13 December 2010

Family recipe Monday: biscuits

We missed the snowstorm that has blanketed everything up here east of the Missouri River. There was one night with high winds that blew old dry snow around, but so far that is all we have had, and that is fine with us. Nevertheless, it's cold out there, so we have stayed in except for a brief expedition to get baking needs and library books, not necessarily in that order of importance.

The result of a two-day kitchen weekend are as follows: two gallons of lemon- and garlic-infused chicken stock, 8 dozen teacakes, and a loaf of honey whole-wheat bread that is just now starting to bake. The place smells like home. At least 4 dozen of those teacakes will be on their way to Afghanistan as soon as they are ready to go, to bring a tiny bit of thanks to a group of heroes who don't need luggable things like quilts right now. It's so little. It's all we can do, sending food from home. All of us, whether we are part of one of the peace churches or not, wish that the holidays next year will be happier on this front, that everyone will be safely home with the people who love them. Instead of exchanging gifts, we are all pitching in for a contribution to the Wounded Warrior Project and to a project supporting teachers and classrooms in Afghanistan. We have so much, and so much is needed.

We'd send biscuits if we could. Biscuits are one of our all-time favorite comfort foods. We're not comfortable with anything from the refrigerator section of the grocery store, not when they're so easy to make from scratch. Here is a recipe for making a big stock of dry biscuit mix that will keep forever and be there when you need to have biscuits first thing in the morning. You can use buttermilk powder in place of the dry milk. All of these are rolled out and cut with a biscuit cutter or a smooth-rimmed water glass, and baked in a preheated hot oven. Don't let them burn on the bottom.

All-purpose baking mix

A true time-saver and the basis for several of our recipes for breads and cakes. Great for large groups, or for small groups that eat like large groups...like our family.

Large batch

5-lb. bag or 20 cups flour (all-purpose, whole wheat, or combination)
2½ cups nonfat dry milk
¾ cup baking powder
2 T salt
3¾ cups shortening

Combine dry ingredients in very large bowl. Sift. Using a pastry blender, cut shortening into mix until mix is consistency of cornmeal. Store in airtight container in cool, dry place. To measure, spoon lightly into cup and level off with spatula. Yield: 27 cups mix.

Small batch

8 cups flour (all-purpose, whole wheat, or combination)
1 cup nonfat dry milk
¼ cup plus 1 T baking powder
2 tsp. salt
1½ cups shortening

Use the same procedure as for large batch. Yield: 11 cups of mix.

Basic biscuits

For 6 biscuits:
1 cup All-Purpose Baking Mix (above)
¼ to 1/3 cup milk

For 12 biscuits:
2 cups All-Purpose Baking Mix (above)
½ to 2/3 cup milk

Gradually add milk, mixing with a fork, adding just enough to make a soft, nonsticky dough. Turn onto floured board and knead about 10 times. Roll or pat out to ½” thickness. Cut out with floured biscuit cutter. Bake on cookie sheet at 450* F 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned.

Southern raised biscuits

2¼ oz pkg. dry yeast
¼ cup warm water (105-115* F)
2 cups buttermilk
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1¼ tsp. salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup shortening or unsalted butter

Combine yeast and warm water; let stand 5 minutes or until bubbly. Add buttermilk and set aside. Combine dry ingredients. Cut in shortening. Add buttermilk and yeast mixture gradually, gently combining with a fork. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead lightly 4 or 5 times. Roll dough to ½” thickness. Cut out biscuits and place on greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise for 1 hour. Bake at 450* F for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned.

To freeze: Bake only about 6 minutes; cool, freeze, and wrap airtight. Finish baking on a greased baking sheet at 450* F for 6 more minutes, or until browned. Yield: 2 dozen.

Ranch biscuits

2 cups presifted flour
¾ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ rounded cup shortening
¾ cup buttermilk

Sift together the dry ingredients and cut in the shortening until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal. Stir in the buttermilk slowly with a fork until a soft dough is formed. Scrape out onto a well-floured board and knead a few times. Roll dough about ½” thick and cut out the biscuits. Bake in preheated oven at 450* F until golden brown (8-10 minutes). Makes 10-12 2 ½” biscuits.

Happy Monday. Take a minute to think about everyone who is overseas for us.

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