This isn’t so much a recipe as it is thoughts on cooking for four decades. So if you want a precise recipe, sorry, perhaps this will work better for you? After all these years, I find myself telling my kids ‘don’t watch me bake. It’s a science, and you really ought to measure,’ as I feel the dough and use my fingers to tell me when it’s enough and when it needs just a bit more.
Making biscuit mix, for one thing. I used to make up ten pound batches of it, when the kids were small and I used it often for biscuits, coffee cake, pankcakes, waffles, dumplings, and more. It was cheaper than buying the stuff in a box, and I had the time, back then. Now? I use the stuff in the box. Only that had been packed and moved up for the Little Man at the house, and I’m in the apartment for the work week.
So! Lard and flour into a bowl. About two and a half cups. About a half cup of lard – a lump half the size of my fist. Worked that all together, coating it with flour and pinching and rubbing it in, since I didn’t have a pastry blade or even butter knives (we’ve got one) to do it. Besides, fingers work fine and are faster. I was also racing the clock of a 15 min break from work. You won’t wind up with lumps of the fat, more like softly fatted flour that clumps up while you’re working with it, then falls apart at a touch – if it stays clumpy, add a touch more flour. If it doesn’t clump at all, add a touch more lard.
Once you’re happy with the mix, stir in about 1 1/2 tsp baking powder (the double action sort, can you even still find the old-school kind?) and 1/2 tsp baking soda and a half teaspoonful of salt.
At this point, I looked at what I had, realized I am cooking for the family, and there are only two of us. I set the bowl aside, grabbed another bowl, and divided the biscuit mix. The remainder I didn’t use today will be tossed in a baggie and kept aside for another batch of biscuits. Plain ones. The First Reader prefers his biscuits as white and pure as sheep’s fleece, served with the simple unflavored milk gravy I linked above. Throws him right back to childhood, unlike what I was making up for breakfast. This was about 1 1/2 cups biscuit mix to make up 8 small biscuits.
I put a handful of shredded cheese into the bowl, sharp cheddar would be best, but I had colby jack. And added a small handful of bacon bits. The real ones, not the soy abomination crunchies. A glug of milk – and yes, you can do it with water, but I was making a rounded meal here, so extra proteins was a good thing – and mix. add more liquid if needed, but don’t overdo that first glug (it should be about a third of a cup) or you’ll have to add more biscuit mix to sop it up. Dough should be stiff, but don’t knead it more than you must. This is a ‘short’ bread, because unlike a yeast bread with fully hydrated proteins, the resulting biscuit should be light, fluffy, crumbly and tender. So don’t exercise your glutens!
I shaped up little pucks of dough, and then baked them for about 13 minutes at 400F. I did not use a silicone sheet, but I recommend that, or a sheet of parchment paper, as they will stick due to the cheese. Also, how do we have no spatulas left here at the apartment? Ah, well…
Look, they aren’t hard to make. And they do make a fast, delicious breakfast. Cooking by feel – especially baking – may seem dangerous, but it’s worth it. The more practice you get at it, the more you’ll find yourself doing it. If I had taken the time, some snipped up herbs like chives would have been lovely in these. Or some caramelized onions, not too much as they are wet and could make the dough soggy, but just enough for flavor. The variations are nearly endless.
We had our biscuits hot and fresh alongside a nice sliced ripe tomato. This was a full meal by itself for us, and I have biscuit mix enough for another meal, so that worked out well.
I can’t give you a recipe for success. I can teach you how to create your own recipes, though. Cook outside the measuring cups!