Biscuits

Somebody asked me about this, and I promised to elaborate when I next made biscuits and could take some photos, so here we are.

This is how I make biscuits. There are other ways. Some of them are more elaborate, but I need to get the job done in a hurry.  My criteria include speed and whether or not Dave likes them.

I use self-rising flour.

If I get all inspired and decide to actually grind wheat for flour, so the biscuits then become whole wheat, I have to measure the flour, and measure the baking powder and measure the salt.

With self-rising flour, I don’t have to measure anything.

preheatoven

I start by preheating the oven.  I usually get the biscuits made before the oven gets to the correct temperature, so I flip on the oven as soon as I come in the house from the barn after milking.

flour

As you can see, it’s self-rising flour. For the two of us, I generally put about one to one-and-a-half cups of flour in the bowl. I don’t measure it. I just guess.

lard

And then I add the fat. It’s usually lard, although I’ve used butter and I’ve also used ghee, and I think I’ve probably used tallow and/or schmaltz (chicken fat) a few times.

I don’t measure it, but the basic idea is about 1/4 as much fat as flour.  The more fat you add, the more flakey the biscuits will be, so I sort of err on the high side.  However, I try not to go overboard. I use a little less fat than I would in pie crust (I don’t measure for that either).

pastrycutter

I use a pastry cutter.  I haven’t always done so.  My mother taught me to use two knives turned to the dull side and literally cut the fat in pieces. The pastry cutter does the same thing, but it’s faster.

addmilk

Then I add some milk.  I go very sparingly with it.  My guess is maybe 1/4 cup or a wee bit more, but I tend to add it in little bits and stir it in.

As you can see, I want a dough that sticks together and pulls away from the side of bowl, but isn’t too awfully wet.

finger

If I touch the dough at this point, it will stick to my finger, as you can see.

If I put too much flour in there, the dough will be too dry and the biscuits will be tougher.  If I put too little, I won’t be able to handle it.  So I get it to the sticky point.

extraflour

Then I sprinkle a little flour (maybe a spoonful) over the sticky dough.  That forms a sort of barrier so I can touch it.

formingbiscuit

And there’s a biscuit being formed.

You can roll out the dough if you like and cut it with a biscuit cutter (for that, I use the lid to the PAM spray) but I rarely do it. That would mean something else to wash.

I just get a spoonful of dough, lightly covered in flour, and form a ball.

formedbiscuit

It looks like this when it’s ready.

biscuitsonpan

Sprayed pan, ready for the oven.

settimer

I always set the timer because nobody on earth can burn up something in the oven better than I can.

bakedbiscuit

And there they are, hot and ready.

breakfast

Yes, that is Frances butter. Yes, that is our bacon and our sausage.

Those are store bought eggs. We do not currently have any hens. We got rid of them last fall because they were old and had pretty much quit laying.  We considered getting new ones this spring, but eggs at Aldi are currently 29 cents per dozen.  We cannot feed hens for that.

When eggs go back up, maybe we’ll get some hens.

And one other note.  I had a boyfriend once whose mother made biscuits for every meal.  Every single meal, so that meant she sometimes made biscuits three times a day.  She basically taught me to do it the way I do it.

Only she was far better than I am.

She kept a bowl full of self-rising flour in the cupboard with a dishtowel over it.

When she needed to make biscuits, she would take it down and add a little lard, right into that big bowl full of flour.  She then cut it in right in the middle.  She kept the flour/lard mixture in the center.

She would then add the milk, a little at a time, and stir until she had some dough, still right in the middle of that big bowl of flour.  And then she would form the biscuits just like I do and put them on her pan and they’d go in the oven.

She then put the towel back over the flour and put it back in the cupboard.

All she used was two knives (to cut in the lard) and a spoon.

I was simply awestruck by it. I knew I’d never be able to measure up to that woman so I found a new boyfriend.  Dave’s mother rarely cooked at all, so I knew I was safe.

