This Sunday morning I was awake long before the rest of my family. Usually I take full advantage of the weekend and sleep in late, but for whatever reason I couldn’t sleep past seven o’clock. I was just kind of knocking around the house for a while on my own, working on homework, and running a load of laundry before anyone else got up. I thought about shoveling the snow from the walkway, and while the weather’s been a lot milder than it has been earlier in the month, I still chickened out from venturing out into the snow, and stayed inside where it was warm and dry.
Lately the city’s caught something of a break from frigid temperatures that were hanging down around -40 (with the ever-present wind chill taken into consideration, of course). And to be honest, aversion to snow-shoveling chores or not, since about midweek last week, the weather’s been downright bearable outside. Watching the birds visiting the feeder just outside the kitchen window, I thought I’d make something special for Sunday’s breakfast. Maybe I could use the ‘but I made breakfast!’ as an excuse to shirk shoveling the walk. To better my odds, I decided that I would make one of my family’s favourite things to have on snowy winter mornings: baking powder biscuits.
The recipe my family uses to make these biscuits is pretty basic, and can be doctored in all sorts of ways. You can add in a bit of sugar, dried currants, and swap the skim milk for rich cream and make the biscuits closer to the sort served during elegant afternoon teas. Or the biscuits could be turned into a more savoury variety with diced chives and grated sharp cheddar cheese incorporated into the dough and baked to be served alongside a hearty soup or stew full of tender beef, caramelized onions, and thick rounds of sliced carrots and parsnips.
Still, I think my favourite way to make them is without any fancying up. Simple and plain baking powder biscuits served hot with a cup of tea, and with a small pat of butter and raspberry jam dabbed in the middle of each biscuit is my favourite. You can set your kettle to boil and steep any kind of tea you like to have with your biscuits, but I like a nice black tea like Irish Breakfast with my biscuits and jam. Tempered with milk and sugar, the bitterness of the black tea is lessened, but it still has strong flavour and suits the biscuits nicely.
Under the ‘read more’ cut is the recipe that my family uses when we make baking powder biscuits. I’m not sure where this recipe originally came from my mums collection of handwritten recipes we keep in the kitchen. Possibly it’s an adaptation from another recipe, or maybe it’s a recipe Mum copied down while talking to one of her sisters on the phone. Either way, I hope that you’ll try making them this weekend—it’s pretty difficult to botch them up (even if your oven has a tendency to bake things unevenly like ours). Breaking each biscuit open with your hands and watching a curl of steam escape from the flaky, soft, snowy dough is a pretty lovely and comforting thing—and especially when you’ve made the biscuits yourself.
Baking Powder Biscuits
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. granulated white sugar
½ tsp. cream of tartar
¼ tsp. salt
½ c. shortening, margarine, or cold butter
2/3 c. milk
Place your oven rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat your oven to 450° F.
In a mixing bowl, stir together your dry ingredients (the flour, baking powder, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt). Using a fork or a pastry blender, cut in your shortening, margarine, or cold butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture coheres into coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center and add your milk to the well all at once. Using a fork, stir the milk into the ingredients until they are slightly moist, but not overly sticky. Making sure not to over-mix your ingredients will help to ensure that your biscuits are flaky when they bake.
Lightly flour a clean surface, and knead the dough for 10 to 12 strokes—just enough so that all the crumbly ingredients combine. (Be careful not to overwork the dough!) Pat the dough outwards from the center to ½-inch thickness. Cut the dough with a 2 ½-inch biscuit cutter (or with an overturned drinking glass). Dip your cutter (or drinking glass) in flour between each cut so that the dough doesn’t stick to it.
Place your cut biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake each sheet of biscuits for 10 to 12 minutes until they are lightly browned. Remove the sheet from the oven and let cool for 1 to 2 minutes. Serve warm. (This recipe makes 10 to 12 biscuits.)
I’m not sure where this recipe originally came from, but its from my mum’s collection of handwritten recipes we keep in the kitchen. Possibly it’s an adaptation from another recipe, or maybe it’s a recipe Mum copied down by hand while talking to one of her sisters over the phone.