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Baking Powder Biscuit Tips

Homemade baking powder biscuits usually means whipping up a batch using a commercial baking mix.

It only takes a few extra steps to make genuine homemade biscuits, and once you get the knack and the taste, you'll never look back.

In days past, yeast wasn't always easy to come by, nor was it consistent in quality. Before the arrival of commercial baking powder in the mid 1850's, a mixture of cream of tartar or tartaric acid and baking soda, along with an acid ingredient such as buttermilk or sour milk were used as leavening ingredients in making quick breads such as the American biscuit. A pioneer cook's skill was almost always judged on the ability to quickly whip up and serve a batch of light and fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth, golden brown biscuits...whether it be the first meal of the day or the last.

The variations on these small quick breads are unlimited. Sweet or savory, biscuits can accept a host of additions. Simply stated, a good biscuit can make any meal special.

Tips For Baking Better Biscuits:

  • Always use quality, unbleached all-purpose flour, unless otherwise instructed in a recipe.
  • Always make sure your baking powder is fresh. Place a teaspoon of baking powder in some warm water. It should foam and bubble quite actively if it is fresh.
  • Cold shortening and cold liquid ingredients will produce the best biscuits.
  • "Cutting in" the shortening means cutting the shortening into small bits in the flour until it resembles coarse meal. This is usually done with a pastry cutter or can be done by using two knives. Some use their fingertips to rub the mixture into the right consistency. The mixture is then moistened with the liquid ingredients until they just cling together.
  • Always add the liquid a recipe calls for in steps..the least amount first. Once the mixture is just moistened, stir the dough into a shaggy-looking mass.
  • Do not overwork the dough. The heat of your hands will begin to warm the shortening and activate the gluten in the flour. A smooth, elastic dough will not produce good biscuits.
  • Use a cutter dipped in flour and make the cut in one clean motion. Do NOT twist as you remove the cutter. This tends to "lock" the flaky layers together.
  • You can cut biscuits with inverted glasses, cookie or biscuit cutters, or with a knife...there's no law that states biscuits must be round!
  • For fluffy layered biscuits, the dough should be rolled and cut between 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch. Crusty, thin biscuits (good for soups, dips) should be cut from dough 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick.
  • Bake biscuits in a hot oven (400°F to 425°F | 205°C to 220°C)
  • Always serve biscuits hot, straight from the oven. If biscuits cool, re-heat them by brushing the tops with melted butter, wrap loosely in foil and heat in the oven at 350°F (175°C) or in a microwave oven for 25 to 30 seconds on HIGH.

Biscuit Recipes:

How-To's & Tips Index