Monday, October 22, 2007


I got the sudden urge for biscuits and gravy this morning, so on my way home from an errand, I decided I'd just go home and make some. It took me many years to learn to make biscuits "the way Mom does," but I'm pretty confident about making them now. Mom made them different from most recipes I've found in that she never added fat to them. When I'd mention this, people wouldn't believe that you could make a good biscuit without fat added.

I might have believed it myself, because, as I said, it took many years before I could make them. I watched Mom from start to finish, I asked for measurements, I tried and tried and they just never turned out good. I don't know how many pans of hard biscuits, doughy biscuits and otherwise inedible biscuits I tried to pawn off on the dog. Sometimes the chickens wouldn't even eat them.

In desperation, one day I thought I'd do it exactly like Mom - hardly thinking of what I was doing, just doing it. I set my mind to other things, got out the flour and salt and baking powder and threw them together in a bowl. Was that enough? Maybe just a little more... a little more. There, that ought to do it. Now, the salt... sprinkle, sprinkle... a little bit more. More? Ok.

I mixed it up, poured in some milk, mixed and patted it out on the table to be cut into biscuits, just like Mom did. That's the first time my biscuits tasted just like Mom's. Not too light, not too heavy and just right to sop up some milk gravy or dripping butter.

I learned the gravy the same way, too. Don't worry about it. Put in some fat, some flour, stir it up and let it cook a minute, then dump in the milk. Really. It worked for me, anyway.

This morning's biscuits though were a little different. I was using leftover powdered milk and didn't have quite enough, so I decided to use the dab of leftover reconstituted condensed milk. As I rinsed the container, I realized it was a little sour - too late. The biscuits were mixed and cut, waiting in the pan. Oh, well...

Then I noticed a flame in the bottom of the oven. I'd baked fruitcake and forgot that it had risen over the pans and spilled onto the oven floor. Baking soda put the flame out quickly, but the oven smelled like... well, like something had burned in it. I aired it out a few minutes, and turned the heat down 10 degrees, hoping that the fire wouldn't start again.

It turned out pretty good, after all. The biscuits rose without baking soda and the fire stayed dead with it. What more could I ask? :)


  1. I've given up on making decent biscuits. I have tried and tried and I hate them every time. But, still it's good to know that even good cooks set the oven on fire and I'm not alone in that!:):)

  2. Oh, you're definitely not alone in that! Although I wouldn't call myself a "good" cook, I just get by. Don't give up on biscuits! You can buy what they call biscuits, but they're not.

  3. Pat, I'm a long-time fan of yours, but this is the first time I've commented. Your article made the biscuits seem so enticing. Would you mind sharing the recipe? I'm a true believer in pure, homegrown cooking and have been scouting for some healthy recipes. Any other resources you could share on the topic would be a like receiving a gift. Thanks Pat! -Christie

  4. Well, Christie, that's just it... I couldn't use a recipe. I'd say... about two cups of flour, a teaspoon of salt, two (or maybe three?) teaspoons of baking powder and enough milk to make a soft dough.

    Don't knead it, as this "wears out" baking powder. Handle as lightly as you can, just turning the dough out and patting it gently until it's a quarter to a half inch thick, then cut biscuits from it.

    There are a lot of recipes on the internet, but you don't have to cut fat into it like most of them have you do. Instead, when you bake them, melt a couple of tablespoons of shortening or lard in the pan first, then place each biscuit in the pan, turning them over so the greased side is up, and they brown better.

  5. I can't make a good biscuit either. I keep trying though. Last ones were at DS house in the mountains,about 4100 ft. and forgot about high altitude cooking. Used Bisquick. I had the oven at 425 instead of 450, my mistake. They never did rise. My 7yo DGs was helping, and I was hoping they would turn out good for him, he would have been so proud, but again they didn't cook right. Someday, like you I hope to make an edible biscuit. I haven't made any from scratch yet, maybe that is my problem.E

  6. elovestea, "high altitude" to me means over about 7,000 feet. I was raised in Wyoming, at about that level, and where I am now seems like low altitude. Things cook much faster here at lower temperatures.

    Keep trying on the biscuits. Making them from scratch really is the best way.

  7. this recipe is what we use for scones in England. A light touch when mixing is vital to make them soft. You can add herbs and/or grated cheese to them.
    Add sultanas or chopped dates to the mix for sweet ones and serve warm. split them and add butter and jam if liked.

  8. Interesting! I had no idea scones were like that. But... our biscuits might have evolved from scones, I never thought of that, either! :)