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In North America a "Biscuit" refers to a small quick bread that is made with flour, a fat (butter, lard or shortening), chemical leavening (baking powder or baking soda), a liquid (milk or buttermilk), and sometimes eggs and a little granulated white sugar. A good Biscuit, in my mind, should have a golden brown crust and when you split it in half, it should be soft, flaky and moist enough to absorb a pat of butter.

 

The American Biscuit is very similar to the British Scone. To make a good Biscuit, the correct mixing of the ingredients is crucial. Although you could use an electric mixer, I prefer to mix the dough by hand using either a pastry blender or just my fingertips. Mixing by hand helps to prevent over mixing of the dough. To begin, the dry ingredients are mixed together in a large bowl. Next, the butter is cut into the flour until it looks like coarse crumbs. It is important that the butter be cold so when it is worked into the flour mixture it becomes small, flour-coated crumbs, not a smooth dough. This method is similar to how a pie pastry is made and gives the Biscuits a wonderful delicate and flaky texture. The wet ingredients are then added to the flour mixture. Mix the dough just until it comes together. 

Biscuits need to be baked in a hot oven so the dough sets quickly thereby producing a light Biscuit with a golden brown top and bottom with white sides. The texture of the interior should be light and soft, and white in color. If you want crusty Biscuits, cool them uncovered. If a softer crust is desired, then wrap the hot Biscuits in a clean dish towel. Biscuits are also excellent for making another American favorite, the Strawberry Shortcake.

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Stephanie Jaworski

 

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