Ham Biscuits

from Hoppin' John's Charleston, Beaufort & Savannah

Country ham is a rare treat for many, but not in the lowcountry, where in addition to being the centerpiece of the Christmas table, it is pan-fried, added to pilaus, ground into pastes, and stuffed into little yeast rolls like these. Also known as bride's biscuits or angel biscuits, these yeast rolls contain both baking powder and yeast, making them a cross between a biscuit and a roll. In this recipe, I stuff half of the biscuits with ham and leave the others plain.

½ pound (about 2 cups) all-purpose flour, preferably a soft southern one such as White Lily, plus flour for dusting
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup chilled lard
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
5/8 cup buttermilk at room temperature
10 to 12 2-inch pieces of country ham slices

Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder into a warmed mixing bowl. Cut the lard into the mixture with a pastry blender or 2 knives until it is evenly distributed. In a separate bowl, stir the yeast into the buttermilk until thoroughly dissolved, then pour the liquid into the flour mixture, stirring well until blended.

Dust a work surface with flour and turn the dough out onto it. Work the dough lightly with floured fingertips until it is smooth and evenly textured. Roll out to about 1/2-inch thick, then cut into small 1- to 2-inch biscuits with a clean, floured metal biscuit cutter.

Place the biscuits on an ungreased baking pan, cover with a kitchen towel, and allow to rise by about a fourth, about 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400° , then bake the biscuits for about 10 minutes. Remove the biscuits from the oven and pry half of them in half with a fork. Stuff a piece of ham into the split biscuits, then return the biscuits to the oven to finish cooking, about 5 minutes more, or until the tops are lightly browned. Serve warm with Pear Chutney.