Self Rising Biscuits

Over the years I’ve made biscuits (not the English cookie kind, the American round scone kind) several different ways. Some quite good. But always just not quite as light and delicate as others have fed me over the years. Now I think I know why.

It has to do with the “Self Rising Flour”. I’d always assumed it was just general purpose flower with some leaven added. Nope. I’d avoided it, thinking it just a cheap cheat. My bad.

On one end of the protein scale is cake or Pastry Flour (Soft or weak flour) with cake flour a bit lower protein. 8%-9%. Fairly low protein. Wants an egg in it to hold things together. On the other far end is bread or noodle flour (Hard or strong flour). LOTS of protein at 12%-14%+. French Bread or Sour Dough does not need an egg in it to make it stick together. General Purpose flour is about in the middle at around 10%-12% protein. Well, self rising flour is made with about a 9%-10% protein mix. Less gluten than All Purpose flour and a bit more than cake flour. Enough more that you don’t absolutely need an egg to hold it together, but low enough that it is fluffy and crumbly and not at all stiff and structural. It makes a biscuit with a more tender crumb.

During my “stocking up”, I decided to buy a bag of Walmart Self Rising Flour. It was all of about $2.50 for what I think was a 5 lb bag. (I packed it into 3 quarts of jars… so the label is gone now). Figured worse case I could make it into pancakes and bury them in jam ;-) I figured it was cheap and it was time for me to learn about it. Imagine my surprise at the better biscuits.

Now the spouse doesn’t like biscuits. Well, really, she doesn’t like commercial biscuits or those hard semi-stale things from some less than well run KFCs. She did try one of my biscuits some time back and did like it. But set in her ways still prefers to avoid them. So on my “to do” list was to make “biscuits for one”. There’s nothing quite like a fresh from the oven biscuit, and nothing quite so disappointing as a day old hard biscuit hockey puck. I wanted “made to order”. So this was my chance to work out a smaller batch size recipe.

So here’s what I ended up with:

I use a 1/4 cup scoop and put 2 scoops of flour in a regular cereal bowl. Then the scoop is filled with milk and set aside. I used reconstituted evaporated milk (mix it 1/2 and 1/2 with water). Add a pinch of salt (about 1/16 tsp?) and a pat of butter to the flour. (About a Tbs of butter, or coconut oil or lard or really any hard fat you have. You can use an oil, but it isn’t as flaky / fluffy).

With a fork, I press the butter into the flour, turn the bowl (or the fork) and repeat. Essentially using the fork tines to “cut” the fat into the flour. Occasionally stirring, scrapping bits of butter off the fork. Get it mixed well enough you can’t see butter lumps. Then add the milk and mix fairly rapidly but gently to a modestly stiff dough. Let it set a couple of minutes why you get a small cast iron pan oiled and put into a 425 F oven. Back at the dough, it ought to be dry enough to not be a sticky mess in your hand (add small bits of flour if it is) but not so dry a lot of flour is left in the bowl.

Shape the dough into a shape you like. Can be “spoon drop”, or what I like is to just shape it into a couple of flats about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) thick. Place in the skillet. In about 12 minutes, you have a very nice biscuit ready for butter and jam. As both lard and coconut oil store for very long times at room temperature, and canned evaporated milk too, these are very nice “survival rations” (as long as you store the flour in air / moisture proof jars too ;-)

When done, these just lift out of the skillet and clean up consists of wiping with a bit of paper towel or work cloth. Or just cook some bacon in it ;-)

I am now quite happy with my “Biscuits for one” and always “fresh on demand”. I’m also happy to have a method that deesn’t need buttermilk, yogurt, or other refrigerated stuff I’m unlikely to have in an AwShit circumstance. At 1/2 cup / throw, I’ve got somewhere around 24 servings for under $3 plus fat. If I use bacon grease, even that is free.

