The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

The Elusive perfect biscuit recipe

Oaktree's picture

The Elusive perfect biscuit recipe

Forgive me if I've posted this in the wrong place or category. I was taking a break from a sewing project this morning and was reading an older discussion regarding real southern biscuits that  mentioned the Loveless Cafe.( I had never heard of it nor seen any of the videos of the famous Carol). After I created an account I was unable to reply to the original of that thread so maybe it's closed. -- Anyway, I also have tried for years to make the perfect biscuit to no avail.

Just for fun, I went to the Gutenberg Project and did a quick offhand search and this caught my eye. It's from a cookbook named "The White House Cookbook from 1887" or something like that. Here is an excerpt from page 210:


Sift two quarts of flour in a mixing-pan, make a hole in the middle of
the flour, pour into this one pint of warm water or new milk, one
teaspoonful of salt, half a cup of melted lard or butter, stir in a
little flour, then add half a cupful of yeast, after which stir in as
much flour as you can conveniently with your hand, let it rise over
night; in the morning add nearly a teaspoonful of soda, and more flour
as is needed to make a rather soft dough; then mold fifteen to twenty
minutes, the longer the better; let it rise until light again, roll
this out about half an inch thick and cut out with a biscuit-cutter,
or make it into little balls with your hands; cover and set in a warm
place to rise. When light, bake a light brown in a moderate oven. Rub
a little warm butter or sweet lard on the sides of the biscuits when
you place them on the tins, to prevent their sticking together when



dabrownman's picture

for this recipe seems like a lot of commercial yeast (developed in 1868 - 10 years earlier).  2 quarts of flour is so quaint but a huge amount for the rest of the ingredients.  If you make this recipe I would cut the yeast a bunch and add just as much butter as lard and double the amount to 1 cup total.  I would also use milk and cream (or half and half) up the quantity and increase the hydration - 1 cup of liquid seems a lot too dry for 2 quarts of flour.  1 tsp of salt seems a scant amount too for this much flour. 

So not much to change if you cut the flour a bunch and leave the rest the same :-)

I pity the president that had to eat those biscuits.  I'm guessing he was a Yankee and deserved it though :-)

pmccool's picture

barm from a brewer or a liquid starter maintained by the housewife.  The term seems to have been used in many books/recipes for any form of yeasted leavener, whether commercial or home-grown.

Or not.


butterflyblue's picture

I downloaded a cookbook of similar age (can't remember the name) once, and it called for teacups of yeast.  Then it had a recipe for yeast, so it was definitely not commercial yeast that was called for.  It was something more like sourdough.  I can't remember if brewers yeast was involved or not.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Two quarts of flour can vary a lot!  I have a two quart pitcher (or half gallon) for mixing frozen juice.  This would be a dumper recipe with the flour sifted into a shallow mixing trough and the mound of flour would hold the dough and gradually be added in as needed for each step along the way to final dough.  There may be flour left over too!   Like Paul, I think a liquid starter is used for the yeast.  

The well in the flour is where the magic occurs so the ingredients except the flour (and soda) should first be stirred in the middle with fingers to test temperature; stop and pause if too hot or blend slightly with a small amount of flour to cool before adding yeast and then let the flour slowly come into the wet ingredients.  By using your fingers to blend, the danger of killing the yeast minimizes.  Try to stop mixing with a rather wet dough (think 100% hydration starter or if using instant yeast, add 1/3 cup water and 1/4 teaspoon yeast for a poolish.)   If you find the overnight mixture too dry, you stirred in too much of the flour.   "Molding for 15 to 20 minutes" sounds like "cover and rest" in my mind.  

Looks more like soda buns to me than biscuits although cut-out (another clue that "biscuits" is a definition of shape rather than recipe) would give them the biscuit shape.  Salt amount should be tasted and adjusted after soda is added to make sure there is enough but all the proportions look good.  If served with a salty sauce from salted meat (rather common before refrigeration) it would be easy to over salt the dough.  Also keep in mind soda is salty, butter and lard can vary.  Bacon drippings would add a good deal of salt if used.  

I visualize this being mixed up on an edged cookie sheet (where the 2 qts of flour was sifted) or in that wooden biscuit bowl getting dusty on the top shelf.    Sifting the flour would remove any non-flour particles after scooping from flour sack or bin and has little to do with measuring.  Left over flour can be used while rolling out or put back into the bin.


AnnaInMD's picture

Gutenberg, I found a hardcover on Ebay.  Amazing the results they achieved with a simple wood-fired stove and no (gasp) digital scales or digital thermometers  ;)



sunnspot9's picture

I know isnt it stunning???? I have much respect for the old days and the old ways :)

MangoChutney's picture

I've downloaded a number of old recipe books from Open Library, including the one from the White House.  They are a lot of fun to read.  Use the publication date to filter for the old ones.


Antilope's picture

Loveless Cafe Copycat Biscuits

This is basically a lightened Angel Biscuit.

This makes a tender, cake like, non-flaky, delicious biscuit that has
a slight yeast flavor. Serve with butter and jam. These are the lightest biscuits that I have ever had.

The secret of this recipe is to create a substitute for Southern soft-wheat flour (which is similar to cake flour). This is done by combining all-purpose flour with cornstarch. Most Southern biscuits use Southern soft-wheat flour, which is usually not available in the rest of the U.S.

Makes a dozen 2-1/2 inch biscuits.


1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (or 1/2 packet)
4 Tablespoons lukewarm water (105ºF to 115ºF )
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup corn starch
1 Tablespoon baking powder
2 Tablespoons white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (I used butter flavor Crisco)
1 cup plain yogurt or buttermilk (I make homemade yogurt so I use that)
Nonstick cooking spray
2 Tablespoons butter, melted


Dissolve the yeast in lukewarm water in a small bowl or cup. Set aside until the yeast looks foamy, about 10-minutes. Reserve until needed.

Sift together, in a large bowl, flour, corn starch, baking powder, sugar, salt and baking soda. Mix well.

Using your fingertips, cut in the shortening until the mixture pieces are about the size of peas.

Stir the yogurt into the dissolved, foamy yeast. Mix well.

Stir combined liquids into the flour mixture using a fork. Stir just until moistened.

Knead the dough lightly to finish mixing, about six turns. Use a little additional flour or water to make dough workable, if necessary. Don't over mix.

Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/2-inch in thickness. Cut out biscuits with a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter. Gather up dough scraps, roll out, and cut into additional biscuits. Or just cut out square biscuits.

Lightly coat a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.

Arrange the cut biscuits, with their sides touching, on the prepared baking sheet. Pack them together tightly, this causes them to rise higher. Cover with a damp paper towel.

Let the biscuits rise in a warm place until they have doubled in bulk, at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 425ºF.

Remove damp paper towel and bake the biscuits until they are lightly browned, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Brush the tops with the melted butter and serve hot.