Every once in a while, a craving for homemade biscuits hits my house like a bomb. It's like all of a sudden everybody HAS to have a biscuit. It was a tradition when I made weekend trips from Boston to New York City to visit Michelle and Austin that I make biscuits on Sunday morning. For some reason, Sunday morning and a biscuit go so well together.
The trick to making good biscuits is to cut the fat (make sure it's cold) into the dry ingredients so that the fat pieces are about the size of peas. Then, when you're kneading the dough, only knead four to six times, just to bring the dough together. You still want to be able to see pieces of fat intact throughout the dough. The idea here is that the fat will melt in the hot temperature of the oven and create little air pockets that will make your biscuits flaky and oh so wonderful!
This recipe works well for me:
2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup shortening
1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 450F. In a large bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together so there are no lumps. Add the shortening and drop the butter into the bowl in small pieces. Cut the shortening and butter into the dry ingredients with a knife or pastry blender until the fat pieces are the size of peas. Make a well in the center and pour the milk in. Mix the dough together with a wooden spoon or other utensil just until the liquid is absorbed.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead only a few times (about four to six) just until the dough comes together. Do not over-handle the dough. Press the dough out flat until it is about 3/4 of an inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter, or a drinking glass, cut the biscuits out and put them on a baking sheet. Bake for 11 to 15 minutes, or until the biscuits are golden brown.
Enjoy with butter, honey, jam, or anything you like! Also great to accompany soups, stews, or anything with a gravy.