Biscuits are one of the best things you can make. They can round out a skimpy dinner, turn breakfast into a feast or serve as the bread for a lunchbox treat like baloney and cheese biscuits. Serve with margarine and jam they make one of the most divine snacks ever created. Compare your own homemade biscuits and jam with store-bought snack cakes or toaster pastries and humble homemade biscuits will win the taste test every time!
Biscuits aren’t hard to make. Back before the world wars even girls as young as six accomplished this task, and they had to kindle a wood burning cook-stove to bake them in. With all of our conveniences like modern stoves and running water, making biscuits is not hard to do. It’s just a matter of learning how to do it and then practicing until you know what you’re doing. Remember, if your first batch doesn’t turn out perfect, don’t despair, you second batch will be an improvement, and your third and fourth batches will make the family sit up and take notice.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 to 3 tablespoons shortening
- 1/3 cup milk
To begin wash your hands. Good, next get out a mixing bowl. Measure the flour, baking powder and salt into the bowl. Use a fork or your hands to mix the ingredients together until the salt and baking powder are evenly distributed. Next measure the shortening. You can do this by packing a tablespoon full of shortening and then leveling out. Scrape the shortening into the bowl over the flour. Do it again until you have measured 2 or 3-tablespoons (whichever you prefer, 2-tablespoons is cheaper, 3-tablespoons makes a more tender biscuit). Or you can use a soup spoon to scoop up a heaping spoonful of shortening that appears to be between 2 and 3-tablespoons and then plop this into the flour.
Now casually mix the shortening into the dry ingredients. Don’t get too serious about it because at this point it’s better to undermix than overmix. You should still have a few lumps of shortening the size of peas here and there. Probably about 2-minutes of mixing will be plenty. Now pour in the milk. Stir the mixture with a fork until you have a soft dough. On dry days you may need a spoonful or more of milk. Use your best judgment.
Now sprinkle 1 or 2-tablespoons (a small handful) of flour onto your kitchen counter. Plop the dough onto the flour and knead it 10-times exactly. Not 8-times, not 12-times; knead it 10-times exactly*. This will activate the gluten in the flour just enough to give you good quality biscuits. Now flatten the dough with a rolling-pin, a bottle or your hands. Try to get the dough about 3/4-inch thick, but don’t worry if it’s a bit thinner or thicker. Cut the biscuits with the rim of a clean cup or can, or use a biscuit cutter. Tuna cans make big sandwich-size biscuits. Tomato paste cans make small dainty biscuits which children especially like. Soup cans make normal sized biscuits.
Arrange the biscuits in a 9-inch cake pan, or similarly sized pan. Bake at 425° for 10 to 15-minutes, or until the biscuits are golden brown on top and well risen. Smaller biscuits will cook faster, larger biscuits will cook slower. If your oven has a tendency to burn the bottom of biscuits then place the pan on the highest rack. If desired you can brush the biscuits with melted margarine as soon as you take them from the oven; this makes them extra pretty.
Makes 4 to 8-biscuits, depending on size. Enough for 2 to 3 servings.
*In all honesty, 8 or 12-times would be fine. Even if you kneaded it 20 to 25-times, you would still get edible biscuits. The truth is though, kneading the dough about 10-times really does produce superior biscuits. You don’t have to be obsessive compulsive about it, but I wanted you to know the truth. Kneading 10-times is the magic number.
Emergency or Drop Biscuits
If rolled biscuits just seem too daunting, try this version instead. Guaranteed to work even for the “non-cooks” among us.
In the previous recipe, substitute melted shortening or vegetable oil for the solid shortening. Increase the milk to 1/2-cup. Add the fat and milk to the flour. Use a sturdy fork to stir it until all the flour is moistened and you have a sticky dough. Lightly grease your cake pan with solid shortening. Drop the biscuits by small spoonfuls onto the pan. Bake as directed, they will cook a little bit faster than rolled biscuits.
In grandmother’s day, these were called Emergency Biscuits because they could be made in a hurry. Ten minutes of preparation and clean-up time and another 10 to 15-minutes of baking may not seem so fast to those of us who have grown up with canned biscuits that go from refrigerator to table in 8-minutes flat. If you think about it though, real biscuits taste better and they have the added status of being homemade, besides being a far sight cheaper than canned. All of these points in their favor make homemade biscuits, even emergency biscuits, a more virtuous choice
After you mix the shortening into the flour, before you add the milk, stir 1/2-cup of shredded cheese into the flour. Add the milk and prepare as directed. This can be used in rolled biscuits or drop biscuits. Make the biscuits somewhat small so they will cook more evenly. These are great with spaghetti or with any vegetarian dish.
Cinnamon Raisin Biscuits
After you mix the shortening into the flour add 3-tablespoons of raisins, 2-tablespoons of sugar and 1/2-teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Roll or drop and bake as directed. While they are baking prepare the icing. In a small bowl combine 1/2-cup powdered sugar, 1/2-teaspoon vanilla flavoring, and 2-teaspoons (that’s teaspoons not tablespoons) of milk. Stir until smooth. If the icing is too thick you may add additional milk 1/4-teaspoon at a time. Stir well after each addition.
After removing the biscuits from the oven allow them to cool a bit, then drizzle on the icing. Delish!
Parmesan Garlic Biscuits
After mixing the shortening into the flour add 1/4-cup grated Parmesan Cheese, 1/2-teaspoon garlic powder and if desired, 1-teaspoon dry parsley (this is just to make it pretty). I like these best as Drop Biscuits, but you can roll them if you prefer. Great with Italian dishes or meatloaf.