The other day, I flipped through my mom’s recipe book that’s been around for a number of years. The pages are tattered and smudged, some of them barely holding together.
As I was browsing, I came across a recipe so familiar to me, yet from a time long ago. It sounds pretty boring, but the words Baking Powder Biscuits stood out to me and I was instantly transported back to Home Economics class in junior high school, the first time I made and enjoyed these.
I still have a mental image of my Home Economics teacher, Mrs. Jones. I can still hear her English accent (at least, I think it’s English). She was lovely but sharp, and took no crap from us, a group quite notorious for making teachers cry. I think it was through these classes that I really started to enjoy cooking and baking, as we’d tackle a new recipe each week (or couple of weeks). Looking back, it’s amusing to me that this class even existed in school, but it was way better than French class and I still use the skills that I learned in my everyday life.
I’m not certain of the true origin of this recipe. All I have is the simple computer print out that was glued into my mom’s recipe book.
I did make a couple of tweaks. The original recipe calls for margarine (yuck), so I swapped that out with unsalted butter. I added in a bit of cornstarch to increase the rising power of baking powder and for a more tender texture. There’s also some optional bits like adding some sugar for raisin biscuits, or grated cheese for savoury biscuits which I adapted to suit my tastes.
The great thing about these biscuits is that they’re so easy to make. It only takes a few ingredients and they come together in no time. I’ve been making these obsessively since I got my hands on the recipe and this time around, I made heart biscuits because what’s life without a little whimsy? The key to good biscuits is chunks of butter in the dough and as little handling as possible. The dough also takes in less (or more) milk depending on how humid or dry the air is, so adjust the amount of milk accordingly.
These are perfect straight out of the oven with a bit of jam. They have a lovely buttery taste and a soft, tender texture that melts in the mouth. Wherever you may be, Mrs. Jones, thanks for putting up with our crap and making us bake these biscuits.
Baking Powder Biscuits (adapted from a recipe handed down by my Home Economics teacher, circa late 90’s)
- 2 1/4 cups flour
- 4 tsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 3/4 – 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup butter, cut into small cubes
Preheat oven to 450F. In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs (alternatively, you can rub the butter into the flour using your hands, but be careful not to handle the butter too much as it will melt). Using a fork, drizzle in the milk while mixing the batter with a fork (do not dump the milk in all at once). Continue drizzling until the dough starts to come together; it should still be a little sticky to the touch, but not overly wet.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead until the dough comes together (careful not to work the dough too much). Pat or roll out dough to 1 cm and cut out rounds. Place on a non-stick baking sheet. Gather up the scraps and continue cutting out more rounds, working the remaining scraps together into the last biscuit. Bake in the centre of the oven for 9-10 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer the biscuits to a wire rack. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Best enjoyed warm.