Thursday, 7 May 2015

Dinner at Little House on the Prairie

How long have I known that when someone in the US refers to biscuits they are likely to mean what the UK and Australia refer to as scones? Well, not that long really, although I did wonder what those biscuits were that they ate so much of in Little House on the Prairie. Some mysterious savoury item you cooked in bacon fat and ate with your main meal or, even more mysteriously, for breakfast. This corresponded to no meal I had ever experienced at home in Australia. Why didn't they just have bread? Well, older and (slightly) wiser now, I can see the advantage of a filling staple which you can whip up in 10 minutes, particularly when you're a hard working pioneer. 

My paternal grandmother (this blog's namesake) was a dab hand at whipping up a batch of scones when one of the family dropped in. And I've been happy to carry on that particular family tradition. Just to be clear, scones can mean sweet or savoury but are most likely to bring up delicious visions of scones, jam and cream when mentioned in conversation.

The Touch of Grace Biscuits for this month's Bread Bible recipe are savoury (as in, Rose suggests eating them with ham and hot pepper relish) but have quite a bit of sugar in the recipe. Based on Rose's recommendation, I was planning to serve these with a ham, ricotta and spicy ayvar paste filling, so I cut the sugar down to almost nothing. I obviously haven't moved so far from my younger self because I couldn't imagine savoury biscuits with the 3 tablespoons of sugar suggested by the recipe. Even scones eaten with jam and cream are unlikely, traditionally, to have any sugar in them. These turned out to be really delicious, soft, light and airy with a definite savouryness, to my taste, from the shortening.

Scones are always made with butter (in my experience) so I was slightly horrified by the suggestion that these biscuits were to be made with vegetable shortening. In the end I decided to be a good sport and took a leap of faith (in Rose) and bought the vegetable shortening. It was odd because Copha (is this a worldwide brand?) is mainly known as the key ingredient in chocolate crackles, a children's party staple.

I rubbed the Copha into the flour, just as you would with butter, to get a crumb-like texture.

This recipe calls for cream or buttermilk or a mixture of both. I decided to use the mix of both but couldn't find buttermilk at the last minute. So I made do and soured some milk with lemon juice. I felt almost like a pioneer... I would have looked good in a shirt waist (another mysterious item from prairie life).

It was a pretty wet mixture with all the liquid added.

Rose instructs us to dib out little balls of the dough with a scoop onto a pile of flour (or that's what I took the instructions to mean) and shape the ball into a disk with the aid of the flour. This was quite easy but I got a bit bored after a few of these. I was making quite small biscuits to serve as hors d'oeuvres but another time I might make them bigger.

I was pretty pleased with the way they looked in the tin.

The biscuits were meant to be baked at about 240C but my current little oven only goes to 220C. I'm not sure if they would have risen more with the extra heat but I was happy with them anyway.

Bottoms up! I actually put them back in the oven for 10 minutes after I took this photo because I thought they needed a bit more time.

These little gems were served for lunch as part of a (loosely) middle eastern themed spread. I thought the spicy turkish style relish helped them fit in. I also (re)made the strawberry shortcake from the Alpha Bakers Baking Bible adventure a few weeks ago. I simplified the steps a little bit but it was still delicious, with leftovers going home with my happy guests. I think it has become one of my favourites.

Next month the Bread Bible Alpha Bakers are trying out Ricotta Loaf.


  1. They look perfect! I googled the origin of American biscuits and they are common to "soft biscuits" in Scotland and Guernsey. Early settlers brought them. I can't wait until we make Rose's scones. I love scones!

    1. Yes I didn't google but that makes a lot of sense. The origins and also the adaptations different people make to recipes are so interesting. And I love scones too and now biscuits as well!

  2. Yes, I'm also used to eating scones too. I had to re-learn what biscuits is.. to me they are! And I too was wondering if they tasted good in shortening. I know's pretty expensive to get here but it has a nicer flavor than Crisco. I probably like scones because has butter flavor and best with whipped cream and jam. :)

  3. After I saw the title of your post I had to come by and read. I love Little House on the Prairie, and dreamed of a pioneer life as a little child! You might enjoy reading "The Wilder Life," it makes me want to go check out all the Laure Ingalls Wilder tourist places in the midwest!

  4. Smart move to reduce the sugar. We're really not used to sweet biscuits here, and I live in a southern state! Anyway, we were taken back by their sweetness. Probably won't be making them again, although we liked the texture once they had a chance to cool and firm up a bit (too delicate when they were warm). First of all, your daughter is super precious - congratulations. I remember those sleep deprived days well. Eventually you'll get to sleep again, but only long enough to make it through to their teen years. Then the sleep deprivation starts all over again! Anyway, I wondered if anyone would make these with a stand mixer so it's nice to see you did. Interesting recipe.... hot sure I'd make them again, but I was glad they were so easy to put together. If you get a chance, I'd love for you to stop by and visit my post.

    Patricia @ ButterYum

    1. Oops, I kept getting an error message when I tried to leave a comment on Elle's blog so I copied it just in case it disappeared before going through.... so just ignore the parts that obviously don't apply to your post. Lol.

  5. Loved reading your post :) Those pioneers sure were something, weren't they? I remember coming across a western recipe for biscuits made on a stick over an open fire!

    Fabulous way of incorporating them into a creative and interesting meal. Well done!