I made a double batch of Bisquick biscuits a while ago. It takes 2-1/4 cups of Bisquick and 2/3 cup milk to make a batch, so you’ve got a bowl, a spoon, a measuring cup and a biscuit cutter to wash up. I had the washing up done before the biscuits were done cooking. By the time I took the picture, two small biscuits were already history. The little odd looking one is the “hush baby” one — that last little bit of dough that’s left over after you’ve cut out all the biscuits.
What the British call a biscuit is what Americans call a cookie. However, there is some question as to whether an American biscuit equates to a British scone. Most recipes I’ve seen for scones call for eggs and sugar, neither of which goes into an American biscuit. Here’s my opinion: On a scale with bread at one end and cake at the other, scones are closer to cake, American biscuits are closer to bread.
Yeast bread . soda bread . Amer. biscuit . shortbread . scone . muffin . cake
If you take the basic soda bread recipe (flour, salt, baking soda, and milk) and add shortening (or butter) to it, you’ve got American biscuits. Traditionally, American biscuits were made with lard (solidified animal fat) rather than butter. However, after WWII, most folks switched to all vegetable shortening as a substitute for lard. All vegetable shortening is what’s used in Bisquick. A lot of recipes now call for butter instead of shortening, because stick butter is easier to find. Cooking oil will not work for biscuits (or pie dough).
American biscuits are a bread equivalent, to be eaten with a main meal. Since they don’t have to rise, they can be mixed, baked, and put on the table in about half an hour. Bread, on the other hand, with the rising and kneading required, is time consuming and has to be done ahead of time. The basic ingredients for biscuits — salt, flour, baking soda, lard — are cheap to buy and do not require refrigeration; water can be substituted for milk, which means the “fixin’s” can be carried in a backpack, saddle bag or wagon. Bacon fat or renderings from pan frying meat can be used instead of lard. Once butter has been churned, the liquid that is left over can be used to make biscuits. Waste not, want not.