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BISCUITS: A SHORT HISTORY

 

Biscuits are a variety of quick breads popular in different forms throughout the United States. They are made from a combination of flour, shortening, leavening and milk or water. This simple dough is generally rolled out, cut into small rounds, baked and served hot. Food preferences and ingredients in various regions of the country often determine what type of biscuit is preferred. People in the North enjoy tall, tender flaky biscuits; people from the South like biscuits with a soft, tender crumb.

The original biscuit was a flat cake that was put back in the oven after being removed from it’s tin, hence the French name “bis” (twice) “cuit” (cooked). This very hard, dry biscuit was the staple for sailors and soldiers for centuries. During the time of Louis XIV, soldiers’ biscuits were known as “stone bread.”

“Animalized” biscuits were introduced later. They were thought to be very nutritious because they used meat juices as the liquid. In the 19th centuries, travelers’ biscuits were hard cakes that kept well wrapped in a kind of tin foil.

Feathery, light biscuits originated in Southern plantation kitchens but, now are popular throughout the United States. Rolled biscuits were a staple at most meals, but beaten biscuits became another Southern favorite. Beaten biscuits are made light by beating air into the dough with a mallet or a rolling pin (up to 100 strokes “or more for company”). Beaten biscuits are typically thinner and crispier than baking powder biscuits.


Source: Wheat Foods Council www.wheatfoods.org

 

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