Wednesday January 23, 2013 | 01:00 AM

In testing  biscuit recipes made with either soft-wheat  biscuit mix, self-rising or plain all-purpose flour, I preferred the biscuits  with plain flour using my own leavening and salt. The rise was much higher and I liked the flavor more than the pre-mixed flours.  

Here are more observations to consider.

How you place the biscuits on the baking sheet makes a big differentce.  Touchin each other, the biscuits have soft and creamy sides and rise higher.  Placed apart, they're crustier. Either way, it's a matter of choice.

A wet, sticky dough that needs careful handling

As for fat I either use sweet butter or leaf lard.  Butter gives a sweet, very tender finish whereas lard adds more flavor, texture and lightness.

Regarding baking powder, try making your own using  Bakewell Cream mixed in a 2 to 1 ratio with baking soda.  Or buy Bakewell Cream's premixed baking powder.  As Maine bakers know, Bakewell is a great product and will produce towering biscuits.

Standard practice says that you can’t make a do-ahead biscuit.  But I’ve found that you can.  Unbaked biscuits freeze well so why shouldn't refrigerated  biscuits benfit from chilling?  There are advantages, such as being able to prepare the dough in advance and baking them just before serving.  Nothing better than biscuits straight from the oven. 

Here’s what you do.  With your favorited baking-powder biscuit recipe, prepare the dough, roll it out, cut into rounds and place on a  baking pan, covered with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least two hours or even overnight.  The resting allows the fat to chill and the baking powder to act gradually.  This method also produces a taller bisucit.

Split and slathered with butter

The recipe included here is different from the standard method of cutting in the fat and moistening with liquid. 

It calls for adding both melted fat and buttermilk to the flour, mixing it together, which will produce a very wet, sticky dough.  It’s turned out onto a floured board and with floured  hands  kneaded very gently, adding more flour as necessary until the dough  holds together and is smooth.

Brushed with melted butter after baking

Ma Fish’s Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits
(Adapted from Midstate Mills Southern Biscuit)
Servings: 12 biscuits

2 cups all-purpose soft-wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (4 ounces) lard (or butter), melted
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees
Sift together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Blend in melted lard and buttermilk. Mix well with a large wooden spoon.  The dough will be sticky. 

Turn out onto a floured board and with floured hands knead very gently, sprinkling with more flour as needed, for about 2 to 3 minutes or  until the dough is smooth and holds together. Do not overmix or add too much dusting flour.

Cut with a 2- to 3-inch biscuit cutter and place on a cooking sheet that has been lightly greased with a nonstick spray.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.  Remove from oven and brush with melted butter.

 

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John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.

In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.

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