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Baking Powder Biscuits

Servings: Makes 12 biscuits
Biscuits in America

In America, a "biscuit" is a small form of bread made with baking powder or baking soda as a leavening agent rather than yeast. (Biscuits, soda breads, and corn bread, among others, are sometimes referred to collectively as "quick breads" to indicate that they do not need time to rise before baking.)

Biscuits are extremely similar to scones; in fact, many recipes are identical. In the United States, there is a growing tendancy to refer to sweet variations as "scone" and to the savoury as a "biscuit," though there are exceptions for both (such as the cheese scone). A sweet biscuit served with a topping of fruit and juice is called shortcake. In Canada, both sweet and savoury are referred to as "biscuits," "baking powder biscuits" or "tea biscuits".

Biscuits are a common feature of Southern U.S. cuisine and are often made with buttermilk or as in this recipe, half-and-half (a half milk and half cream combination). They are traditionally served as a side dish with a meal, especially in the morning. As a breakfast item they are often eaten with butter and a sweet condiment such as molasses, light sugarcane syrup, sorghum syrup, honey, or fruit jam or jelly. With other meals they are usually eaten with butter or gravy instead of sweet condiments. However, biscuits and gravy (biscuits covered in "country-style" gravy) are usually served for breakfast, sometimes as the main course.

A common variation on basic biscuits is "cheese biscuits", made by adding grated Cheddar or American cheese to the basic recipe. If you like, you may add grated cheese to this recipe's ingredients for a savory biscuit.

Soft winter-wheat flour produces exceptionally light baked goods, especially biscuits and cakes. Sometimes this type of flour is self-rising. For instance in this recipe, if you were to use self-rising flour, eliminate the baking powder and salt in the recipe's ingredients as self-rising flour already contains baking powder and salt.

2 cups soft winter-wheat flour (such as White Lily flour)
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks/6 oz./170g) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup half-and-half (half-and-half is half milk and half cream)

Preheat oven to 500°F/260°C.

Over a sheet of waxed paper, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and sift again. Put the flour mixture in a large mixing bowl and add the butter. Using a pastry blender or your fingertips, mix the flour and butter together until the mixture resembles small, coarse crumbs. Add the half-and-half and, using a fork, stir to form large, damp clusters.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. With floured hands, press the dough together to form a large ball. Roll out the dough to 1/2-inch thickness, dusting with more flour as needed. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut out the dough and transfer the rounds to an ungreased baking sheet; gather the scraps and repeat.

Bake biscuits on center rack of oven, rotating the pan once halfway through baking, until the biscuits are golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

Makes 12 biscuits.

Source: DianasDesserts.com
Date: June 4, 2002