If you ask pretty much anyone who grew up in the American South how they feel about biscuits, a stream of effervescent praise will likely follow. Biscuits are a staple of Southern cuisine, one that chef and food writer Erika Council has built a career around as the owner of Atlanta’s popular Bomb Biscuit Co., where crowds line up to order Council’s fluffy buttermilk biscuits laden with country ham, pimento cheese, and fried chicken.
As they are for many Southerners, biscuits are in Council’s blood. She grew up in a family of renowned cooks and restaurateurs, and is the granddaughter of Southern food icon Mildred “Mama Dip” Council, whose North Carolina restaurant Mama Dip’s Kitchen has been serving comfort food since 1976. “I didn’t realize how iconic she was, I just always was around people who could really cook when I was growing up,” Council says. “And I don’t mean just cook a Sunday dinner, but cook for hundreds of people.”
As an adult, Council had no desire to join with the family business. She studied software engineering and worked in that industry for nearly two decades before deciding to start her food blog, Southern Souffle, as a hobby. Shortly after the blog began to take off, a friend in Georgia asked Council if she’d like to serve breakfast at his barbecue restaurant. She agreed, and prepared to serve biscuit sandwiches to “maybe 50 or 60 people,” she says. Instead, she ended up making more than 600 biscuits that day, and the Bomb Biscuit Co. was born.
Council started taking on corporate and catering clients, driving all over Atlanta and its surrounding areas delivering biscuits. All the while, she was tinkering with new recipes, figuring out ways to make her biscuits really stand out. “I just wanted to be the winner,” she says. “You know how there are people who everybody wants to go to their house because they make the best biscuits or the best fried chicken or the best potato salad? I want to be that person for biscuits. When I’m the old lady, people are going to want to come to my house because I’m going to be the best at making biscuits.”
The culmination of that research and testing is Still We Rise, a biscuit cookbook with a whopping 70-plus recipes for biscuits of all kinds. Out today, it includes drop biscuits, peanut butter biscuits, and, of course, classic buttermilk biscuits. Most unusual, even for this Southerner, are the biscuits made with Duke’s mayonnaise, an almost equally revered staple of down-South cooking. “I have a really old-fashioned chocolate cake recipe from the Great Depression, when everybody was using mayo in different ways, and I thought that I had to try it in a biscuit,” Council explains. “And I love Duke’s, I use it in everything. Everyone looks at me crazy when I talk about this recipe, but it turned out phenomenal. It’s just so buttery, it’s one of my favorite biscuits.”
Council notes that these biscuits are a little more savory than the standard biscuit recipe, making them perfect for breakfast sandwiches and slathering with sausage gravy. When she really wants to kick things up a notch, she uses a pastry brush to spread Duke’s over the top of the biscuits before sticking them in the oven. “It makes the tops tangy,” she says. “If you’ve got a really good tomato, and some more Duke’s mayonnaise, and a little bit of cracked black pepper? That’s all you need.”
Duke’s Mayo Biscuits Recipe
Makes 12 biscuits
3 cups (360 grams) all-purpose flour, plus extra for folding and cutting
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup Duke’s mayonnaise
1 cup full-fat buttermilk, cold
Step 1: Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Step 2: Place the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl and whisk to combine.
Step 3: Add the mayonnaise and stir gently with a spatula until combined and no large clumps of mayonnaise remain. Add the buttermilk and stir gently until the dough forms into a ball and no dry bits of flour are visible. The dough will be shaggy and sticky.
Step 4: Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and lightly dust with flour. With floured hands, pat the dough into a ½-inch-thick 11 × 6-inch rectangle. Fold the ends of the rectangle toward the center, one end on top of the other, to create a trifold. Dust the top lightly with flour, press out to the same size rectangle again, and repeat the folding. Repeat this process a third time. After the third folding, pat the dough to a ½-inch thickness and cut out the biscuits using a floured 3½-inch biscuit cutter. Be careful to press straight down and do not twist the cutter.
Step 5: Place the biscuit rounds 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Gather the scraps, reshape them, and pat the dough out to a ½-inch thickness. Cut out as above. Discard any remaining scraps.
Step 6: Bake 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the pan once halfway through, until the tops are golden brown. Serve immediately.
Reprinted from Still We Rise: A Love Letter to Southern Biscuits With Over 70 Sweet and Savory Recipes by Erika Council, with permission by Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2023. Photographs by Andrew Thomas Lee, copyright © 2023.