Baking Powder Biscuits —MAV

Well, January is nearly gone (thank goodness because it has not been my favorite month, harumph!) and it’s time for me to make a quick check-in with my resolutions. I’m moving along well on the Cooking (been eating in a lot and many times by warm candlelight) and Resting (taking weekends off and getting lots of sleep!) and still working on Giving and Walking. Hey, one thing at a time, right?

I’ve been enjoying cooking/baking and trying out many new recipes (some of which we’ve already been made and remade). A few weeks ago I pulled out one of my favorite little books: Cooking With Wholegrains by Mildred Ellen & Vrest Orton. This is a lovely understated book which represents and supports everything I love about baking: simplicity, experimenting and using wholegrains. And it has a little attitude as well!

Vrest Orton writes in his Word Of Warning at the beginning of the book, “There is some confusion, in the public mind, about two other terms often advertised. One is Unbleached Flour. This is simply white flour, without chemical bleach. In no sense is unbleached flour a wholegrain because, like any other white flour, it does not contain the natural vitamins and other nutritional elements always present in stoneground wholegrains.” And he goes on to talk about water ground meal. I just like how he cuts right through it. And he continues that tone throughout the rest of the book encouraging the reader to see “cooking as an art form.” This is my kind of couple! Mildred, if I can call her that, lived until she was 99 years-old. There’s certainly something to be said about that.

It’s lucky that I love the taste of wholegrain flour and I don’t have to force myself to use it for the sheer goodness of it. But I know not everyone is like me. That said, I think a simple biscuit is a great place to start if you are just trying to get more whole grains into your world. Why is it a good place to start? Well, you can (and should) slather it with butter and that may help you ease into the enjoyment of this type of baking. I encourage you to try out this simple wholegrain biscuit with your winter soups and stews. It’s simply delicious. I use a little corn meal because I love this combination but you can use all whole wheat flour if you like. That is what Mildred does!

Baking Powder Biscuits
adapted slightly from Cooking With Wholegrains by The Ortons
makes 8–10 biscuits depending on size

1 1/2 C whole wheat flour
1/2 C yellow corn meal
1 t salt
4 t baking powder
5 T unsalted butter, cold
1 C milk

Pre-heat oven to 450ºF / 230ºC. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Sift dry ingredients together well two times (don’t skimp on the sifting). Cut in butter until the mixture resembles course meal. Add enough milk, a little at a time, to make a moist dough. You might not use the whole cup or you might need a little more. You want the dough to come together easily and be moist but not damp. Turn the dough out onto a lightly wheat-floured board and pat out to 1/2 inch thick. Cut out your biscuits (I use a glass to do this) and bake for 15 minutes tops. Serve right out of the oven with butter.

A Note: I’ve found the goal with this recipe is to handle the dough as little as possible. It may take a few times of making this to find your groove in that department. Don’t worry. You’ll find it. I use my fingers, gently, to bring the dough together after I add the milk which I think really helps the biscuits have a nicer tenderness. Sometimes a wooden spoon can just create too much action for the dough. At any rate, enjoy and, as Mildred and Vrest encourage, have fun.