Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A little Biscuit History.

Biscuits are an American staple, especially in the south.  However, they really originated with the Roman Legions.  The Romans carried them as part of their food previsions.  They were a hard dry disc that didn't spoil easily.  The word comes from the Latin words "bis" and "coctus" that mean "twice" "cooked."

Now just as history and society has evolved since then, so to has the "biscuit."  In England, a biscuit refers to a cracker, small cake or cookie.  Those are not the type of biscuit I'll be talking about today.  I'm going to talk about the "American version of the biscuit."

The "American Biscuit" was a product of Southern Plantations.  It is a leavened product.  The European original was and is an unleavened biscuit.  Baking soda and baking powder are key ingredients to the leavening of the American biscuit.  Other key features of the American biscuit are the use of buttermilk or sour dough as an ingredient.

Typical American biscuits are rolled out dough that is cut into circles, placed on a baking sheet and baked. American biscuits can be savory or sweet depending on other ingredients added.  The sweet ones are usually used for dishes like strawberry shortcake.

Biscuits can be eaten at any meal or with almost any food.  But the most common way to use them is in a southern dish of "Biscuits & Sausage Gravy."  Of course this dish is now served everywhere in the USA, not just the south.

Another southern variation of the biscuit is the "drop biscuit".  The drop biscuit is a fast and simple recipe that takes little time to make.  The batter doesn't have to be kneed or rolled.  Notice I said batter not dough.  It is about the consistency of a quick bread batter but a little less runny.  You do need to watch the amount of milk used; too little and they fall apart, too much and they have no shape.

The drop biscuit is just that.  Using a spoon, you just drop some batter on a baking sheet to the size desired. Space the others and place in an oven to bake.

Both types of biscuits are habit forming.  So enjoy whichever one you have at the moment.  Remember to try them as a base to top with another product, like toast with jelly or jam or as a tool to make a sandwich (breakfast ones are best).

If you're not up for making your own from scratch, you can always buy refrigerated ones in the tube or frozen ones too.  If you haven't tried them before, give them a chance soon.

This week's recipes are for a simple "Drop Biscuit" and a seasonal one "Sweet Potato Biscuits".  Have a great week and "Happy Cooking."

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