Both Kate and Christopher wanted to learn to make BISCUITS. Biscuits are new to Kate, but have some things in common with bread baking, so she taught the parts she knows to Christopher. A happy day for me when I’ve taught my daughter well and she can teach her brother! I filled in the new information, and we had delicious biscuits for a late breakfast.
Kate chimes in: I had a lot of fun being able to teach my brother something I myself hardly knew. It gave me a much better understanding of how to bake bread, solidifying the rough knowledge I gained the first time around when mom taught me. As we speak, Chris is making another batch of biscuits all by himself for the family’s breakfast and I’m getting to sit by and watch. J It is refreshing to see the fruits of our efforts blooming. I’m ignoring the evidence that he is clearly a quicker learner than I am.
Biscuits are quick and easy to make, a great start for the day, or a happy addition to brunch, lunch, or supper. Biscuits have a few inexpensive ingredients and many, many variations are possible. They are great food for a college kid, a beginning cook, or anyone who likes quick, easy variety.
Biscuit recipes differ a little bit from each other, but almost always contain the following:
Flour, Baking Powder, Salt, Shortening, Liquid (usually milk)
Find a Recipe that works well for you, and stick with it. Then you can remember the ingredients and make quick biscuits at a friend’s or when you visit your mom. Once you are good at that recipe, you can begin to play with variations. You can try some of the ideas at the bottom of this article, or make up your own.
This recipe calls for:
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoons baking powder (Not baking soda)
1 Teaspoon salt
¼ Cup shortening (Lard, butter or vegetable shortening. I prefer vegetable because it has a very mild flavor, so I can add flavors I want)
¾ Cups milk, approximately. (You may use a little less, depending on your flour.)
Kate taught Chris about mise en place, to have all of your ingredients out, measured, and in the order in which you will use them. This simple organizing technique makes baking even faster and easier.
Figure 1 Biscuit Mise en Place
Begin by sifting more flour than the recipe calls for into a separate bowl. Sifting adds air to the flour.
Figure 2 Sifting Flour
After sifting, gently measure 2 Cups of flour into your mixing bowl. For information on how and why to measure flour gently, see here. You will use the extra sifted flour later, so set it aside after you measure. Thoroughly stir in 1 T baking powder and 1 T salt. Alternatively, you can re-sift the flour with salt and baking powder.
|Next, measure shortening.You can see that this is a messy processFigure 3 Measuring Shortening
||Add the shortening to your flour mixtureand ask “how am I going to mix this in?Figure 4 Adding Shortening
There are a few methods, but the easiest is to use a Pastry Fork, also known as a Pastry Blender or Pastry Knife.
This is a series on how a pastry fork works:
|Hold the pastry fork in your working handHold the bowl with your other hand.Slice down and awaythrough the shortening and flour.
||At first you will see a lot of shorteningin the tines of the pastry fork.You will also see clumps of shortening in the flour.
|Figure 5 how to hold a pastry fork
Figure 6 First slice with pastry fork
|Chris continues this motion,turning the bowl as he works
||Stir until the mixture resembles crumbsThis is called “cutting in” the shortening.
|Figure 7 Move the pastry fork down and through the flour mixture
Figure 8 Work quickly
Add enough milk to make soft dough. This means that you add about ½ cup milk and stir. If the dough sticks to your fork or spoon and leaves the sides of the bowl, it is ready for the next step. If your dough is still crumbly, add the rest of the milk.
Use the remaining sifted flour to dust your work surface. Turn your dough out of the bowl onto the flour. Knead for about 15 strokes. The dough will cohere, and change texture so that it is smooth, soft and resilient. That means it bounces back a bit when you let go.
Figure 9 Rolling dough
Roll out the dough with a rolling pin. A smooth dowel about 2 inches in diameter will work if you don’t have a rolling pin. If you want crisp biscuits, roll ¼ inch thick. If you want softer biscuits, roll ½ inch thick. Use a cutter approximately 2 inches in diameter to cut out the biscuits. When I’m in a hurry, I use the rim of a water glass. This day Kate and Chris picked out fun cookie cutters.
|After choosing your cutters,press them firmly into the dough
||Pull the extra dough away from the shape,lifting it gently as you pull.
Figure 10 Cookie cutters make fun shapes
Figure 11 Lift gently
Figure 12 Biscuits on a baking sheet
Place the biscuits on a baking sheet. Do not grease the baking sheet unless your recipe specifically says to.Put them close together for soft biscuits, or 1 inch apart for crusty biscuits.Place the baking sheet on a rack in the middle of the oven. Bake in a very hot oven (450 degrees Fahrenheit) for 10 to 12 minutes so the biscuits are golden brown. Serve immediately with butter, jam, peanut butter, cheese, or whatever you like. Mmmmm!
Chris’s review: “This was my first time making biscuits. Luckily I had a lot of help and saw the technique behind sifting and mixing in the shortening. It was quick and simple. Next time though I will want to do more, like make cinnamon biscuits or honey biscuits. Overall, the process was enjoyable and it turned out good. I recommend with butter and honey.”
The next day, using the same recipe:
Figure 13 Chris makes brunch biscuits
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoons baking powder (not baking soda)
1 Teaspoon salt
¼ Cup shortening
(Lard, butter or vegetable
shortening. I prefer vegetable because it has a
very mild flavor, so I can add flavors I want)
¾ Cups milk, approximately.
(You may use a
little less, depending on your flour.)
Figure 14 use finely grated chees
Chris made Cheese Biscuits by adding approximately
½ Cup grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
Stirred into the dry ingredients before adding the milk.
No other changes in the recipe are necessary.
|These are the finished cheese biscuits:
Well done, Chris!
Biscuits are made with baking powder as the leavening agent (the stuff that makes dough rise), so they are faster than breads made with yeast, and are therefore known as “quick breads.” There are many types of quick breads. There are a few other things usually made with baking powder and flour that we don’t think of as bread, such as waffles, pancakes and cookies.
Figure 15 Mouli Grater
rating your own cheese for small quantities is fast and easy. A mouli grater is a great tool to use. You can find these new or used for around $20.00 US DollarsYou can buy pre-grated cheese but it is expensive and has lost a good bit of flavor by the time you get it.
You can buy Crisco vegetable shortening in sticks which have line measures on the sides for faster measuring. The sticks look like butter sticks, but are stable at room temperature and do not have to be stored in the refrigerator. I bake a lot, so I use a can.
This recipe can be found in Farm Journal’s Homemade Bread.