I do want to “roll my own” self rising flour made with All Purpose, just to see how hard it is and what difference there is in the final product. But that is more for curiosity than anything else. From here on out, I’m going to be picking up a bag of self rising flour from time to time. My days of being a flour snob were just shot down by a very fluffy savoury scone / biscuit.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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22 Responses to Self Rising Biscuits

  1. John Howard Jr says:

    Aha! That would be my problem also… thanks for the info.

  2. rhoda klapp says:

    The baker in the family had to change all the recipes to match US flour compared to what we get in the UK. Scones are made without buttermilk, which is practically unknown here. What we do have is proper cream, thick whipped or clotted, to put on your scones. There is a long-running dispute as to whether the jam goes on top of the cream or vice versa.

  3. corsair red says:

    My wife takes this same dough, rolls it out flat, spreads melted butter over this layer, then sprinkles cinnamon and sugar over this. I’m not sure of the ratio. Then she rolls this up, cuts it to biscuit size, and bakes for the appropriate time. I think that is 14 minutes at 400. When these are cool but still satisfyingly warm, she tops them with a thick confectioner’s sugar icing. The best cinammon rolls in the world. Perfect with a cup of good coffee. Yes, they are too sweet to eat more than two.

  4. H.R. says:

    I have to watch the carbs, E.M., so I won’t be doing biscuits, but you did answer one of my questions that popped into mind; what about bacon grease?
    .
    Towards the end of this piece, you covered that. You didn’t leave much uncovered territory on the biscuit topic, though I’m sure some variations, tips, and tricks will get added in comments.

    Anyhow, if you don’t mind, I’d like some tips on things to cook or add bacon grease in place of oils and butter. For example, refried beans. That’s all I need as a hint and I’m off to the races.

    I grew up with everyone keeping their bacon grease in a coffee can on the back of the stove and using it for frying. What I can’t recall is where bacon grease was used in place of lard or butter because a) it was right there, b) saved money over using butter, c) was that ‘secret ingredient’ that made the best… whatever it was… and it wasn’t cakes and cookies ;o)

    I’m sure most other readers grew up with the bacon grease can on the back of the stove. I’m just hoping some will have better recall of a tablespoon or a 1/4 cup added to this or that made the best… again, I’m drawing a blank.
    .
    .
    Oh, I just remembered one. Spring dandelion greens sautéed down in bacon grease. That, and a slice of bread, was dinner on some occasions in the Spring because it was tasty and it stretched the food budget out by providing an extra free meal.

  5. E.M.Smith says:

    @H.R,:

    Anywhere you can use lard or shortening; and a bit of bacon flavor is not offensive. It is basically smoked lard. Southern greens, especially. Mustard, collards, etc. Sauteed with a bit of onion.. sauteed mushrooms & onions. Biscuits, of course, especially breakfast. Fried chicken gets an interesting twist. So does hamberger patties. Eggs for breakfast. Pork chops. Corn bread.

    As I remember it, we used it for most things fried in the cast iron skillet. Of course, refried beans. FWIW, I still keep it. But now in a jar in the fridge.

    Pancakes were more interesting fried in cast iron and bacon grease.

    About the only place I can remember it not working is sweet pastries. Just got to have butter. Also, I think the turkey burger patties are too delicate a flavor to stand up to it. (Or they are just better in butter :-)

    Oh: and the fried/ browned onions and {ham, spam, hot dog bits, Polish sausage slices} added to a pot of beans.

  6. E.M.Smith says:

    @John Howard Jr.:

    Glad to have been of help!

    @Rhoda:

    Mum went through something similar many decades ago. Spouse watches a British baking show /reality contest. We’ve both been slowly learming the UK Terminology… that “strong” flour isn’t about the flavour and what clotted cream might be ;-)

    @Corsair Red:

    Hmmmm… I’ve got a rolling pin, butter, cinnamon sugar mix… Thanks for the idea!

    We usually just take heavily buttered toast and sprinkle the cinnamon mix on top for a quick breakfast or desert treat. But real cinnamon buns are better. FWIW, I make the mix as just an eyeball estimated 1/4 to 1/3 cinnamon, the rest sugar. I like it strong, and it does work with less cinnamon.