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25 thoughts on “Biscuits”

  1. The concept that someone could switch from fresh eggs to store bought…
    I choose not to have chickens because they attract so many predators which means I have to drive 10 minutes each way to buy them. 🙁

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  2. I always set the timer because nobody on earth can burn up something in the oven better than I can.

    Oh, you have competition. I also use a timer for anything and everything I bake. Sometimes for things on a stovetop burner.

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  3. My Grandmother kept her flour and biscuit bowl in a lard can in the corner of the kitchen, she would cut her lard in the center of that bowl of flour with her fingers then mix the milk in the same way, always leaving flour in the bowl she pinched off and shaped perfect biscuits placing them in a greased cast iron skillet for baking. Thank you Sally for the memory, I can still see her fingers working that dough, I inherited her biscuit platter, my most prized possession.

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  4. I have my Great great great grandma dough bowl she brought from Sweden. I never met her, but I think about her and my other grannies when I make my biscuits or bread or muffins (they made bread & hardtack in the bowl). I don’t use a recipe as I have been making them just about everyday since I was ten. Sometimes I jazz them up with extra ingredients like cheese, garlic or whatever. I’m done with any and all type of livestock, and that includes chickens, so I use store bought eggs. Heck, I don’t even use organic free range eggs. I use whatever is the cheapest from the supermarket. Lol. I use a timer too cause I forget that I have stuff in the oven once I put them in the oven. Oh, I use butter and not Crisco or lard cause I like the taste of butter better. Most days at my house there is a pot of soup in the crock pot or back of the stove. I work all day and our 37 year old son who is disabled and my 64 year old BIL, who also is somewhat disable, are at home and they have soup and sandwiches & salad everyday for lunch. Plus when my husband & I & our other son gets home from work there is always some soup left in the pot that we can have while dinner gets ready. I love making soup. This morning I put on a pot of big red. I made enough so that it will be dinner tonight. Can’t wait to get home!

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  5. Oh, when my kids were little and money was short I would make the biscuits into dessert. I would add chocolate milk for the liquid and maybe replace two spoonfuls of flour with powered nestle quick. Or I would make them like cinnamon rolls, only not rolls cause with nine kids and no time or money it was easy to do a quick version (they were nothing like cinnamon rolls, but they were sweet) for a dessert. You can added chopped up apples and other fruits and they kind a turn out like scones. Or bacon or sausage in them. Back in the day I tried just about everything in my biscuit dough. Not always with pleasant results. You know it’s bad if the dogs won’t touch it lol

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  6. For some reason I haven’t ever used anything besides a wooden spoon to mix in fat when I make biscuits. I was taught to wack a stick of butter until it’s flat, and then to hunk it up with a fork. I always add baking powder, even with self rising flour, is that weird? I had no clue I was adding a separate step.
    Do you use a wash, either milk or butter before you put yours in the oven?
    I also married a guy who’s mama can’t cook! He thought he hated turkey, sloppy joes, homemade gravy and pork chops. Don’t worry too much though, I’ve fixed him.

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  7. I did not grow up with biscuits, I do not like biscuits, my family does not like biscuits.
    Why the hell did the bag of self-rising flour end up on my shopping list and into my cupboard?

    Damn it, I guess I will be making biscuits.
    Maybe I will like them the way you make them.

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  8. I just made Sally biscuits.

    Yum. So good. We just sat around and ate them with butter and homemade stawberry jam, and iced tea.

    Keep making things, Sally. My family is your fan club. They want more.

    I’ve got the best of both worlds….my neighbor sells farm fresh eggs. Happy chicken tractors. Big brown eggs.

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  9. Thanks for sharing. Some of your posts make me miss my mom. She canned, baked from scratch and basically could do everything because she was a child of the depression. My dad was the same way. I don’t have time for all the cooking though I do cook from scratch but owning a home has made me remember things I watched my dad do. I’m very proud of my tankless water heater and 80 or 90 feet of gasline and pipe which is in its 9th leak free year. Keep writing! (and BTW FRANCES rocks!)

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  10. Sally! Thank you. I love the step by step with the pics, especially to show what the dough should look like.

