Bring on the Biscuits!

Cheese Biscuits

Sorting through some Creative Cooking columns I wrote for The Record and Guelph Mercury, I happened across one from March ’06 which made me smile as Murray and I had just enjoyed a few meals of homemade Hamburger Soup (see post from Jan. 19) and made-from-scratch biscuits. (The biscuits in the photo are actually small cheese biscuits I made in a mini muffin/tart baking pan. They took about 9 minutes to bake.)

When the column was initially published, apparently Murray endured a little teasing from a few friends and colleagues who read it.

Read on to learn why. And for a good basic recipe (with variations) for biscuits.

I will admit it may have been a less than stellar supper that appeared on our kitchen table a few nights ago. But at that point in what had been a busy week and a particularly long day, I figured I had done well to produce something edible at all.

When my hungry husband sat down to a supper of hot biscuits and soup, and then spied the empty soup can on the kitchen counter (I had neglected to recycle it immediately after opening it), his response to that night’s menu was “at least we’re having biscuits.”

To be fair to canned soups everywhere, there are many good varieties that come in a can. This was a thick, stew-like soup to which I had added some frozen vegetables. But my husband is just not a big canned soup fan. Fair enough. That’s why I lovingly prepared some biscuits to serve with the soup. From a box of Bisquick, mind you.

I keep prepared biscuit mix on hand for when I want biscuits in a hurry, but making them from scratch really only takes a few ingredients, and just a few minutes.

Biscuits used to be one of the first recipes learned in Home Ec classes. Simple to make and using staple ingredients found in many kitchens, biscuits round out a meal of chili, soup, stew or salad. Baked as dumplings on top of chilis, stews or a medley of vegetables in a creamy sauce, biscuits can dress up a dish and add flavour and texture.

The taste of biscuits can be readily varied with the addition of herbs or cheese. By adding a tablespoon (15 mL) or so of sugar to the dry ingredients, biscuits become the base for shortcakes or a welcome addition to a tea table.

After downing three biscuits with his bowl of soup and slathering a fourth one with butter and jam for dessert, my now seemingly satisfied husband put the dishes in the dishwasher and took out the recycling, a biscuit crumb clinging to his upper lip. Ah yes, at least there were biscuits, I agreed.

(Makes about 8 biscuits)

2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons (20 mL) baking powder
1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt
1/2 cup (125 mL) shortening or butter
3/4 cup (175 mL) milk

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt; cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add milk all at once, stirring with a fork to make a soft, slightly sticky dough.

Gently knead on a lightly floured surface 10 times. Roll out to 1/2-inch (1 cm) thickness; cut into 2-inch (5 cm) rounds using a biscuit cutter or rim of a glass. Place on an ungreased baking sheet, slightly apart for crusty biscuits or touching for pull-apart biscuits.

Bake in a preheated 425F (220C) oven until lightly browned, about 10 to 12 minutes.

* Bacon: Stir in 1/3 cup (75 mL) crisply cooked and crumbled bacon.
* Cheese: Add 1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) dry mustard to flour mixture. Add 1 cup (250 mL) shredded Cheddar cheese before adding milk.
* Herb: Add 1 tablespoon (15 mL) chopped fresh dill, parsley or chives, or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon (2 to 5 mL) dried sage, thyme, savory, rosemary or dillweed.
* Whole Wheat: Replace 1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour.

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