No, not the biscuits we have here in Scotland and the rest of the British Isles which Americans call cookies of one sort or another, but rather what Americans do call a biscuit. There’s simply nothing better then the smell of the biscuits baking in the kitchen, and they are sure to disappear as quickly as they appeared. And how they came to be a very appreciated aspect of the food here is a tale well-worth telling as I do here…
When I came here some decades back, these biscuits were already being served as a morning treat, either with warm butter and strawberry jam, or even heartier fare for a midwinter morning with cheddar cheese and smoked ham. They quickly became my favourite breakfast meal and the latter is one that I often enjoy as a lunch meal when working in cold weather.
Biscuits are simple to bake, needing only flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, butter, shortening and buttermilk. Yes buttermilk, as the visitor that introduced us to was a baker from North Carolina who worked several growing seasons for my immediate predecessor as Estate Head Gardener, Gabriella. She’d wandered over to the Kitchen very early one morning and lamenting to the staff there she sorely missed buttermilk biscuits, which caused more than a bit of confusion there as what they knew as biscuits definitely didn’t have buttermilk in them, let alone shortening.
So they started having a conversation about making the biscuits. All the ingredients were readily available save buttermilk, as we don’t have dairy cows here. Fortunately for us, we were getting our milk from Riverrun Farm and they did make buttermilk so we added it to our order for them. Tesco stocks buttermilk, so you can get it pretty much anywhere in the United Kingdom if you decided to make them.
Shortening in the States usually meant Crisco, a product that has fallen out of favour because of concerns with its trans fats. Most recipes now substitute butter, lard or other a solid fat in its place. After that, the secret, such as it is, is the same thing with anything that takes skill: practice, practice, and more practice. The trickiest aspect of making great biscuits is folding the dough into as many thin layers as possible, usually six to eight.
Baking is done on a greased cookie sheet, preheated to four-fifty, and bake until the tops are golden from the butter you’ve brushed on top. I haven’t bothered with a full recipe here as there’s any number of good ones online.
They proved to be a hit with, well, almost everyone on the Estate. The Kitchen makes six to eight dozen every morning now, many more when strawberry shortcake season is upon us. Oh and we use fresh churned Madagascar vanilla ice cream instead of whipped cream in that dessert.
Come join me in the Kitchen as I can smell the biscuits all the way from here. I’ll promise one of these, either savoury or sweet, with a cup of coffee or tea is a most satisfying breakfast!