Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Pioneer Woman vs. Grandma






I was unexpectedly gifted with a copy of The Pioneer Woman Cooks last week.




(Time for confession: Not only was I unaware that the Pioneer Woman Cooks but I was completely unaware, until this book was bestowed upon me, of the existence of the Pioneer Woman. Such is the result of my shucking the yoke of media hypersensationalism.)

I may not know the Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond, but, I realized as I browsed this lovely cookbook, I grew up with a person who was a Genuine, Bright-and-Shiny Pioneer Woman:  my grandma, Christina Ashley. 



Which leads me to the reason I am here before you today. I am here to challenge Ree Drummond to a duel: Grandma Ashley's biscuits vs. the biscuits of the Pioneer Woman.

Grandma made biscuits every morning, before the sun came up, in her small kitchen in her farm home in Louisiana. She was born in 1898, married at sixteen, had her first child by seventeen, and fed and clothed five children with her husband out of a hundred acre farm thirty miles from the Mississippi River. 

Here is Grandma's "reciepe" for "bisquits", send to me when I married in 1978:



I started this duel by mixing up a batch of Grandma's biscuits. I followed her advice ("That's what I do") and made them out myself:


 



While these were baking in my Very Hot Oven, I mixed up a batch of the Pioneer Woman's Buttermilk Biscuits, using the recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks:



Buttermilk Biscuits

Ingredients:
4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup shortening
1/3 cup cold butter (5 1/3 tablespoons), cut into pieces
1 1/4 cups buttermilk

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 450.

2. In large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and stir together. Add the shortening and cold butter pieces. With pastry blender, cut the shortening and butter into dry ingredients until it resembles coarse crumbs.

3. Pour in the buttermilk and mix gently with fork until just combined. The biscuit dough will be sticky,  not overly dry or crumbly.

4. Lightly flour a clean surface. Turn the dough out of the bowl and roll to a 3/4″ thickness. Cut rounds with a biscuit cutter and place them on a cookie sheet. Bake for 11-14 minutes until golden brown.  Do not underbake, or the biscuits will be doughy.



I think you will agree with me that this is an unduly fussy recipe, so:
  Two points to Grandma for Recipe Simplicity. 


 Here's what the Pioneer Woman's Buttermilk Biscuits looked like (cut-out with a biscuit cutter):





Many people would give big points to the Pioneer Woman for Overall Aesthetic Appearance, both before baking (see photos above) and after baking (as this side-by-side with Grandma on the left, Pioneer Woman on the right, post-baking photo demonstrates below). But I am, of course, a wabi-sabi person, finding Great Beauty in the Imperfect. 

So, Two points to Grandma for Wabi-Sabi Biscuit Beauty.




Here is the final, and most important evaluation of the two biscuits:  Taste.  For this, I relied on an Experienced Biscuit Eating Expert, my husband, Jim Nance. For this final test, my husband first sampled Grandma's biscuit, then cleaned his palate with a drink of water, and then sampled the Pioneer Woman's biscuit. 

I am happy to report that my husband chose Grandma's biscuit over the Pioneer Woman's biscuit, for taste. "Lots more flavor in Grandma's biscuit," he told me. 

So, Two points to Grandma for Taste. 


Grandma is, certainly, the winner over Pioneer Woman. Good job, Grandma!  

Note to Pioneer Woman:  Don't let this setback discourage you, Pioneer Woman. When you have prepared biscuits every morning for over seventy years and have had to bake biscuits in a wood-burning oven for many of those years, then you can climb back into the arena with my Grandma Ashley. 




Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend.You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.


40 comments:

  1. This is such an interesting post, what a great idea. Your Grandma sounds like a wonderful lady.

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  2. I think I would definitely go with your original Pioneer Woman's biscuits, too! I like non fussy and they just look better, too! Fun post :)

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  3. Hah! What fun -- kudos to Grandma's biscuits. Plus, doesn't matter how rich and famous and media friendly the PW is, nothing comes close to a beloved family recipe laden with good memories.

