How to Make Delicious Baking Powder Biscuits

I learned to make biscuits from my grandma while sitting on her kitchen counter as she measured by eye and hand a formula she’d made hundreds of times.  When my grandma was gone, my mom, armed with the written recipe, finished my formal education into this culinary comfort food.  There is a good bit of mystique that surrounds the making of biscuits, but in reality, just like pie crust, a little practice and some simple rules are the difference between hard tack and sublime.

Because the recipe is so simple, there are only a couple of places where a person can get a bit tripped up.
1. To start, make sure that the fat is well incorporated. Using a pastry knife is the easiest.
2. Like my grandma taught me, I use my hands to incorporate the milk so I can feel the exact amount of liquid to add.
3. Adding the liquid is the trickiest part. Too much and the biscuits aren’t fluffy. Too little and the biscuits are dry.  The recipe wants just enough milk to incorporate all of the flour, no more. It’s okay to reserve a little to make sure your batch needs all the recipe calls for.
4. Don’t over mix. As soon as you begin mixing in the milk, gluten begins to develop and this is what makes biscuits chewy instead of fluffy. The less mixing the better.
5. Pat out your biscuits on a well-floured counter. Instead of rolling, which sometimes has us touching the dough too much, pat the dough out with your hands, again because working the dough too much makes hard, chewy biscuits.
6. If you find that you might have overworked the dough, a little helpful trick is to set the biscuit aside once you’ve cut them for 10 minutes or so to give the gluten time to relax before baking.

That’s it!  Fluffy, buttery biscuits are yours!

Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010
Use a pastry knife to cut in the butter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010)
Feel the dough with your hands.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Add liquid and stir with your hands.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Use your hands to best tell when you’ve added enough milk.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Only mix until combined,
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Press the dough flat with hands dusted with flour.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Cut out the biscuits with a biscuit cutter and bake!

Baking Powder Biscuits
This recipe is excerpted from my cookbook, At Home, At Sea: Recipes from a Maine Windjammer.  My grandmother used shortening, and maybe even lard. Currently, shortening is out and butter is in, but to honor the history of the recipe, I’ve left shortening as an ingredient. It is a one to one replacement to substitute butter.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 450°F. Measure the flour, baking powder, and salt into a sifter set in a medium bowl. This is an important step because you want to add air to the mixture so the biscuits are as fluffy as possible. Use a pastry knife to cut the shortening into the mixture until it resembles a coarse meal. Add milk, stirring until a soft dough forms. It is important to not overmix; you’ll hard tack instead of fluffy biscuits. Turn out onto a floured board and knead 10 times, then STOP!  Roll or pat out the dough until it is 1/2-inch thick. Cut with a floured 2-inch biscuit cutter. Transfer the biscuits to an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 12 biscuits

Biscuit and Jam – The Biscuit Contract

I woke up this morning to my car cloaked in a glow of pink.  The sun had not yet broken the horizon and my snow-covered car received it’s kiss as it rose to greet the day.

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Fitting that today should also be Biscuit Contract Day on our office calendar.  This contract was agreed upon and signed 7 months ago to the day.  The contract follows:

July 20, 2013 – Annie returned to shore after a 4-day cruise and proceeded to heat the entire downstairs with steam as she made batches of jam in 84 degree/humid weather.  THEN she wanted to open the windows to “cool down.”   Ha.  E made Annie promise that 7 months from now, February 20th, that we would have jam & biscuits to make up for it.  Annie agreed.  Annie hereby agrees to make biscuits with Strawberry or Rhubarb Champagne Jam as she has promised.  Signed by both parties.

And here they are, E.  As promised and as delicious.

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Baking Powder Biscuits 
This is a recipe my grandma passed on to me through my mom.  Thank you, Grandma, for being so good at making both biscuits and pie dough.  I think of you every time I make either.

2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4  cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  This is an important step because you want to add air to the mixture so the biscuits are as fluffy as possible.  Cut the butter in with a pastry knife until the mixture is the texture of coarse meal. Stir in any additional dry ingredients here.  Add milk and any additional wet ingredients, stirring until a soft dough forms. Do not overmix.  This is very important; if you overmix you will probably get hard tack instead of fluffy biscuits.  Great for sailors of old, but not so delicious in present time.  Turn out onto a floured board and knead 5 to 10 times, then stop.  Roll or pat out the dough until it is 1/2-inch thick.  Cut with a floured 2-inch biscuit cutter.  Bake on ungreased cookie pan for 12 to 15 minutes.

Makes 12 biscuits

Annie
Keepin’ E happy.  It’s a good thing.

Cook the Book – Lemon & Herb Baking Powder Biscuits

This is a recipe my grandma passed on to me through my mom. Two very important steps in this recipe are making sure to sift the flour, baking powder and salt – more air means fluffier biscuits. The other is to NOT over mix. Over-mixing will cause you to have hard tack instead of light and fluffy biscuits.

Lemon & Herb Baking Powder Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2  teaspoon salt
1/4  cup shortening
3 tablespoons of fresh herbs such as chives and/or chive blossoms, lemon thyme, thyme, rosemary, lavender
Zest from one lemon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4  cup milk

Preheat oven to 450°. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  This is an important step because you want to add air to the mixture so the biscuits are as fluffy as possible. Cut the shortening in with a pastry knife (or your fingers) until the mixture is the texture of coarse meal. Stir in herbs and lemon zest. Add milk and lemon juice, stirring until a soft dough forms. Do not overmix. This is very important; if you overmix you will probably get hard tack instead of fluffy biscuits. Turn out onto a floured board and knead 10 times, then STOP! Roll or pat out the dough until it is 1/2-inch thick.  Cut with a floured 2-inch biscuit cutter. Bake on ungreased cookie pan for 12 to 15 minutes.

Makes 12 biscuits

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