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The Mysterious Biscuit and Its Many Personalities

Rachael Rizzo

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There are so many different types of biscuits that it is sometimes so hard to thumb through a recipe book and decide. The problem is that each is so good in different ways. When researching the history of baking powder biscuits (the greatest by far), I had discovered that I was being to narrow minded. There are more than the American style fluffy biscuits out there. The British have their own style of making biscuits also and I discovered that their biscuits are crisp and flat little cakes. On top the variety of biscuits I discovered that it is pretty difficult to dig up a past on these babies. That being said, let's attempt to go into all in as much detail as possible.

First there is the British biscuit. It is actually more like a cracker than the fluffy biscuits we know. In a huge tax case way back in the day (involving a company called Jaffa Cakes) her majesty the queen defined the biscuit at that which goes soft when stale opposed to cookies which are the opposite. From the beginning of biscuits tea was accompanied by them at tea time and sometimes dunked in the cup of tea itself. Now the term “biscuit" has a whole different meaning. It is used to describe the sweet version of a biscuit which contains chocolate, fruit, nuts, or many other fillings.

Second there are the North American style biscuits. They are described as bread made with baking powder or baking soda instead of yeast for a leavening agent. They are very soft in the inside and most famous in the Southern region of the country. They are traditionally made with buttermilk and served on the side of a meal (usually during breakfast) with butter and other sweet condiments. Some (like my family) like to pour gravy on their biscuits. The modern version of the biscuit is available at many fast food places and served at breakfast.

Now what we do know is that the word biscuit derives from two Latin words: “bis" (mean twice) and “Coctus" (meaning cooked). In the 1820s Webster's definition was “a combination of flour and butter, made and baked in private families. " During the 19th century the cookbooks of the day started putting recipes for baking soda biscuits in their text, especially with referencing to the South. Then the biscuits were then made instant with the creation of the Bisquick mix.

There are many other varieties of biscuits that we won't go into today, but one that deserves a mention is the Cathead Biscuits. These were huge biscuits served with gravy that were a huge hit with the mountain folk. At the time when logging communities were springing up, the way to feed the masses were those huge biscuits. Their signature gravy was supposedly created when a camp ran out of flour and then cornmeal was used instead.

Just like most breads, biscuits begun from necessity and in this age of instant gratification they have become a pleasure food, something you can pick up at your local fast food restaurant. Me, I still like the home cooked kind. It is where the whole family is sharing out of a basket of those home cooked biscuits over a hot breakfast. Those biscuits aren't created only through necessity, they symbolize home and all the comforts. . . . through all the generations.

"The Mysterious Baking Powder Biscuits"*

Ingredients: 2 cups of all-purpose flour, ¾ cup of non-fat milk, ½ tbs of sugar, ½ tbs of Splenda, ½ cup of vegetable shortening, 3 tsps of baking powder, and 1 tsp of salt.

1) Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.

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2) In a bowl mix the flour, sugar, Splenda, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the shortening using a pastry blender until they are little fine crumbs. Stir in the milk until the dough leaves the side of the bowl.

3) Put the dough on a floured surface. Knead lightly about 10 times. Roll to ½ inch thick. Cut with floured 2 inch round cutter. Place on greased cookie sheets.

4) Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove from the cookie sheet.

5) Enjoy those yummy biscuits with some delicious gravy.

* Base of recipe from Betty Crocker and then I molded it from there.

Sources: and http://bakinghistory.

Rachael Rizzo has been acting since she was nine years old. She uses her experience to write about what the things she loves mean to her (mostly movies and baking). She is twenty-three years old and resides in beautiful Oregon.


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