Battle of the Biscuits: Classic Biscuits vs. Emergency Biscuits

 Classic Biscuit in front, emergency biscuit behind!

Classic Biscuit in front, emergency biscuit behind!


You guys, I love American biscuits. In fact, living in a country that does not understand the Breakfast Perfection that is an (American) Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit is probably the only downfall of living in Scotland. But they’re totally one of those foods I have never been able to make very well myself. The second Christmas Judson and I were dating, we decided to make ham and biscuits for a progressive dinner we were invited to.* Unsurprisingly, this turned out… poorly. So poorly, in fact, that 20 minutes before the dinner was to start, when we realised our biscuits had come out more like crackers, I had to drive to the nearest Whole Foods and buy a half dozen varieties of fancy mustards and chutneys to spread the biscuits/hard tack with to try to remedy the situation. Judson’s neighbours were nice about it, but I was pretty disappointed in us. I mean, biscuits! They have 3 ingredients! They shouldn’t be difficult!

I seem to have inherited my mom’s complete inability to make biscuits, though, (sorry, mom!), so I’ve been apprehensive (at best) to tackle these two biscuit recipes. First of all, why did Eleanor even have these? I’m pretty sure my mom didn’t taste a biscuit until she was in her 20s, and I can’t imagine Eleanor making (or eating) something as southern as biscuits… but here we are. I had a bit of luck with the ‘shortcakes’ from this strawberry shortcake recipe back in the summer, but although the flavour on that batch was great, they were still dry enough that I wouldn’t have enjoyed them by themselves, not coated in juicy strawberries and whipped cream.

So I’ve been both stoked to make this recipe (potential for biscuits!) but also nervous because what if I get my hopes up and then they go the way all my other biscuit forays have gone? I delayed making these two recipes for ages because I was nervous, but then I realised the fact that one of them is called ‘Emergency Biscuits’ was just too funny not to share. What possible emergency is there where biscuits are the only solution? You’re stuck in a flood of gravy with nothing to sop up the mess? There’s an abundance of fried eggs, crispy bacon and melty cheese in your kitchen and you need an edible thing to sandwich it all between before you chow down? As it turns out, Emergency Biscuits have basically the exact same ingredients in very nearly the exact same quantities as the regular biscuits, but instead of patting them out and cutting them with a biscuit cutter (ahem, juice glass—why would I have a biscuit cutter when I can’t make biscuits?), you just take a spoonful of dough and pat it into a small mound.

So I made these recipes back to back, baked ‘em both up, and then did the taste-testing. Judson mocked the shape and overall look of the ‘emergency biscuits,’ but then upon tasting both side by side, we came to the conclusion that the emergency variety was actually better. However, I’m going to go ahead and caveat that the only reason we liked the emergency biscuits better is because they are easier to make, and thus came out better for this experienced non-biscuit baker. If you’re good at making biscuits, I have no idea which one you’ll like better, but if you’re as bad at it as me, then start with the emergency version—they’re simple and nearly foolproof:  the perfect beginner’s biscuit!

 Emergency biscuit: slightly less smooth, but also a lot fluffier!

Emergency biscuit: slightly less smooth, but also a lot fluffier!

*Whose idea was this? The year before we made shrimp dip and a plate of crackers. What hubris possessed us to think that in one year our cooking skills had progressed from ‘mix together cream cheese and shrimp’ to ‘make an entire ham and enough biscuits to feed 30 people’?

The verdict:
Emergency Biscuits:

5 spoons out of five. Easier than the regular kind, easier to clean up since you don’t have to make a mess of the countertop, and even though they’re not quite as pretty as a nice flat-topped biscuit, they have the perfect buttery crumb that makes me hungry just thinking about it.

Classic Biscuits:

3 spoons out of five. They’re tasty and still relatively easy, but my skill level is still not great and so mine came out quite a bit flatter than I wanted them to, though they were still delicious, soft, and tasted great with salted butter and a nice slick of marmalade.

the recipe:

Emergency Biscuits

the directions:

Preheat oven to 230C/450F.
Sift flour once, add baking powder and salt, then sift again.
Cut in shortening, then add milk very slowly, stirring until a soft dough is formed.
Drop from a tablespoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 10-12 minutes until golden brown.
Makes about 16 biscuits.

the ingredients:

2 c flour, sifted
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp butter or shortening
1 c milk

The recipe:

Classic Biscuits

the directions:

Preheat oven to 230C/450F.
Sift flour once, then measure.
Add baking powder and salt, then sift again.
Cut in shortening, then add milk very slowly, stirring until a soft dough is formed.
Turn out on lightly floured surface and knead very gently for 20 seconds, or enough for dough to take on a basic shape.
Pat or roll dough 1/2-inch thick and cut with a floured biscuit cutter or juice glass.
Bake on ungreased cookie sheet 10-12 minutes until golden brown.
Makes about 12 biscuits.

The ingredients:

2 c flour, sifted
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp butter or shortening
3/4 c milk