Not Jiffy

Monday, August 3, 2009

I’m a big fan of the biscuit to add some substance to a simple/meager meal—they’re quick, and easy to make, and cheap.

I grew up on Bisquick biscuits, which I know some people are snobby about, but my mom makes really good Bisquick biscuits and she makes the best jam in the world so the biscuits are basically just a conduit for jam, it doesn’t much matter what they taste like. You could eat a piece of cardboard with my mom’s jam on it and you’d ask for seconds. (Please note that I am not saying that my mom’s biscuits taste like cardboard. They don’t, they’re really good.)

When I lived in Princeton, my Culinary Institute of America-trained housemate gave me an amazing biscuit recipe from one of her many cookbooks.

Mile High Biscuits

3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted before measuring
2 Tbsp sugar
4-1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup whole milk

In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, cream of tartar, and salt. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse meal. In another bowl, combine egg and milk and beat lightly with a fork. Add to flour mixture all at once, stirring enough to make a soft dough.

Turn onto a floured board and knead 15 times. Roll out to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut into 2-inch rounds and place on an ungreased baking sheet about 1 inch apart.

Bake in a preheated 450F oven for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden.

Yield 16 biscuits

This was my standard biscuit for many years. The huge benefit of these biscuits is that they keep well; they’re actually almost better the next day than they are the day they’re made.

I used to take the leftovers into the office and have them during the week and share them with people in the office and I remember once a guy I worked with (Tim Wallace) coming in to ask me a question and saying, “Hey, I came in to talk about those biscuits. I mean the catalog schedule.”

I don’t make them very often any more because even though they hold up, 16 biscuits is more than I want at once, and I value simplicity over taste these days. But sometimes I’ll make them the day before I go on a trip because the leftovers are so good; I take them with me in my nuclear winter bag so I always have something to eat .

On the $1/Day Project, I went with Jiffy biscuits, because it wasn’t cost-effective to get dry milk or flour or baking powder since I was only doing it for 30 days. And the Jiffy biscuits had a lot of good things going for them–they’re light and fluffy and tasty and super easy, and you get a whole lot of them for fifty cents.

So all that was great.

But they’re also really high in sodium (they actually tasted really salty to me, so you know that’s a lot of sodium) and are made with white flour and lard. So they’re even less healthy than the scratch biscuits I usually make, which are nothing to write home about.

I decided to work on my biscuit recipe to see if I could some up with something that was a little more healthy than what I usually eat, but still cheap and easy.

Here’s the recipe I had been making, from More-with-Less:

Basic Biscuits

Makes 18-20 biscuits
10-12 minutes

Preheat oven to 425F.

Sift together in a bowl:
2 cups sifted flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Cut in:
1/4 cup shortening

Add all at once, stirring until soft ball is formed:
3/4 cup milk

Turn dough onto floured board; knead lightly 20 to 25 times. Roll or pat dough 1/2 inch thick. Cut with floured biscuit cutter or glass. Place on ungreased baking sheet and bake 10-12 mintues. Serve hot. Makes 18-20.

And here’s my new one-person version using butter, which I almost always have, instead of shortening, which requires a special trip to a conventional grocery store and which if I have in the house I am tempted to make cookies with, so I try not to have it in the house:

Really Basic Biscuits

2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup white flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt (or less)
2 Tbsp butter
enough milk or water to make dough (a little more than 1/3 cup)

[Make as directed for Basic Biscuits above.]

They’re still not exactly health food, but the whole wheat flour adds some fiber and the butter tastes better than margarine or shortening (and no trans-fats) so I think they’re okay.

7 Responses to “Not Jiffy”

  1. Sharon Says:

    Thank you for the whole wheat version. That looks tasty.

    Do you like to make savory versions too? Sometimes I’ll put sauteed onions, or grated cheese, or black pepper, or herbs into the dough. Anyone else like to flavor their biscuits? What are your favorite ways?

    The cheese ones are good with Jam. Some of the herb ones too.

    Does your area have any programs where they match up people who have unpicked fruit trees with people who would like to harvest them? If so that’s a good resource for jam or apple butter making.

  2. Phil Says:

    “Hey, I came in to talk about those biscuits. I mean the catalog schedule.”

    HA! I laughed out loud on that one.

    Dang, that biscuit recipe looks great. Unfortunately for me, I’ve gone on a new eating regimen that avoids wheat. But I’d still sample biscuits like those. Maybe even on the second day, too, since they have the magic ability to stay good for more than twenty minutes.

  3. lessisenough Says:

    Well if you decide to start eating wheat again I definitely recommend the Mile High Biscuits. Anything with 3/4 cup of shortening in it has to be good — they’re basically like pie crust biscuits. And I would usually do a mix of whole wheat and white flour and I thought that was actually better than the straight white flour.

    I might have to make those for myself soon, it’s been a while.

  4. sarah Says:

    Hmm-I’m thinking the mile high biscuits might be just the thing for those people in the house who are trying to gain weight. Hidden, of course, from those trying to lose. . .

  5. Curious Says:

    “I take them with me in my nuclear winter bag so I always have something to eat.”

    What is a nuclear winter bag? I don’t know why but I feel like I need to know. :-)

  6. lessisenough Says:

    When I lived in DC, I would walk or Metro to work so I would carry this big bag with everything I might need for the day — clothes for the gym and shoes and food and books and whatever. My friend Sue’s friend Carolyn was making fun of me one night and started calling it my nuclear winter bag. She was like, “What do you have in there anyway?” So that’s how I think of it now. Especially when I travel, I have a bag where I throw stuff in, including snacks and water etc. The biscuits are great for that because you can eat them for any meal and they keep for about a week.

  7. Curious Says:

    That is really creative and funny! I think we should all be prepared for a nuclear winter. Thanks for filling me in.

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