From 1860 until the mid-19th century, it was not unusual for farm housewives and family cooks to bake at least one batch of biscuits every day. Until sharp-edge cutters were invented, they used tin or wooden circles to shape their dough. And when someone got the bright idea of rolling cutters with multiple circles, it was possible to stamp out more than one biscuit at a time.
We have always been impressed by the different ways Americans have eaten biscuits. Our idea of a perfect breakfast is a hot biscuit with sweet butter and jam, but we can understand that when big breakfasts were popular, biscuits were served with more substantial toppings. In the South, for instance, biscuits were smothered with red-eye gravy and in the North, with creamed chipped beef.
For later in the day, there’s nothing better you can do with baking powder biscuits than douse them with fresh strawberry sauce and whipped cream, and turn them into shortcakes.
The main thing to remember in making homemade biscuits is that you need a “good biscuit hand.” Mix the ingredients lightly, and never over-mix. As food writer and cookbook author James Villas writes in The Glory of Southern Cooking (Wiley, 2007), “Never handle biscuit dough any longer than it takes to just mix the ingredients.” Too much mixing and handling and you’ll end up with a hockey puck rather than a flakey, fluffy, crumbly biscuit that’s worthy of any topping you want to put on it.
Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits
Whole-wheat flour gives these biscuits a delicious nutty flavor. Patting and folding the dough makes the biscuits flaky, too.
2 cups whole-wheat flour, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, buttermilk, plus more if needed
1. Preheat oven to 450F.
2. Combine 1 3/4 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl; whisk together. Add butter, toss with your fingers to coat with flour, and rapidly pinch and fluff butter into flour with your fingertips to make small flakes. Work quickly to keep butter firm.
3. Add buttermilk; stir well with a fork until dough gathers into one large lump. Drizzle in additional droplets of buttermilk if necessary.
4. Scrape dough onto a flat surface sprinkled with remaining 1/4 cup flour. Roll dough to coat with flour, then pat out into a rough rectangle about 1/2-inch-thick and fold it in thirds. Repeat the patting and folding. Pat dough into a thickness of 1 inch. Dip a 2-inch round cutter into flour and stamp out biscuits, coating the cutter with flour before each stamping. Place biscuits on a heavy ungreased baking sheet about 1 inch apart.
5. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until biscuits are golden brown. Makes 12 biscuits.
Recipe by Greg Patent
Per (1-biscuit) serving: 130 calories, 6g fat, 4g prot., 16g carbs., 2g fiber, 270mg sodium
Look for Relish magazine, celebrating America’s love of food, each month in the Tooele Transcript Bulletin. For more Relish recipes, go to relish.com.
Photo credit: Mark Boughton Photography; styling by Teresa Blackburn