foods and cuisines

Beaten biscuits | These biscuits are perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner

Beaten biscuit

Beaten biscuits are a Southern food from the United States, dating from the 19th century. They differ from regular American soft-dough biscuits in that they are more like hardtack. In New England they are called “sea biscuits” as they were staples aboard whaling ships. Beaten biscuits are also historically associated with Maryland cuisine.

Alternative names Sea biscuits
Type Biscuit
Place of origin United States
Region or state Southern United States
Main ingredients Flour, salt, sugar, lard, cold water

Characteristics and preparation of Beaten biscuits

The dough was originally made from flour, salt, sugar, lard, and cold water. Modern recipes may add baking powder.  They are beaten with a hard object or against a hard surface. It is pricked with a fork prior to baking and cut smaller than a regular biscuit. The prepared dough is baked at 325 °F (163 °C) for 20 minutes until tops are golden brown, but some bakers prefer a crisp, white biscuit that is baked with no browning.

How long the biscuits are beaten varies from one recipe to the next, from “at least 15 minutes” to “30 to 45 minutes.” The beating these biscuits undergo is severe: they are banged with a “rolling pin, hammer, or side of an axe” or they are “pounded with a blunt instrument…[even] a tire iron will do…Granny used to beat ’em with a musket”;[7] one book “instructs the cook to ‘use boys to do it'”—that is, beat the biscuits vigorously “at least 200 times.” Besides ensuring the proper texture for the biscuit, “this beating also serves to vent the cook’s weekly accumulation of pent-up frustrations.”

Uses of Beaten biscuits

These biscuits were traditionally used in “ham biscuits”, a traditional Southern canapé, where they are sliced horizontally and spread with butter, jelly, mustard and filled with pieces of country ham, or used to sop up gravy or syrup. They are sometimes considered “Sunday biscuits” and can be stored for several months in an airtight container. Beaten biscuits were once so popular that special machines, called biscuits brakes, were manufactured to knead the dough in home kitchens. A biscuit brake typically consists of a pair of steel rollers geared together and operated by a crank, mounted on a small table with a marble top and cast iron legs.

Due to the amount of work required to make them, beaten biscuits are no longer popular. Ham biscuits are still widely found in the United States but are made with standard biscuits or dinner rolls.

Beaten biscuits Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tablespoons white sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup lard, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • cup light cream
  • 2 tablespoons cold water (Optional)

Directions on how to make Beaten biscuits

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Grease baking sheets.
  • Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Use a fork to cut in lard until mixture resembles coarse meal. Using a standing mixer or a wooden spoon, mix dough as you slowly add cream. Mix well to form dough into a ball, adding cold water as needed.
  • Place dough onto a clean surface and knead slightly. Using a mallet or a one-piece rolling pin, beat dough a few times to form into a rough rectangle. Fold dough over, then beat it out again. Repeat this process until dough becomes white and blisters form on the surface, about 15 minutes.
  • Roll out dough to about 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into 2-inch rounds and prick the tops a few times with the tines of a fork. Place dough rounds on the prepared baking sheets.
  • Bake in the preheated oven until biscuits are golden, about 15 minutes.
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