One of America’s Favorites – Biscuits

January 24, 2022 at 6:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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Biscuits

In the United States, a biscuit is a small piece of quick bread, which after baking usually has a somewhat firm, dry exterior and a soft, crumbly interior. They are actually made with baking powder as a chemical leavening agent rather than yeast, and may be called baking powder biscuits to differentiate them from other types. Like other forms of bread, they are often served with butter or other condiments, flavored with other ingredients, or combined with other types of food to make sandwiches or other dishes.

Biscuits, soda breads, cornbread, and similar breads are all considered quick breads, to indicate that they do not need time for the dough to rise before baking.

Biscuits developed from hardtack, which was first made from only flour and water, with later first lard and then baking powder being added. The long development over time and place explains why the word biscuit can, depending upon the context and the speaker’s English dialect, refer to very different baked goods.

 

Southern chefs may have had an advantage in creating biscuits. Northern American all-purpose flours, mainly grown in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, are made from the hard spring wheats that grow in the North’s cold-winter climate. Southern American bleached all-purpose flours, originally grown in the Carolinas, Georgia and Tennessee before national food distribution networks, are made from the soft winter wheat that grows in the warm Southern summer. This summer growth results in wheat that has less protein, which is more suited to the creation of quick breads, as well as cookies, cakes and muffins.

Pre-shaped ready-to-bake biscuits can be purchased in supermarkets, in the form of small refrigerated cylindrical segments of dough encased in a cardboard can. These refrigerator biscuits were patented by Ballard and Ballard in 1931.

Open biscuit with honey being drizzled in it

A typical recipe will include baking powder or baking soda, flour, salt, shortening or butter, and milk or buttermilk. The percentages of these ingredients vary as historically the recipe would pass orally from family to family and generation to generation. Biscuits are almost always a savory food item. Sugar is rare or included only in small quantities, and was not part of the traditional recipe.

Biscuits can be prepared for baking in several ways. The dough can be rolled out flat and cut into rounds, which expand when baked into flaky-layered cylinders. If extra liquid is added, the dough’s texture changes to resemble stiff pancake batter so that small spoonfuls can be dropped into the baking sheet to produce drop biscuits, which are more amorphous in texture and shape.

Although most biscuits are made without yeast, a type of biscuit called an angel biscuit contains yeast as well, as do those made with a sourdough starter.

Biscuits may be eaten for breakfast. They are meant to be served warm with a choice of spread of butter, honey, cane syrup, or some fruit-based jam; otherwise, they are cut in half and become the Southern version of the breakfast sandwich, in which any combination of Country ham, tomato, scrambled eggs, bacon, or sausage is put in the biscuits halves as a filling.

For dinner, they are a popular accompaniment to fried chicken, nearly all types of Southern barbecue, and several Lowcountry dishes. They also often figure in to the Southern version of Thanksgiving dinner as well.

Sausage biscuit

Variations
* Large drop biscuits, because of their size and rough exterior texture, are sometimes referred to as cat head biscuits.

* Biscuits may be flavored with other ingredients. For example, the baker may add grated cheddar or American cheese to the basic recipe to produce cheese biscuits.

* Home cooks may use mass-produced, highly processed refrigerator biscuits for a quicker alternative to rolled or drop biscuits.

* Biscuits can even be cooked over a campfire on a stick.

* A sweet biscuit layered or topped with fruit (typically strawberries) and whipped cream is one type of shortcake.

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