Biscuits are a variety of quick breads popular in
different forms throughout the United States. They are
made from a combination of flour, shortening,
leavening and milk or water. This simple dough is
generally rolled out, cut into small rounds, baked and
served hot. Food preferences and ingredients in
various regions of the country often determine what
type of biscuit is preferred. People in the North enjoy
tall, tender flaky biscuits; people from the South like
biscuits with a soft, tender crumb.
The original biscuit was a flat cake that was put
back in the oven after being removed from its tin,
hence the French name “bis” (twice) “cuit” (cooked).
This very hard, dry biscuit was the staple for sailors
and soldiers for centuries. During the time of Louis
XIV, soldiers’ biscuits were known as “stone bread.”
“Animalized” biscuits were introduced later.
They were thought to be very nutritious because they
used meat juices as the liquid. In the 19th centuries,
travelers’ biscuits were hard cakes that kept well -
wrapped in a kind of tin foil.
Feathery, light biscuits originated in Southern
plantation kitchens but, now are popular throughout the
United States. Rolled biscuits were a staple at most
meals, but beaten biscuits became another Southern
favorite. Beaten biscuits are made light by beating air
into the dough with a mallet or a rolling pin (up to 100
strokes “or more for company”). Beaten biscuits are
typically thinner and crispier than baking powder
Prepared biscuit mix can be purchased in
grocery stores. Just add liquid, roll out the dough and
bake according to package directions. The leading
commercial mix is now available in a reduced-fat
formulation. Biscuit dough in tubes will be located in
the refrigerated section of supermarkets.
Recipes for making biscuits at home can be
found in most all-purpose cookbooks. Rarely are
biscuits available from a bakery because their shelf-life
is so short.
It’s best to enjoy biscuits steaming hot out of
the oven because they do not contain preservatives
that prevent staling. Biscuits tend to get hard and
tasteless in a hurry, but they can be reheated for a
short period of time in the microwave set at a low
temperature. They also can be placed in a damp paper
bag and reheated in a 350°F oven for 10 to15 minutes.
To freeze baked biscuits, cool to room
temperature and place in plastic freezer bags, pressing
out as much air as possible. Do not freeze the biscuits
for longer than two months. To thaw, let biscuits set at
room temperature for 1 hour, unwrap and reheat in a
microwave or oven.
To freeze biscuit dough, prepare and cut
biscuits according to directions. Freeze, uncovered, on
a cookie sheet about 2 to 4 hours, then place in freezer
bags or stack in rigid containers with a piece of waxed
paper between each biscuit. Cover and freeze for up to
3 to 4 weeks. Thaw biscuits unwrapped at room
temperature about 1 hour. Bake in a preheated 425°F
oven for 20 to 25 minutes.
Biscuits are high in fat, which makes
them flaky, tender and delicious. The average home
recipe has 50 percent of calories from fat, so budget
fat calories accordingly. The average recipe also
derives 43 percent of its calories from carbohydrates
and 7 percent from protein.
♦ Want variety? Make biscuits extra large or
small; roll them out thin; or, make them tall,
crisp or soft, buttermilk or plain milk. They can
be dropped from a spoon, cut with a knife, a
floured biscuit cutter or a floured glass.
♦ Always sift dry ingredients together for
even distribution of leavening. Otherwise,
yellow or brown flecks result.
♦ For tender, flaky biscuits, cut shortening in
thoroughly, using two knives, a fork or a pastry
blender, until dough resembles meal.
♦ To make a soft dough, stir the liquid into
the dry ingredients just until the dough leaves
the side of the bowl and forms a ball. Knead
gently 10 to 12 strokes to blend all ingredients
and assure tall, plump, evenly textured
biscuits. Kneading with the fingertips helps
♦ Cut dough straight down. Do not twist.
♦ For crusty biscuits, place ¾ inch apart for
baking. For softer ones, place closer together.
For a golden color, brush raw tops with milk.
Basic Biscuits (reduced fat)
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ cup shortening
¾ cup skim milk
In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder,
salt and sugar. Cut in shortening. Add milk; stir until
dough forms a soft ball.
Turn dough onto a floured board; knead lightly
20 to 25 times. Roll or pat to ½ -inch thickness. Cut
with a floured biscuit cutter or glass. Place on an un-
greased baking sheet and bake at 425°F for 10 to 12
minutes. Makes 18 biscuits.
Nutritional Analysis: Each biscuit provides
approximately: 82 calories; 2 g protein; 12 g
carbohydrates; 3 g fat (1 g saturated); 0 g dietary fiber;
2 mg cholesterol; 23 mcg folate; 1 mg iron; 31 mg
calcium; 32 mg potassium; 226 mg sodium.