Inquiring minds want to know how the British commonwealth’s term got switched at birth in the US.
We do not know the answer to that question but here is what we do know. Packaged, purchased biscuits are not something about which we in the US wax poetic. There are no romantic stories about sharing the last crumbs, childhood memories about advertisements or strongly held notions of which brand is best. None of it. The recipe below makes what we refer to as biscuits.
Let us begin with the training of a young southern girl. There was not much training in fact, in any of the culinary arts, except one, the baking of from scratch biscuits. Why home made is called “from scratch” is a mystery. This was the only kitchen training received at my mother’s apron strings. Wash your hands well and let’s get started. Using the old text, printed 1965, copyrighted 1896, The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, from whence all things culinary were learned upon leaving the nest, we turn to page 311. Quick Breads, Biscuits and Coffee Cakes, the heading reads. First on the page, Baking Powder Biscuits.
The shortening may be all butter or margarine, all lard or other cooking fat or oil, or half of each. Lard makes very flaky biscuits, for richer biscuits double the amount of shortening.
To serve piping hot, bake and serve in a glass pie plate.
Split leftover biscuits, toast lightly, butter and serve for breakfast or tea.
Sift into a mixing bowl
2 cups all purpose flour
4 teaspoons tartrate-type baking powder or 2 teaspoons “double-action” type
1 teaspoon salt
With fingertips or a pastry blender or fork, work in
2 tablespoons shortening
With a fork, quickly stir in
2/3 cup milk
Add more milk, little by little, until the dough is soft and light but not sticky. (Flours differ so much that it is impossible to tell exactly how much milk you will need.)
Turn out onto a floured board. With floured hands, pat down or knead about 20 strokes until smooth. Roll lightly 3/4 inch thick. Shape with a biscuit cutter or roll out into an oblong and cut in diamonds with a knife. Place on an ungreased cooky sheet, close together for soft biscuits, 1 inch apart for crusty ones. Prick with a fork.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes at 450 degrees. Makes 12 to 15.
There is no other way to have a biscuit worthy of the name than to make it yourself. Or you will never snag a husband.
My favorite way to eat the fresh out of the oven baked good is with real butter and honey and/or maple syrup, warm. Thinly sliced ham on a buttered biscuit is a southern tradition, but not my cup of tea. There is also chicken and biscuits, with the chicken pulled apart and simmered in a stew like recipe served over split biscuits. Another favorite way is with browned loose pork sausage and a white gravy. These are all easily found at most restaurants and homes where people still cook their own food in the southern United States.
Cookies are similarly best eaten warm right from the oven also, but that is a totally different basket of fish.
But to feel a part of the larger whole, we once ordered from the UK some plum jam and Duchy biscuits from the larder of Prince Charles. The jam was really good.