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The Biscuit That Dares Not Speak Its Name

August 1, 2014

The only thing I know about biscuits is that I love great ones. Like all things involving baking, I generally am happy to let the experts do their thing, and for me to be the recipient of their talents. Granted, that relies upon me finding great examples of the breads I enjoy wherever I travel. But hunting out good eats is a passion of mine.

When it comes to baked goods, I must confess a love for the simple. I prefer a plain croissant to one filled with chocolate, and ideally one that’s made from just a few kitchen cabinet ingredients. The fewer the better.

Recently I stumbled onto an easy biscuit recipe that claimed to only use four ingredients. It almost didn’t seem possible. But people (on the internet) were gushing about this recipe, so I decided to check into it further. What I found was so horrifying, that I simply had to make a batch for myself.

Let’s back up for a minute. Real, old-fashioned biscuits really only have seven ingredients. Or at least say the very trustworthy folks at Cook’s Illustrated. I’m not a baker, so I do not pretend to be an expert on the subject of biscuits. But this ingredients list sounds legit:

1) Flour
2) Baking powder
3) Baking soda
4) Sugar
5) Salt
6) Butter
7) Buttermilk

So, how do you make this dish quicker, simpler and with fewer ingredients? Apparently, it involves 7-up, sour cream, butter and Bisquick.

Yep. There is a thing that’s been going around for years called 7-up biscuits.
And people love them.

If I have ever purchased Bisquick before it was decades ago. My preconception was that it was filled with a lot of junk. But it turns out this mother’s little helper is only filled with a little bit of junk. But adding up the ingredients in the mix and the ingredients in the soda, calling these, “Four ingredient biscuits” is disingenuous at best.

Part of me appreciates the fact that the gospel of simple cooking is spreading and that people realize a mantra of fewer ingredients is a good thing. The other part of me sees the perversion of this idea and it makes me grab my head in anguish.

For the curious, here are the full ingredients to these biscuits:

Enriched Flour Bleached (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil, Leavening (Baking Soda, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Dextrose, Salt

Filtered Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Potassium Citrate, Natural Flavors, Calcium Disodium EDTA (to Protect Flavor)

Sour cream
Cultured Pasteurized Grade A Milk and Cream, Enzymes

Sweet Cream, Salt

I’m not going to reprint the recipe. If you are curious, you can go to any number of sites and find them there.

Since I’m not familiar at all with Bisquick biscuits, I cannot say how much of an improvement the sour cream and 7-up make in comparison to simply adding milk as it suggests on the back of the box. My guess is a lot. The sour cream adds fat and the tang that would come from buttermilk. And the soda adds sugar and I suspect a certain level of tenderness from the carbonation (but that may be a stretch).

Given how sweet soda is and its relatively prominent role in this preparation, I had imagined the biscuits being sweeter. They weren’t. And that was good. They were rich, tender, and pretty darn fluffy.

Still, I think I could have improved these bastardized biscuits by using some good technique. Granted, I have no technique for making baked goods. But after the fact I went to Cook’s Illustrated and read what they said:

For our fluffy biscuit recipe, we found that the wet dough (made with buttermilk or yogurt) was too wet to roll out so we formed the biscuits by gently batting pieces of dough back and forth between cupped hands and then lightly patting them into shape.

That totally would have helped. But most likely should I ever find myself again in the mood for baking biscuits, I’m going to go for the gusto and make them from scratch. For all I know these could be the things that get me into baking. Or I could just wait for brunch at the Low Beat and get some of chef Josh’s biscuits. I haven’t had one in a long long time, but I remember really enjoying what he does with southern classics.


5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 1, 2014 10:13 am

    I *love* CI’s fluffy biscuit recipe, it’s SO easy. Since I’m typically going to smother them in sausage gravy – flaky wouldn’t improve the experience, and not having to roll out the fluffy version makes homemade b’s & g’s so much easier. By the time my gravy is finished my homemade biscuits are ready to go.

  2. August 1, 2014 11:53 am

    My biscuits only have five ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, fat, milk). If you do an egg wash on top, I guess it’s technically six (egg+milk). And I think I make a pretty decent biscuit.

  3. August 1, 2014 2:57 pm

    A friend of mine keeps making biscuits with self-rising flour and cream. nom. nom. nom.

    It’s all about the low protein (basically cake) flour, which renders a very light biscuit that takes on other flavors gladly. I tried them once and they were so easy and nice that I deemed them too dangerous to make on a regular basis.

    Here is a slideshow of famous bakers making them

  4. August 3, 2014 8:13 pm

    I have eaten a lot of Bisquick biscuits in my time and they’re not bad, and if they encourage home cooks to make biscuits “from scratch” vs not making them at all, that’s a good thing.

    My guess is that the citric acid in the 7-Up provides an extra kick to the baking soda in the Bisquick. They really are rising more, but not for the reason you would think. it’s placebo cooking and if it makes people comfortable and they get good results at home, I’m for it.

  5. BLYSS chocolate permalink
    August 4, 2014 3:15 pm

    Good point re carbonation. Will test!

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