Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Drop That Biscuit

Sunday morning, bacon sizzling in the skillet; eggs frothy with cream; oven preheated for that baking sheet full of soon-to-be fluffy biscuits.  No better way to begin a pajama day, that is what Sunday is at our home, than with a good, old fashioned, pioneer breakfast.  Hey, the Cokenours were pioneers as well as any other family that made that trek from the bustling eastern coast of the USA, to the deserts and plains of the southwest.

The Fourth of July is nearing fast; a celebration of our country’s forefathers declaring independence from oppressors, the British Realm.  Those brave pioneers traveled the Atlantic Ocean to an unknown land, with unknown dangers; worked hard, made happy homes for themselves.  If one was to truly think about what makes a pioneer, it is anyone who sets off into the unknown to find...?  Well ain’t that the truest question, what does anyone, clueless about a new beginning, really wish to find?

For Roy and myself, our oppressors were high humidity, laid off from jobs, financial institutions failing, businesses downsizing to keep from failing themselves.  To San Juan County, Utah we traveled, settling down in Monticello, to find beautiful surroundings, slim to none humidity, severe lack of economic development and affordable housing.  To many, it sounded like we had jumped from the frying pan into a fire.  “Come back”, they cried, “You’ll never survive out there!”   Surprise!  Not only are we still surviving, but we have overcome any hardships thrown at us; and let me tell you, some people have wasted too much precious time trying!  The Cokenours are survivors, just like the pioneers that have traveled, lived through hardships, but stayed together in love and happiness.  With the Fourth of July, we will be celebrating our rights to "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness".

Now to a recipe for Baking Powder aka Drop Biscuits which was a staple of the American colonies, and known to them as “scones”.  As travel to other areas, which later became states, ensued, those pioneers brought their recipes with them.  The variations of biscuit recipes developed as other food items were introduced; honey, dried fruits, nuts, cheeses, potatoes, sweet potatoes, as well as milk and cream from different animal species.

From The Pioneer Cookbook, Recipes for Today’s Kitchen, by Miriam Barton, I found a recipe called “Milk Biscuits” (page 119) which is an old Virginia (one of the original 13 colonies) based recipe.  Now this recipe just happens to be extremely similar to “Baking Powder Biscuits” (page 8)
found in The Old West Baking Book, by Lon Walters.  A story about these latter biscuits tells how they were brought from the American colonies as pioneers traveled westerly.  I bet many of them were from Virginia!

Milk Biscuits
(The Pioneer Cookbook, page 8)

2 cups flour
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. butter, cut into small chunks
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400F.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Using a pastry blender or two butter knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the pieces of butter are about the size of small peas.  With a large wooden spoon, stir in the milk.

On a lightly floured surface, use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll out the dough until it is about 1/3 inch thick.  Use a 2-inch biscuit cutter (or the brim of a glass) to cut the biscuits out of the dough.  Take the scraps and roll them out again, then cut them and continue until all of the dough has been cut into round pieces.  Place pieces on a cooking stone or cookie sheet about an inch apart.  Bake biscuits about 15 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.

The recipe in The Old West Baking Book has the addition of eggs which causes a wetter batter, it can be scooped and dropped (hence the name) onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  I played with both recipes, they were both easy to make, and we enjoyed munching on both.  Just like true pioneers, we created from what we had on hand, and it was good.

Mary Cokenour

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