Biscuits are a homestead staple. We eat them often around here so I thought I’d share my recipe and some hints. I make a small batch, usually just enough for the two of us for breakfast and lunch or for all of us for breakfast if the grandchildren are here. The recipe can be easily doubled or more.
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 to 3 teaspoons sugar to taste
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup lard (depending on how “short” you want your biscuits – see notes)
- 1 cup milk
Combine dry ingredients. Work in lard until the mix looks like fine crumbs. Add milk. Mix quickly and gently till just combined, adding more milk if needed to make a soft dough. Form bisquits as desired and bake in a hot oven (400 – 425 degrees for a gas oven, 350 to 400 for the wood stove) until brown.
Now for the hints:
- Warming the flour and milk a bit will make the baking powder work better
- The lard can be replaced nicely with butter (or shortening, though I don’t know why anyone would want to.)
- Don’t skimp on baking powder. A minimum of 1 teaspoon per cup flour is needed to make things rise nicely and 1 1/2 teaspoons works better.
- More fat in biscuits makes them “shorter” meaning more crumbly and cake like.
- When working in the fat the fingers are the best tool. The goal is to lightly rub the fat through the flour till it really does look like cracker crumbs. This is a bit different than working pie crust where larger fat particles are desired to make the crust crisp and flaky.
- To cut down on the mess when making biscuits regularly, try using an old trick I call a biscuit towel. I roll or pat out my biscuits and pie crusts on a well floured towel (a smooth feed sack type towel, not terrycloth) then very lightly shake out the excess flour. Fold the unwashed towel up and store it in a covered container for the next baking. Nothing sticks to it. Wash it and start again only if it begins to smell rancid or if the weevils get into it.
- A dark pan such as cast iron or black steel makes nice brown crusts on biscuits. My Aunt Wilma showed me years ago how to melt extra lard in the pan and place the biscuits top down then flip them over, lightly oiling them before baking.
- The true secret to biscuits is make them as wet as possible and never overwork the dough. Work quickly and handle the dough as if it were a baby chick.
- Biscuits can be dropped, patted or rolled and cut, or even patted into the pan in one piece and cut like cornbread.
- Grated cheese, nuts, herbs etc. can be added at the dry ingredient stage. Cottage cheese can be added along with the milk (cut back on the milk a bit) for increased moisture and nutrition.
- A hot oven makes better biscuits. An even hotter one is best for cornbread
- For “Angel” or “Riz” biscuits dissolve 1 package yeast in milk along with the sugar. Let it proof till bubbly, otherwise mix the biscuits as directed and let them rise about 30 minutes before baking. These make a good supper bread.