Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Multipurpose Charm of Biscuits

biscuit- n. [bis-kit]
1. any of various hard or crisp dry baked products
2. a small quick bread made from dough that has been rolled out and cut or dropped from a spoon

Pretty much everywhere else in the world, a biscuit is a crispier cookie or cracker. But the word "biscuit" has come a long way from the original Medieval Latin term bis coctus, which literally means "cooked twice." Ironically, the American "biscuit," is cooked only once and is really more of a scone by English standards. What it really comes down to is how you eat your biscuits. Whether you spread them with Devon cream and raspberry preserves or smother them with white gravy, the basic biscuit is really the same thing. This recipe is for the "drop biscuit" method which doesn't involve rolling and cutting.

Drop Biscuits
makes 10-12

2 c. flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 to 2/3 c. butter-flavored shortening (you can use butter here, but the texture will be a bit different)
2/3 c. milk

Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add shortening and mix until the texture is even throughout. I use about 2/3 cup of shortening because it makes the biscuits just a little bit more buttery and soft. For a more crumbly biscuit, use 1/2 cup. Add milk and mix. At this point, I usually knead these by hand because the dough is really thick. When the texture is consistent throughout, drop spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes. They will be very lightly brown all over the tops. Don't overbake these! Cool on waxed paper or a cooling rack.

Now, you just have to decide whether to throw a fancy tea party for some dainty ladies or a giant breakfast for some lumberjacks.

Pssssssst! More on scones later!
For more on lumberjacks, see:

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