Have you ever noticed that cold weather makes us yearn for the comfort foods of our childhood? This year’s never ending winter is certainly no exception. And while not everyone can agree on meatloaf, mac and cheese, or chicken-noodle soup, we all seem to love homemade baking powder biscuits.
Baking powder biscuits go perfectly with many dishes. Plop them on top of an everyday casserole to make it extra special. Lather them with butter and serve with soup. Spread with honey along with a cup of tea. And of course there’s always biscuits and gravy. Even fast food outlets have jumped on the biscuit bandwagon with breakfast sandwiches.
Experienced biscuit makers all have their favorite recipe, usually handed down from Mom or Grandma. But the most important ingredient in baking powder biscuits is the baking powder. Some people prefer an aluminum-free baking powder. Others prefer to use old fashioned cream of tartar and baking soda. We New Englanders have our own favorite, Bakewell Cream.
Bakewell Cream is a leavening agent similar to baking powder. According to The New England Cupboard, the company that produces it, Bakewell Cream was created in Bangor Maine in the 1940s. Cream of tartar, a wine-making byproduct and common leavening agent, was in short supply during the war years. Since cream of tartar is a major ingredient of many baking powders, there was a low supply of baking powder. But we must have our biscuits! So a local chemist used a different acid, sodium pyrophosphate, and called it Bakewell Cream. Bakewell Cream plus the base sodium bicarbonate (or baking soda) produces light, fluffy biscuits.
Bakewell Cream biscuits are still very popular in New England, but Bakewell Cream can be difficult to find if you live outside of that area. It can be ordered online from The New England Cupboard or King Arthur Flour. The original biscuit recipe is printed on the Bakewell Cream can.
Even though Bakewell Cream biscuits are perfect as is, I have this compulsion to play around with all written recipes. So instead of shortening I always use butter, and I often add Kamut flour to add some whole grains to the recipe.
I like to use Kamut flour because of its soft, nutty quality. Kamut is the brand name of an ancient grain, Khorasan wheat, originally grown in Egypt but now grown in Montana. Although it is a whole grain, it is softer than most whole grains and is a beautiful yellow color, almost like semolina.
• 1 cup Kamut flour
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 2 tsp Bakewell Cream
• 1 tsp baking soda
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 1/4 cup butter, softened
• 3/4 cup cold milk
1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients.
3. Cut in butter with a pastry blender.
4. Add milk and stir quickly with a fork until just mixed.
5. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 5 or 6 times.
6. Pat to 3/4-inch thick. Cut with a biscuit cutter.
7. Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and leave in the oven for another 5-10 minutes or until browned.
Quick, easy and melt in your mouth delicious. Bakewell Cream biscuits are sure to keep your insides warm. Sorry, there’s not much I can do about the outside weather!
Renee Pottle is an author, Family and Consumer Scientist, and Master Food Preserver. She writes about canning, baking, and urban homesteading at Seed to Pantry
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