No trip to Roanoke, Virginia is complete without a stop at the famous Roanoker Restaurant, dubbed ‘the home of good food since 1941’. Their menu is filled with Southern classics including homestyle buttermilk biscuits, sausage gravy, fried apples, ham with red eye gravy, pecan pancakes, fried chicken and corn sticks all made from scratch following recipes developed almost 75 years ago when the restaurant first opened. Popular with locals and visitors alike, the 300 seat restaurant is busy for breakfast, lunch and dinner, thanks to its friendly service and authentic, delicious fare.
On any given day, the Roanoker might serve anywhere from 700 to 1800 diners, many of whom will order at least one of their delectable biscuits. On Christmas Eve, the restaurant prepares an additional 3500 biscuits to fulfill takeout orders. They are still using the same recipe as when the restaurant was founded though current owner Renee “Butch” Craft confesses that only a few employees have the knack for making biscuits (and she confesses she is not among that elite crew).
Recognized as one of the five best places to eat breakfast in Virginia, I was excited to sample the Roanoker’s food, particularly these famous buttermilk biscuits. They didn’t disappoint; I could not believe how light, fluffy and flavourful they were. Many thanks to them for generously allowing me to share the recipe. Note that their original recipe calls for self-rising flour, which is less common in Canada than in the United States. It is a premixed product that contains soft flour, baking powder and salt.) For optimal biscuit texture, I do recommend using pastry or cake flour, which has less protein and is softer than all-purpose flour. Be sure to measure carefully and do not overhandle the dough. These biscuits are delicious hot out of the oven but can be gently reheated the next day.
The Roanoker Restaurant’s Buttermilk Biscuits (reprinted with permission)
• 3.5 cups (875 mL) pastry or cake flour *
• 2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons (40 mL) baking powder *
• 3/4 teaspoon (3.5 mL) salt *
• 1.5 teaspoons (7.5 mL) white sugar
• 1/2 cup (125 mL) shortening
• 1.25 cups (310 mL) buttermilk
• 2 tablespoons (30 mL) melted butter
* if you can find self-rising flour, use 3.5 cups of it along with 1 tablespoon of baking powder and omit the salt.
• Preheat oven to 400F.
• Combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl; stir well.
• With a pastry blender or two knives, cut shortening into flour mixture until evenly crumbly.
• Add buttermilk and stir quickly just until dry ingredients are moistened. Do not over mix.
• Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently three or four times until dough comes together.
• Roll out or pat down to a one inch (2.5 cm) thickness. Cut with a three-inch (7.5 cm) round cutter and place on a lightly greased baking sheet.
• Bake biscuits for 25 minutes; tops should be golden brown.
• Remove from oven and brush tops with melted butter.
Makes 8 large biscuits.