Once upon a time, I figured everyone knew how to make biscuits. Making a batch of baking powder biscuits was required in order to pass junior high home-economics. Back in those days, the only options were homemade, canned or Bisquick. The second two options were definitely not equivalent to homemade biscuits, especially for eating fresh out of hand.
As a wife and mother, I faithfully made my own biscuits from scratch, never thinking much about it. In fact, I splattered up that familiar page in my Betty Crocker Cookbook and had to pencil in the proportions when the page stuck to the one next to it and pulled off the text when I pried them apart.
Then I discovered that
some many of my friends and kitchen comrades really do rely on canned or Bisquick for biscuits. And some really sneaky ones used frozen biscuits. I was skeptical, but after trying a few I had to admit the frozen ones were nearly as good as scratch, and arguably a whole lot more convenient.
However after several years and several bags of frozen, I’m reverting back to scratch. Why? For starters, you pay for convenience – $3 to $4 for a bag of 12 biscuits. Given that there’s maybe a dollar’s worth of ingredients in a dozen biscuits (and that’s being generous), I can make a whole lotta dough for a little, uh….dough.
And then there’s the “you are what you eat” aspect. Reading the back of the bag bears little resemblance to the recipe’s ingredients list.
So if you’ve never made biscuits, allow me to share my favorite recipe with you. I’ve modified it slightly from the original.
(Almost) Betty’s Baking Powder Biscuits
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons butter (cold)
3 tablespoons shortening (room temperature or cold)
3/4 cup milk (whole or 2% are best; skim or Sweet Acidophilus will work, but the result will be slightly less tender)
Preheat oven to 450. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder and stir together. Add the butter and shortening and use a pastry blender to cut them in until the mixture resembles the texture of coarse cornmeal. Add milk and stir gently just until mixed through (do NOT overmix.)
Flour a countertop or large cutting board and plop the dough out. Flour your hands and sprinkle a little flour on top. Gently flip and flop and fold the dough over on itself a few times – four or five at most. Pat out with your fingers to 3/4 inches thick. Use a biscuit cutter or thin-lipped drinking glass to cut the biscuits as close together as possible. Place close together (almost touching) on ungreased baking sheet (a Silpat sheet works great) and gently scoop up remaining dough, pat to 3/4 inches again, and cut remaining biscuits. Should make about a dozen 2.5 inch diameter biscuits. You can also form your dough into a square or rectangle and cut square biscuits, which prevents re-rolling the dough. Either way, your mileage may vary slightly from mine.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Serve with ham, sausage, gravy, bacon, and/or butter, honey, jelly or jam of your choosing.
To make buttermilk biscuits, decrease baking powder to 2 teaspoons and add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda; substitute buttermilk (or milk plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice) for the milk in the original recipe. All other instructions and ingredients apply.
And I guess great minds think alike. As I was typing up this recipe, I noticed Christy Jordan posted a recipe for sure-fire buttermilk biscuits with a photo tutorial, to boot. It’s worth taking a gander if you’re new to biscuit making. I think I’ll give her recipe a try the next time I make biscuits. And I hope you’ll try making a batch from scratch. It’s a little effort, but a lot of reward.
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