  7. Tim. says:

    Our flour (UK) is ‘Self Raising’ flour. Like doing press-ups?

  8. Tonyb says:

    Rhoda

    As a Devonian i can confirm that for all right thinking people there is no dispute at all, the plain fact is that the Cornish are wrong in putting jam on the halved scone first, then topping up with the ‘spread’ the cream

    Ask yourself, when you have some toast do you put The jam on first then put the ‘spread’ the butter, on top? Of course not! That would be really silly.

    So do it the correct way, slice the scone then put on a good dollop of fresh clotted cream and top it with a good quality strawberry jam whilst shaking your head at the foolishness of the Cornish

    Tonyb

  9. rhoda klapp says:

    Tonyb, far be it from me to take a side. But with scones and toast I put butter on first. The toast often gets some Oxford marmalade then cream on top. The tartness of the marmalade contrasts well with the cream and butter.

  10. E.M.Smith says:

    Golly, Tonyb, you’ve been around a long time!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devonian
    QUOTE:
    The Devonian (/dɪˈvoʊn.i.ən, də-, dɛ-/ dih-VOH-nee-ən, də-, deh-)[5][6] is a geologic period and system of the Paleozoic, spanning 60 million years from the end of the Silurian, 419.2 million years ago (Mya), to the beginning of the Carboniferous, 358.9 Mya.[7] It is named after Devon, England, where rocks from this period were first studied.

    The first significant adaptive radiation of life on dry land occurred during the Devonian. Free-sporing vascular plants began to spread across dry land, forming extensive forests which covered the continents. By the middle of the Devonian, several groups of plants had evolved leaves and true roots, and by the end of the period the first seed-bearing plants appeared. Various terrestrial arthropods also became well-established.

    END QUOTE.

    :-)

    To wade into the fray… as a ‘Merican: I butter the top half and the bottom half, then jam in the middle… butter soaks in, so doesn’t fall off in assembly. So is the butter on top, or on the bottom? The only answer is “yes”!

    BTW, this morning used the grease from my bacon and eggs to make drop biscuits. A nice but more savory flavor. With black currant jam, very nice and rich. Dessert after my very American “Full English”! Nice Earl Grey Tea too. Prepping, it’s a quality of life thing ;-)

  11. Tonyb says:

    EMSmith

    I feel about that age after listening to all the covid 19 news.

    I live on the coast about a mile from the second photo here

    https://depositsmag.com/2018/03/15/whats-so-special-about-south-devon/

    We will be quarantining any Cornish who insist on eating scones the wrong way

    Tonyb

  12. Bob Ernest says:

    Brilliant
    I can’t cook a hot dog
    But you have inspired me to try biscuits!

  13. E.M.Smith says:

    @Tonyb:

    I have a vague memory of my Mum lamenting the lack of proper clotted cream. Didn’t understand why at the time. She was born in Liverpool, but then moved to near the River Thames. Not sure which way she did clotted cream, but toast was alway butter then jam.

    She spent several years not quite happy with her scones. Then one day tried unbleached flour. Just Right! A slightly more golden color. Smoother texture. Better more complex flavor. I hope to recreate them soon! Wedges of golden goodness with raisins in them. Warm fresh from the oven with butter… just OMG! Put a cupa with them, heaven.

  14. Annie says:

    When I was about 5 years old we were in a military transit camp. We had to eat communily and every morning a churn of milk would be delivered to the mess. My father would go in early and swipe some of the cream off the top, take it back to our quarters and cook it gently on a Primus stove! Absolutely delicious clotted cream for us! The ‘powers that be’ eventually wised up and started to stir the cream into the rest of the milk. Dad’s naughty caper was good while it lasted!
    Years later an aunt used to send us Cornish clotted cream while she was on holiday.
    At family gatherings we used to supply two pots of cream, one for Dad and one for the rest of us!
    It’s ‘self raising’ flour in UK and Australia, used for scones and sponge cakes, etc. I’ve always puzzled over what ‘all purpose flour’ might actually mean.

