Friday, August 22, 2014

TWD: Baking with Julia - Baking Powder Biscuits

My apologies for being so dreadfully late with this post.  I honestly thought I'd be EARLY, but ahhh, best laid plans.  I got my weeks mixed up and thought that our TWD week was the previous week, so I made these biscuits and was all proud of myself and then realized my date error.  No big deal though, now I'd have time to get the post done and up in advance, right?  Well, evidently not!  Where is that free time I sometimes have to create my posts?  It seems to have gotten lost, so if you happen to find my free time, would you please send it back?  It is sorely missed. 

I did try to get sort of scientific about this recipe.  Indeed, it is a very simple recipe, involving only 5 ingredients - flour, baking powder, salt, white shortening, and milk.  But while I was getting out those ingredients, I thought, "why shortening?  Why not butter?"  So when I made my biscuits, I made some with white shortening, and some with butter.

I made a half batch of the butter ones, as really, how many biscuits does one family need?  Oh, and I used frozen butter to ensure I'd have some nice fluffy layers....

When Mr. Clever Mom came home, I asked him to taste one biscuit from each pan and tell me what he thought.  Note that the pans are now switched, sorry, but the shortening ones are on the left and the butter on the right.  He said that he thought that the LEFT biscuits were more BUTTERY, but the RIGHT biscuits have a nicer TEXTURE.  Huh.  Super confusing, considering the fact that the LEFT biscuits are the shortening biscuits!  (I asked him to eat another to verify his analysis.)

Looking at the photos above, you can see that the butter-made biscuits spread a bit, while the shortening ones did not.  Neither batch rose how I thought they should, though.  And I used a brand new container of baking powder...

Since I made these in advance, I decided to give the recipe another shot.  This time I used 1/2 shortening and 1/2 butter in the recipe.

Good, but I thought that the texture wasn't as good as either of the first two batches.  On this batch, I did not put them into the pan touching, to see if maybe that had anything to do with them not rising much.  Obviously, that did not make a difference. 

So why didn't they rise as much as they theoretically should have risen?  The photo in the book shows puffy, tall biscuits.  I was SUPER careful to use a very light hand and stop mixing before it was over done, only kneaded the dough the suggested 10 times, etc.  I did mix the dough with my hands, could my body heat have anything to do with it?

I did not twist the biscuit cutter after using, I lifted straight up.  But I didn't flour it each time, so maybe it stuck to the edges a bit, preventing them from rising up.  Or maybe my biscuit cutter is too old, so the edge has gotten dull, so it squishes the edges together when it cuts, again preventing the rising.   Hmmph.  Any thoughts?  I would love a big fluffy biscuit.

But here is another question.  Why do people make baking powder biscuits instead of buttermilk ones?  Could I use buttermilk in this recipe instead of the milk??  That might be worth a try...

The recipe can be found here, or on pages 211-212 of Baking with Julia.

So, I know this post is dreadfully late, but I hope some of my TWD bakers will let me know their thoughts.  I want to perfect the biscuit!


  1. Mr. Clever Mom sounds like a really good sport... or a lucky guy. I did the 50/50 mix, and cut mine with a floured cutter that was not particularly sharp. I did weigh my flour so maybe that helped? Still, these are super easy, and so good fresh from the oven. Thank you for experimenting for the rest of us!!

  2. I love how you did side by sides! Mine didn't rise much either. All but one looked like really puffy sugar cookies. :) Though, I tried making them again this morning and I patted the dough out to 1/2 inch thick and that really helped. They came out looking like real biscuits! Woo who!

  3. I think if I remade them, I would use butter milk and shortening.
    Risen or not, nothing beats a fresh warm biscuit!

  4. Love how you turned it into a science experiment! You should keep it up and report back with what you've discovered. Maybe you have a future as the next host of Good Eats?

  5. Great post! I don't feel so bad now that mine did not get as much rise as I had hoped! I'm thinking the butter biscuits spread more because there was room to spread? Not tightly pressed together?


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