By Wenda Grabau
It is a good day when one of my children gives me a call to ask a question. Some days I hear from my kids asking about a sick grandchild. Those calls are not so fun. Today, I got a call regarding something positive… baking. The specific request dealt with good old chicken fat.
From chicken fat I make biscuits. They are a favorite for my family. We would call them a delicacy.
It is not every day I have chicken fat in my refrigerator or freezer. Chicken fat shows up when we butcher our chickens. Some hens are not so fat, but the older hens who are less skinny give me a nice supply. (Now and then a rooster presents me with some fatty offering, too.) That was the case this year. I found several pieces of fat to render.
Not having grown up as a country girl, I had to learn about chicken fat. Trial and error, though not always best, does work. My lessons came as I learned to butcher the chickens.
I tried cutting up the fatty pieces. I thought that if I diced the fatty pieces it would help me render fat more quickly. It was tedious work. I found out later that it was a waste of my time.
The whole pieces of fat placed in my heated electric skillet melt (or render) the liquid fat just fine. Once it has cooled, I save it in a glass jar or a freezer container for future use. The leftover pieces of the fatty flesh that do not melt, are called cracklings. Some folks find the cracklings to be a real treat to eat. I have been satisfied with just using the yellow liquid that has melted down.
My mother-in-law passed on this recipe to me. It is fine on its own, but when I use chicken fat, it is special. The yellow fat, along with the beaten eggs, makes the buns or biscuits golden in color. They are moist, sweet and delicious.
The benefit of using the rich chicken fat is that I need to use only one-half of the volume of fat in the recipe. So the chicken fat goes twice as far as the shortening. I hope you get to try it someday.
Typical Sweet Dough
2 cups milk
½ cup sugar
2 tsp. salt
½ cup shortening, melted and cooled (part butter)
or substitute ¼ cup chicken fat for the shortening/butter
2 cakes compressed yeast or 2 pkg. granular yeast
2 eggs, well beaten
7-7½ cups sifted flour.
Scald the milk in a saucepan. To the milk, add sugar, salt and shortening. Cool the milk mixture till lukewarm. In a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast with ¼ cup warm, not hot, water to soften. Combine lukewarm milk mixture with the softened yeast. Mix in beaten eggs to the liquid. Stir in 3 cups of flour to the mixture with a wooden spoon until well mixed. Add 3-4 more cups till the dough becomes stiff and elastic. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead into a ball. Put greased dough into a greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place till doubled in bulk. Punch down dough. Let rise a second time.
Divide dough (for rolls, coffee cake, etc.) into round balls and cover. Let rest 15 minutes before shaping. Shape, let rise at 80º till double in bulk, bake at 350º-375º for 30-35 minutes or until medium brown. (You may also use 425º for 12-25 minutes.) Makes 4 dozen plain rolls.