Thursday, April 9, 2009

Biscuit Recipes: Old-Style Southern Beaten Biscuits

Sift a quart of flour into a bowl or tray, add half a teaspoon salt, then cut small into it a teacup of very cold lard. Wet with cold water—ice water is best—into a very stiff dough. Lay on a floured block, or marble slab, and give one hundred strokes with a mallet or rolling pin. Fold afresh as the dough beats thin, dredging in flour if it begins to stick. The end of beating is to distribute air well through the mass, which, expanding by the heat of baking, makes the biscuit light. The dough should be firm, but smooth and very elastic. Roll to half-inch thickness, cut out with a small round cutter, prick lightly all over the top, and bake in steady heat to a delicate brown. Too hot an oven will scorch and blister, too cold an one make the biscuit hard and clammy. Aim for the Irishman's "middle exthrame."

There are sundry machines which do away with beating. It is possible also to avoid it by running the dough, after mixing, several times through a food-chopper. Also beaten biscuit can be closely imitated by making good puff paste, rolling, cutting out, pricking and baking—but rather more quickly than the real thing. All these are expedients for those who live in apartments, where the noise of beating might[30] be held against good neighborhood. Householders, and especially suburban ones, should indulge in the luxury of a block or stone or marble slab—and live happy ever after, if they can but get cooks able and willing to make proper use of it.