One of my favorite characters from literature, Larry McMurtry’s Augustus McCrae, was a connoisseur of, among other things, biscuits. My good friends, ranchers Jeff and Jennie Christensen of Carbon County, were given a sourdough biscuit starter as a wedding gift from fellow Utah Farm Bureau members. And me, well, I consider the glutenous goodness pretty basic on my hierarchy of needs.
In the wee hours of our nation’s infancy, we developed a unique version of the Roman hardtack predecessor from which the biscuit gets its name. By the onset of the Civil War, the biscuit as we know it today started to take on its own shape and style. Just before the Second World War, biscuits encased in a cardboard can came on the scene and the United States of America was hooked.
Even so, homemade biscuits are my preference. Cooked in pan that’s older than me, if I have a choice. Soft winter wheat varieties grown in the warmer climates of the South are lower in gluten, so using soft wheat flour may help you achieve a lighter dough. Full fat ingredients may also help you accomplish a terrific texture.
More import than flour, however, is that you don’t overdo it. One of the advantages of making biscuits historically was that you didn’t have to knead it. In fact, simply over mixing can make the biscuit hard and chewy. Stirring ingredients gently and just long enough for the dough to come together will help produce a biscuit that’s smooth and savory.
As a nation, American farmers grow 58 million tons of wheat each year, and the average American eats about 134 lbs. of flour every year. I hope a lot of that is dropped into cast iron and baked at 400 for 15 or 20 minutes! Enjoy!
Recipe courtesy of Kristen Ruden
2 C. flour
½ tsp. Salt
4 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
5 tbsp. shortening
1 C. buttermilk
2 tsp. sugar
Sift flour, salt, baking powder, and soda; cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add buttermilk all at once and stir until dough follows fork around bowl. Turn out and knead for 30 seconds. Roll 3/8 inch thick; brush with melted fat or salad oil; fold and cut double biscuits with biscuit cutter. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet in hot oven (450°) for 12 to 15 minutes.