Wednesday, April 01, 2020

I wouldn't want to live in a world without biscuits

Long-time readers might remember my quest for the perfect biscuit.  I've made ordinary baking powder biscuits ever since seventh-grade home economics, which is the only year I took that particular subject because it looked like if I signed up for another year, I might have to learn to sew, heaven forbid.  My first effort making biscuits was successful.  Years later when I moved into my own apartment, once in awhile I'd make myself some biscuits to eat with butter and jelly.  After Cliff and I married, I kept on using the same basic biscuit recipe for Cliff, who liked them as well as I did.

But in the back of my mind, I knew my biscuits could be better, because I had twice tasted biscuits made by southern cooks that were better than mine.  I surfed the Internet looking for clues to what I was missing in my own biscuits, and finally learned most southern ladies use self-rising flour and buttermilk to make theirs.  I took tips and tricks from several different cooks, and was finally satisfied I had reached "Biscuit Nirvana", because my biscuits couldn't possibly get much better... I thought.

Then came the pandemic, when crazy men and women, most of whom had never made a biscuit in their lives, hoarded all the flour, including the self-rising kind.  At the start of this hullabaloo connected to the epidemic, I doubt any or them had tried making a biscuit in their lives, but now they're getting ready to have their own cooking show, apparently.  My Russian friend sent me a recipe to make my own self-rising flour, but I superciliously told him, "It isn't the same."
(In my junior and senior years of high school, we had ten vocabulary words to learn every week;  supercilious was one of those words.  We were to find the word in the newspaper if possible, write the meaning of the word, spell it correctly, and use it in a sentence.  I graduated in 1962, but I still recognize every Henry Hornet word when I'm reading, and sometime remember to use them.)

It's the truth to say home-made self-rising flour isn't the same; there is something in the commercially made stuff that turns out better biscuits than the old-fashioned baking powder biscuits made with regular flour.  But this morning, after getting up at 3 AM and starving until seven, I needed a biscuit.  So I scolded myself for being silly, and headed to the kitchen to make ordinary biscuits:  they might not be the very best, but they're good.  On the way to the kitchen, I realized there might be some fantastic recipe on line I haven't tried that is just as great as what I'm used to, and wins again!  It turns out this was the day for a revolution, when I learned there's more that one path leading to Biscuit Nirvana.  I halved the recipe because it's just me and Cliff, and used Crisco because I'm out of lard (because I can't do my own shopping).  Make no mistake about it, lard makes better baked goods than Crisco.  Yeah, it'll kill you.  So will Crisco.  And biscuits in general, for that matter  

I believe the secret ingredient is cream of tartar.  These biscuits are so light, they could almost float up and away to become clouds floating in the blue Missouri sky.  Who needs self-rising flour?  Not I!

"This country fair award-winning recipe was perfected by my grandmother on the northern Canadian prairies. Sadie's advice - leave little chunks of lard the size of peas when cutting the flour in. Can be served at breakfast, lunch, or dinner."


  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup lard
  • 2 cups buttermilk


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
  2. Whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, cream of tartar, and baking powder. Cut lard into flour mixture using a pastry blender until crumbly; stir in buttermilk. Turn mixture onto a floured surface and knead just a few times to form a moist dough.
  3. Roll dough out 1-inch thick; cut biscuits with a cookie cutter or round glass. Place biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven until tops are golden, about 12 minutes.


Paula said...

My biscuit recipe uses cream of tartar. I think it's the only way to go with them (: I've been using the recipe since I was a little kid. Of course, I make those for everyone else and finally found an okay gluten free one for me. It comes out different every time I make them, but at least I get to eat biscuits!

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

Now I want some biscuits too, but I cheat. I have some frozen ones in the freezer that will serve my purpose,I love them with butter and some honey hot out of the oven. Thanks for your recipe, I might have to use it after my frozen ones are gone.

Margaret said...

People are hoarding flour here too, and yeast. I keep seeing FB friends doing constant baking and I think, hmmm, Margaret, keep your mouth shut! I use cream of tartar in my sugar cookies (as well as a tsp of vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp of almond extract) and my family can't get enough of them. I'm not doing much baking right now because it would be silly for one person. I would weigh 200 pounds at the end of this.

The Feminine Energy said...

Donna, your blog entry was just what I needed today!! Satirical truth... and you do it the BEST, my dear. *lol* I'm going to try those biscuits TODAY!! Since I'm diabetic I don't eat much bread but you know what? I'm going to eat one anyway. I think in times of COVID-19 all the carbs have ceased to exist! :-) Lovingly, Andrea xoxo