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  4. Thanks for giving us the blow-by-blow. I often suspected that the WWII era cookbook I found at the garage sale for 50 cents is all I need to make excellent home cooked food.

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  5. You made me laugh with this post :)

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  6. wait! this should have been a blind taste test!!
    because obviously. you grandmothers are prettier.

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  7. I would never take any modern recipe over a traditional, tried-and-tested, truly original recipe! Just love the handing-over of recipes from generation to generation!

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  8. My biscuits (I always want to spell it with a Q too, like your grandmother) never come out with the same fluffiness as my husband's, even though he wrote out the recipe for me on an index card and gave it to me. I don't have the same touch. This was a great post, lots of fun to read!

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  9. Ha!!!! Toooooooo fun. Loved this dueling bakers post. But Caite might be right; next test should be a blind tasting.

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    1. A blind tasting with a judge with no connections to either party? Interesting.

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  10. It is so wonderful that you have your grandmother's hand-written recipe for her biscuits. It is the simple gifts that we cherish through the years. They do look amazing!
    Rebecca @ The Key to the Gate

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  11. Lovely that you have her handwritten recipe! And great that you made it up. Have a great week!

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    1. I make them all the time. So easy, really. Easier than driving to the store and looking for a package of pre-made biscuits and buying them and taking them home and starting up the oven and baking them, really.

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  12. This is my most favorite post that you've ever written, I think. I love Ree's blog (though I can never keep up with her, I have to skim), but I love your grandma more!

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  13. What a fun post. And now I want one of your Grandma Ashley's bisquits. :)

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  14. Best thing I've read in my reader feed this morning!

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  15. Ha! I like it. Your grandmother sounds like a gem, and I would trust her tried-and-true recipes any day. Thanks for sharing this story and match-up with us!

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  16. I agree that your grandma's look better! They look light and fluffy, and I love the simplicity. The recipe that I've been using for years is not that much different. I may have to give your grandma's recipe a try (if you don't mind). :)

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    1. Excellent. And you are an objective person, are you not, Alyce?

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  17. Love this! Kudos to grandma Ashley :D As a Dutch/Chinese person, the concept of biscuits as part of a meal (as opposed to cookies/biscuits) is unknown to me. What would you serve with biscuits?

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  18. Interesting. I had no idea that biscuits were unknown to other cultures. That's probably because biscuits are so ubiquitous here in the southern part of the US. I serve biscuits with everything, but they are especially good with eggs and bacon at breakfast.

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  19. Family recipes are always better! I have that book, as well...but I have not tried the biscuits. But whatever the case may be...Ree has TOOOOONS of followers, books, cookbooks, and a show on Food Network...so we'll have to just forgive her for a less-than-stellar biscuit recipe ;). Thanks for sharing this fun throw-down!

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  20. Deb, my sampling of cookbooks has not extended to the Pioneer Woman's books, but she maintains a beautiful blog, where she posts some great tips on photography, as well as some good recipes. The biscuits look so tasty. Wonderful comparison baking. My usual recipe is from the River Road Cookbook, a book you probably know if you have family in Louisiana.

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  21. What a fantastic post! I'm so glad that your grandma won. I love that she gave you a handwritten recipe for your marriage, and how wonderful that you're still using that gift. Buiscuits are very southern US it's true, I had them in a diner in Houston last year for the first time- biscuits and white gravy.

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  22. I've never had good luck with any biscuit recipe! That said, your grandmother's look beautiful and if I can transcribe her handwriting, I may have to give them a try.

    I have the PW cookbook and have found some great recipes that have become "regulars" in our house, but I need to start ranching so I can work off some of the calories! She is not a low-cal cook!

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  23. This is the best post. Except for the fact that when PW is 70 she will still not be able to cook!

    PROPS to Grandma's recipe and her example!

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