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    Near as I can tell “all purpose” means “doesn’t fail too hortibly at anything while being wrong for everything”.

    Yeah, you can make a heavy cake with it. Yeah, you can make weak bread with it. Yeah, you can make tough biscuits with it…

  16. Mordineus says:

    All-purpose flour plus a two tablespoons of wheat gluten = bread flour (for a single loaf of bread).

    Going to try the biscuits as i just love them, might even try using bacon grease as the fat. I’ve been dying to try the whole self-rising flour + heavy cream = biscuits recipe i found though.

  17. Power Grab says:

    How about a nice cowboy song about biscuits?

  18. Power Grab says:

    Don’t change that channel…there’s more!

    Roly Poly – by Dixie Chicks

    Roly Poly – live by Asleep at the Wheel

    I didn’t grow up listening to this style of music, but I’m pretty sure my people did. :-D

  19. EM Smith

    Generally we use Sultanas in scones used for cream teas or plain ones. I have also had several with chocolate in them created by putting chocolate chips into the scone mix. Absolutely delicious with cream and jam but best served slightly warm.

    tonyb

  20. p.g.sharrow says:

    Glad to see this post & comments. I just decided. last week, that I must make arrangements to make my own bread. Very little bread to be had at the stores in town, few eggs available as well.. May need to clean up the Chicken Vault and talk my sister and her son out of a dozen of their hens, Cranked up a sour dough starter. and increased my flour stores.by adding bread flour. Again, another craft to master! good thing I am retired…pg

  21. E.M.Smith says:

    THE thing to remember about bread is that there is no failure in bread making, just a different style of product. No leavening? Flat bread. Let the sourdough sit too long for your target? A great big crumb SOUR sourdough. Not enough starter, or too young? A mild semi-sweet sourdough. Forget the second knead / rise? Big open cell, but tasty, crumb. Use low protein flour? A biscuit or cake like texture. And so it goes,.

    Easiest to make: “Cornbread” like “Quickbread”. Done with the muffin method. Mix all the dry. Mix all the wet. Add the wet to the dry and mix. (Sugar can be added as an honorary wet since it all dissolves in the wet).

    For cornbread, it’s half corn meal and half all purpose flour. About 1/2 that water or milk. Sugar and salt as you like it. Then a bif of oil / fat and egg. Plus leavening. Mix and bake. Basically just measure, mix, pour & bake. All sorts of grains & flour can be used this way. Leave out the leavening and pour it thin for a flat bread.

    Pancake mix gives you a kind of flat bread, too.

    Maybe I’ll work up a simple flatbread… for wraps and sandwiches.

    The prior bread thread. I think my millet bread is in there somewhere in comments.

    https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2012/10/20/bread-potato-flour-millet-amaranth/

  22. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, made biscuits again today. With black currant jam, yum!

    I also refilled my regular flour jugs. 2 x half gallon jars. A single 5 lb bag almost filled them to the top. This lets us calculate servings per bag. The 1/2 cup recipe makes two generous biscuits. Enough for 1 each with a meal for 2 people, or stuffing yourself for one. That’s our standard serving size.

    4 quarts x 32 oz/qt / 4 oz/serving= 32 servings. As the jars are a little light, call it one month. So each 5 lb bag of flour is breakfast biscuits for a month. I have 4 of them, so plenty for a few months of biscuits & breads. I also know I’ve got enough jam too ;-)

    If one meal has no breads, and 2 do, that’s 2 months for spouse & me. I think that’s going to be about right. I’ve got enough ramen cups, that I think make a dandy light lunch, for a couple of months too; and they dont want a bread. I have crackers to go with them, and with my cans of chowder and soups. So looks like my guesses on size to buy were about right. (IF we reach the start of June and this isn’t wrapped up in Silicon Valley with our early start, not having breads is the least of my worries…)

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