The Mild and Fluffy Historical past of Southern Biscuits


biscuits and jam“Biscuits as we all know them at the moment did not precisely begin out that means. LauriPatterson/Getty Photographs

Admit it: While you consider gentle, fluffy biscuits, you in all probability consider Southern meals. And we get it. Biscuits simply pair naturally with conventional Southern fare like fried hen, biscuits and gravy, and selfmade jam.

However biscuits like these we eat at the moment within the U.S. are pretty fashionable culinary creations. All through a lot of historical past, biscuits weren’t on the middle of dreamy breakfasts or hen dinners — they had been arduous, skinny, sturdy, dry and meant for survival.

The phrase biscuit comes from the Latin phrase "panis biscoctus," which suggests "twice baked" — and so it is no coincidence {that a} biscuit is just like biscotti, the cookies that really are twice baked. Troopers in historical Rome obtained "arduous biscuits" — they’d no leavening agent or fats in order that they lasted a very long time — of their rations. In actual fact, arduous biscuits of some sort had been the meals able to eat (MREs) of army personnel for hundreds of years, and have been recognized by the names "hardtack," "ship’s biscuit," "sea biscuit" and "pilot bread."

Quick ahead to the antebellum South. Biscuits had been nonetheless robust and flat, and sometimes had been solely eaten solely in rich properties. Most individuals dwelling within the South on the time ate cornbread as a substitute. That is as a result of most mills within the South had been nice at grinding corn however not at processing wheat. So solely the wealthy might afford flour, which frequently needed to be shipped in from northern states.

Crushed biscuits, which might be thought-about the precursor to the trendy Southern biscuit, had been solely slightly higher than hardtack. They included fats like butter or lard, however nonetheless no leavening agent, so overwhelmed biscuits remained flat and solely barely lighter as a result of the dough required 15 minutes of kneading or beating.

It wasn’t till a number of 19th-century improvements got here alongside that we received what’s now acknowledged as a Southern biscuit. First, higher flour mills — most of them within the Midwestern U.S. — and elevated wheat manufacturing dropped the value of flour sufficient that poor Southerners might additionally afford to purchase flour. And, the event of chemical leavening brokers, similar to pearl ash (potassium carbonate), potassium bicarbonate, and sodium bicarbonate — what we now name baking soda — helped biscuits attain new heights, with out yeast or overwhelmed eggs.

Fundamental Southern Biscuits Recipe

A couple of issues are necessary in biscuit baking. Maintain your butter chilly. Do not get it too gentle whilst you’re working it into the flour. You need the butter to soften when the biscuits are cooking within the oven, as a result of melting butter produces steam that may assist the biscuits rise.

Additionally, to take advantage of the leavening energy of baking soda and baking powder, bake the biscuits as quickly as you combine the moist and dry components collectively. Baking soda begins to work as quickly because it’s moist, and people biscuits will lose some top if you happen to let the dough sit. Lastly, use a biscuit cutter, cookie cutter or a pointy knife to chop the biscuit dough. Do not use a glass. And if you happen to use a cutter, do not twist it. Good clear edges assist the dough rise.


  • 2 cups (8.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • half of teaspoon baking soda
  • half of cup (1 stick) chilly butter, lower into cubes
  • 2/Three cup (5.Three fluid ounces) chilly milk
  • Optionally available components: 1 teaspoon or extra of freshly floor black pepper; 1 tablespoon or extra of recent thyme


1. Warmth the oven to 450 levels Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet (with no rims) with parchment paper.

2. In a big bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda with a whisk. (If you’re utilizing the black pepper or thyme, add them right here.)

3. Drop the butter cubes into the flour and toss them within the flour. Use your fingertips to rapidly rub the butter into the flour, till the butter items are all flat and a few are the scale of rice. Having some bigger items is ok. Put the bowl within the freezer for 15 minutes to relax the butter.

biscuit dough“Biscuit dough is comparatively straightforward to make and does not require any resting and rising like bread dough does.Jon Lovette/Getty Photographs

4. Take away the bowl from the freezer. Make a properly within the middle of the flour combination and pour the milk in abruptly. Mix with a fork till a dough kinds.

5. Flip the dough out onto a frivolously floured floor and gently pat it right into a sq.. Fold the dough in half onto itself, and pat it out once more. Repeat till all of the flour is integrated into the dough. Pat out the dough one final time, to about 1/2-inch thick. Use a 2-inch biscuit cutter to chop the biscuits into sq. or rounds. When you’ve got dough scraps, you may gently pat them collectively and lower extra biscuits. (Do not do that greater than as soon as; the biscuits will probably be robust.)

6. Place the lower biscuits onto the lined baking sheet. Place them shut collectively for biscuits that rise excessive and have gentle sides. For biscuits with crispier edges, place them an inch or extra aside.

7. Bake the biscuits for 15 minutes or till they’re golden brown.

Recipe courtesy Shaun Chavis

Now That is Loopy

After the Civil Battle, early blues singers used meals as metaphors for intercourse. The phrase "biscuit" described a beautiful girl, and the time period "biscuit curler" described a lady who was good in mattress.


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