There are times when baking powder biscuits are indispensable. Sausage gravy, for instance, demands light, tender homemade biscuits hot from the oven.
Unfortunately, mine were neither light nor tender. Though some family members have disagreed, I still think that my biscuits were edible when hot from the oven and covered with gravy or spread generously with butter and jam. And once they had cooled, they could be used for coasters, hockey pucks or skeet practice.
It took courage to make them. Every few months I would try, with no noticeable improvement. Instead of floating down on the plate, they dropped, like ceramic coasters, with an annoying clinking sound. It also took courage to eat them. My victims/guests would ask for extra gravy or more jam.
A few weeks after I mentioned the problem to my sister Patsy, who is an excellent cook, I received the following email:
“Just thought I’d pass on this recipe for biscuits. It is from my Betty Crocker Cookbook and is my favorite for buttermilk biscuits. They always turn out well for me. Give them a try sometime.”
And so I did, and they were at least ten times better than any of my earlier efforts. Here is the recipe.
2 cups flour
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup shortening
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 T milk
Heat the oven to 400º F and bring the buttermilk to room temperature.
Sift the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Cut in the shortening as you would for pie crust until it looks like cornmeal, and then add the buttermilk. Add a little more buttermilk if it looks too dry. Turn the dough out and knead it on a a floured board about fifteen turns, just until the dough forms a smooth ball.
Roll the dough to about a half inch thick and cut it with a water glass or doughnut cutter and place the biscuits an inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Brush the tops with a little milk. Bake the biscuits for ten to twelve minutes or until they are lightly browned.
NOTES: Don’t knead the dough too long or the biscuits will be tough. You may have to make these biscuits a couple of times until you can recognize when you have kneaded the dough enough but not too much. Incidentally, a turn is rolling the dough over after you press it down and turning it a quarter turn.
The dough should be a half inch thick. A little thicker is better than too thin. You should end up with a dozen biscuits.