Things Mother Used to Make: Biscuits

2014-10-20 09.52.12The original receipt is from the 1914 cookbook Things Mother Used to Make A Collection of Old Time Recipes, Some Nearly One Hundred Years Old and Never Published Before, by Lydia Gurney

Here’s the recipe as it appears in the cookbook:

=Cream of Tartar Biscuits=

1 Pint of Flour 2 Teaspoonfuls of Cream of Tartar 1 Teaspoonful of Soda 1/2 Teaspoonful of Salt 1 Tablespoonful of Lard

Stir cream of tartar, soda, salt and lard into the flour; mix with milk or water, handling as little as possible. Roll and cut into rounds. Baking-powder can be used in place of soda and cream of tartar.

This is pretty much what I did, except I had to use vegetable shortening and I did make use of the baking powder instead of cream of tartar and soda because I couldn’t find my cream of tartar. The converted recipe is reposted below (scroll down).

Preheat the oven to 400.

Get out all your ingredients and the tools you’ll need.  Oil a baking pan. Remember to set your ingredients all together on the left side of your bowl, and as you finish using them set them down on the right.

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Measure the dry ingredients into the bowl and stir with a fork.

Add the lard- or other fat. You could use coconut oil or ghee.  I was surprised at the small amount of fat in this biscuit recipe, but I used just a Tablespoon to see how it worked, and it was fine.

I prefer to cut fat into the flour mixture of biscuits or pie crust using a Pastry Blender.  I start on the outside of the bowl, press down and in, and work my way around, periodically shaking or scraping off the blades of the pastry blender.  For this small amount of fat, you could also use a fork.

Gently stir in a little milk- I didn’t measure.  Just pour in your liquid and stir until the dough is thick and soft but not too sticky, and kind of clears the sides of the bowl.

This dough isn’t ready yet.  I scraped the sides and then added a little more flour.

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Mix until there is no loose flour in the mix.

This dough was soft enough that I didn’t even need to roll it. I put the ball of dough on a surface lightly dusted with flour and then just pressed it down with my hands until it was the size I wanted.

tough biscuitI don’t cut round biscuits anymore. It entails too much rolling and rerolling.  Not only do I find this tedious, but the more you manhandle and meddle with the dough, the tougher the biscuit (that’s a metaphor for child-rearing, too).

So I spread out my dough- I made these too thin.  Aim for about 1/2 an inch thick-  and then I use a pizza cutter to make squares.  I will usually end up with a couple of smaller corner pieces.  I squeeze those together to make one handshaped rounder biscuit.

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Put the biscuits onto your greased baking sheets and bake on a middle rack of the oven  at about 450 for 10-12 minutes.

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Serve hot

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With plenty of butter

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And maybe some fruit or jam.

Modern Version:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease cookie sheet.

2 cups of Flour- I used freshly ground whole wheat pastry flour
2 Teaspoonfuls of Cream of Tartar and 1 Teaspoonful of baking Soda OR one scant tablespoon of aluminum free baking powder
1/2 Teaspoonful of Salt
1 Tablespoonful of Lard (or other fat)

Stir cream of tartar, soda, salt and lard into the flour, using a pastry blender or a fork to cut the fat into the flour; mix with milk or water, handling as little as possible. Roll and cut into squares.  Slide on baking sheet.  Bake for 10 to 13 minutes.

Baking-powder can be used in place of soda and cream of tartar.

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I ordered more Cream of Tartar from Amazon. It’s permissable on whole30 whereas baking powder is not. With the 15% discount for 5 subscribe and save items, comes out to just .46 an ounce.

My shortening: Spectrum Organic Shortening , it’s non-hydrogenated. I bought several containers on sale a while ago.

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