historians, notably Egerton, whose family owned a “biscuit break.” This machine flattens dough that is run though the machine again and again by the cook. Edgerton once said that dough was beaten “100 times for family and 500 times for company.”

The next order is ready.
The Worleys are keeping a significant Southern tradition alive with their food truck and their knowledge of biscuits. Later this year they will open Biscuit Love Brunch, a new restaurant in Nashville. But for now, Biscuit Love rolls on wheels!

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