A Mass of Biscuits (or Shortcakes)

  • 5 cups all-purpose (hard northern) flour, such as King Arthur
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • Note: If you’re using soft southern flour, you can just use 8 cups of that instead of the previous two ingredients
  • 5 Tablespoons baking powder (1/4 cup plus 1 T)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1 stick butter, chilled, NOT softened
  • 8 Tablespoons shortening, preferably butter-flavored
  • approximately 1 quart cold buttermilk (4 cups)

Note that this recipe makes a HUGE amount of batter. You’ll need a large surface to work on, two cookie sheets to cook them on (or use one twice), etc. Or look below for the half-recipe listing.

Preheat oven to 420 degrees F. Combine the dry ingredients (flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt) in a large mixing bowl. Use a pastry blender or your fingers to cut the butter and shortening in until they’re the size of peas or crumbs. Try to do this quickly so the butter doesn’t melt or get warm.

Make a well in the center; pour in the buttermilk. Stir just until the dough comes together. It will be sticky; that’s okay.

Flour a very large surface (or do this in two batches). Turn the dough out onto the surface. Sprinkle flour on top so your hands don’t stick to it. Press it out gently and fold it over on itself; repeat this process (including sprinkling with flour as necessary) about 5 times. Press out gently until the dough is approximately one inch thick.

Using a good, sharp-edged biscuit cutter, and pushing straight down, cut out biscuits and put them on an ungreased cookie sheet, preferably on a non-stick silpat or tefmat mat. Make sure the sides are just touching.

Bake until the biscuits are golden and just starting to brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Shortcake

For shortcake, add 1 cup sugar to the above recipe, mixing it into the dry ingredients. Otherwise, follow the recipe as above. If using the half-recipe below, add 1/2 cup sugar.

Half-Recipe

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose hard northern flour
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 4 Tablespoons (half a stick) butter
  • 4 Tablespoons shortening (preferably butter-flavored)
  • 2 cups buttermilk

Follow directions as above.

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