    Loved the story of the lady making biscuits in the big bowl of flour.

    I’m going to try these tomorrow.

    Thank you for doing this. I’ll keep my screen name to avoid confusion, but I truly DO NOT regret becoming a reader of your blog.

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  11. I always add baking powder, even with self rising flour, is that weird?

    That’s a very good way to have collapsed biscuits.

    No wash. I know people do, but damn, I have shit to do. I do all this while trying to get the milking machine cleaned up and before going back out to the barn to let Frances out.

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  12. Being an Aussie, I don’t understand the American biscuit thing. I know people have them with gravy and like you did, with bacon, sausage etc. But….I just don’t understand why they are such a staple I suppose. I guess where you have biscuits, we’d have toast?

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  13. See, you have actual real life chores! I have all the household stuff, but that still lends me extra time to do all the wash on my biscuits I could ever want.
    I haven’t ever had a biscuit collapse on me, mine usually end up about 3 ish inches tall. I cheat though, I use a recipe that’s pretty close to the King Arthur Flour biscuit recipe. I wasn’t paying as much attention as I should have been to my mama’s biscuit recipe, but I did get most of her process down. She used something called bakewell though, and I can’t find it here.

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  14. Sally – does it have to be whole milk? I only drink skim milk but I’m not adverse to asking my husband to pick up a pint of whole milk or cream if necessary.

    Also, fun fact! Lard prepared in the manner that you do isn’t necessarily “bad” stuff. Lard has less saturated fat (the bad kind) and more unsaturated fat (the good kind) and less cholesterol than an equal amount of butter by weight. It’s only when people hydrogenated fats are added (for stabilization) that it tilts the balance.

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  15. hydrogenated fats

    That’s Crisco. It was invented to use up corn byproducts and made to look like lard. They then sold this inferior product to women who’d been using “free” lard, a byproduct of hog rearing, all their lives. It was a huge con game.

    Sally – does it have to be whole milk?

    I have never used anything but whole milk, so I can’t tell you. I’m sure you’ll get biscuits. They may not be as good. [I can’t bear skim milk. If I’m gonna drink water, I want it to be clear.]

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  16. But….I just don’t understand why they are such a staple I suppose.

    They are to the American south what naan is to India, or tortillas are to Mexico. All cultures have these sorts of staple foods. You know, like Vegemite. 🙂

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  17. Aaahh the Aussie weak spot – Vegemite. Love it.

    FWIW, my very American husband loves it too. So much so that I bought a huge tub of the stuff that lasted him for years. It is excellent used as a flavoring in soup, but I bet you already know that.

    When my mother and father got married, they sent a package to my father’s parents and in it they put a small jar of Vegemite. My grandparents threw it away because they thought it had gone bad.

    And they in turn sent my mother a package with a small container of grits in it. Mom tried to cook them. Dad didn’t know how. Mom said she just kept adding water and ended up having to get a bigger pot. She didn’t realize that a serving is three tablespoons.

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  18. And they in turn sent my mother a package with a small container of grits in it. Mom tried to cook them. Dad didn’t know how. Mom said she just kept adding water and ended up having to get a bigger pot. She didn’t realize that a serving is three tablespoons.

    Grits. Now there’s another thing I don’t get. It’s made from corn isn’t it? We have polenta over here, and I have to say…not a fan really. Give me mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes, etc anyway over polenta.

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  19. It’s made from corn isn’t it?

    Polenta is cooked cornmeal. Cornmeal mush, if you will.

    Grits are made from nixtamalized corn. The process with the funny name changes the character of the corn and as a result, grits aren’t anything like polenta.

    However, it’s a southern American thing and, like Vegemite, it’s something you have a tendency to like if you grew up on it, and you don’t if you didn’t.

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  20. Thanks for your biscuit recipe! My husband and I have spent the last few years learning to make breads and biscuits from scratch because we both came from households that had parents who spent more time with their chosen substances than teaching their children how to be productive members of society. Like the Naugler children, that is something we had to learn on our own/rebel against our family norm of bad behavior/choices.

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