GC #45 – Biscuits

Americans have been eating biscuits since our early pioneer days, probably because biscuits are useful when yeast isn’t available or when you need a quick bread.  Made with flour, shortening and milk or water, they are fairly rich and should be eaten hot, but they are also adaptable to a huge variety of healthy additions.

This recipe comes from the 24th printing of the 1931 edition of Irma Rombauer’s Joy of Cooking.   P1030074A newer edition of this classic is now available, but I prefer this battered copy.  It was my mother’s and still has her notes in margins.  I think of her and I smell the warm flavors of my youth every time I open it.  Where else can you find a recipe for Salami of Wildfowl or roasted snipes and woodcock, let alone preparing roe for caviar, preserving eggs or instructions on

Joy of Cooking Plan for herb garden

Joy of Cooking Plan for herb garden

cultivating herbs (complete with a suggested garden planting) all in the same book.

Ingredients for Rolled Biscuits

  • 1 3/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons chilled butter or shortening, or a combination of both
  • 3/4 cup of milk


Preparation of Rolled Biscuits

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  • Sift the dry ingredients together into a large bowl.
  • Cut the shortening into the dry ingredients using a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture is the consistency of coarse cornmeal.  Don’t get neurotic about this; some bigger lumps won’t matter.
  • Make a well in the center of these ingredients and pour in the milk all at once.
  • Immediately stir the ingredients together, talking no more than 30 seconds.
  • Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead together quickly (again, no more then 30 seconds).
  • Use you hands to shape in a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick.
  • Cut with a round biscuit cutter or simply into 1 1/2 inch rectangles.
  • Brush the  tops with milk or melted butter.
  • Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake until lightly browned, about 12 to 15 minutes

Tips for Biscuits

As a rule of thumb, breads made with baking powder should be handled as briefly and gently as possible while in most cases breads made with yeast can be kneaded and handled as much as possible.

Additions to Biscuits

  • Dust the tops with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar before baking.
  • Just before they brown, sprinkle the tops with grated parmesan and paprika.
  • Or incorporate any of the following into the dough:
    • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, chives or sage.
    • 1/3rd cup crumbled roquerfort or cheddar cheese.
    • 2 or 3 slices of cooked and crumbled bacon.
    • 3 tablespoons chopped ham
    • 4 tablespoons sauteed onions.

P1030024My daughter Georgia prepared these biscuits as the basis for a lunch.  She broke the biscuits in half, inserted a fried egg, cheese and and handful of lettuce, and served them with small bowl of asparagus soup.

Next blog I’ll have a few of the many variations of biscuits.

About Christopher Koch

Christopher Koch is a journalist and filmmaker who is now teaching at Montgomery Community College
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4 Responses to GC #45 – Biscuits

  1. Marc Aramian says:

    Thanks, Chris. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your blog over the years.

    I went thru a biscuit making phase some decades back and wanted to share a technique I used to use (before the health industry dumped empty carbs!).

    I often liked to use butter (the solid fat so popular before shortening). I would use it cold and cut it up with a knife into pea sized chunks while it was sitting on the flour (pre-milk phase). But that’s not what I’m writing about.

    Here’s the trick: press it out into the slab, lightly dust with flour, fold in half, press, dust, fold… 4 or 5 times. Then, when cutting (I used to use a small glass), NEVER twist. Only press straight down. What this does is create a layered biscuit that easily splits. I suppose this is a frontier variation on the croissant. BTW, twisting seals the edges.

  2. Georgia Koch says:

    I’m famous!!! xoxo

    Sent from my iPhone


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