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Old Southern Beaten Biscuits

Servings: Makes about 30-35 biscuits
Beaten Biscuits
Southerners describe beaten biscuits as a cross between a soda cracker and a baking powder biscuit. To achieve the right texture and lightness, the dough had to be beaten hard (usually with a mallet) for at least 30 minutes. The purpose of the beating was to incorporate air into the mixture (this was a time in history before the invention of baking powder). They were a very heavy biscuit, not like our present day baking powder biscuits.

Beaten Biscuits History
Beaten biscuits originated in Virginia and traveled across the mountains to Kentucky and then north to Maryland. Chuck wagon cooks also made them, recruiting a gullible new cowhand for help. They were considered the pride of the South, and in earlier days no Southern hostess would fail to offer these at any and all times of the day. They are one of the delicious hot breads that have made Southern cooks famous. They were basically considered an upper-class status symbol dish that depended on a lot of labor. Making the beaten biscuits was the daily duty of the plantation cook.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/3 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup shortening
1/3 to 1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375° F (190°C). Lightly grease a large baking sheet.

Sift together dry ingredients. Cut in the shortening (consistency should look like coarse meal). Stir in 1/3 cup milk until dough holds together* (see note below). You may have to add a little more milk if the dough is too dry or crumbly.

Turn onto floured board and knead. Beat with a rolling pin until dough blisters, 100 whacks or more, folding edges in toward the center and turning after every few whacks. Roll dough to 3/8-inch thickness and cut with small round cutter. Using a fork, prick tops two or three times.

Arrange on lightly greased baking sheet and bake at 375°F (190°C) for 30 minutes, or until light golden.

Makes about 30-35 "beaten biscuits".

*Note: The mixing of the dry ingredients, and adding the shortening and milk to dry ingredients can be done in a food processor if desired. Before turning dough out onto a floured board to knead and "beat", you may briefly knead dough in the food processor.

Date: February 5, 2003