First, the ingredients:
2 cups sifted flour (I like Hudson Cream flour best, don't ask me why. It just seems to give me a better end result)
2 tsp. baking powder (Clabber Girl is my choice. The others are probably fine--how do we develop these preferences anyway?)
2/3 cup butter or shortening
1/2 tsp. salt
roughly 3/4 cup cold milk
Mix the flour, salt and baking powder with a fork.
Add the butter or shortening and cut in with a pastry blender or a fork until it is rice-sized particles (okay, I'm not so picky about this, but you don't want big ol' chunks of butter in your batter!).
Add the milk, using just enough to make a stiff batter. Too much and your biscuits will be hard to pat out; too much and your biscuits won't be as light as they could be. Mix it in quickly with a fork; don't overwork your batter or your biscuits will lose their soft texture.
Pat out your batter on a floured surface to about 3/4" to 1" thick. You may need to knead in a little more flour if your batter is sticky. I pat a little flour on top too, to make the biscuits easier to cut and handle. Place the biscuits on a cookie sheet and bake at 400-450 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until the biscuits are lightly browned on top and bottom. (I pull one open to check inside for doneness.)
Then eat! Best warm with real butter and homemade jam, jelly--or apple butter!
Now for some variations: you can add grated sharp cheese and chopped or crushed dry parsley or a little crushed red pepper with the milk for a good dinner biscuit. Or experiment with other combinations of cheeses and herbs.
Cinnamon sugar can be mixed with the flour mixture for a sweet biscuit--when they're baked and have cooled slightly, ice with a glaze of powdered sugar and water.
Larry uses the same ingredients as above, except he leaves out the butter/shortening. Instead, mix the dry ingredients, then go ahead with the milk and mixing. Pour vegetable oil onto the cookie sheet. Cut the biscuits the same as above, but when you place them on the cookie sheet, turn them over once so that the vegetable oil coats the top and bottom. Then bake as above.
Use the same recipe, except add more milk so the batter is thick but not so thick you can pat it out (about 1 cup of milk instead of 3/4 should be about right. Drop the batter by large spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet and bake as above.
Drop biscuits can be modified by the addition of cheese, herbs, sugar and cinnamon, etc. They are more tender and crumbly, and so good with soups and stews.
You can use self-rising flour for this recipe and it's actually even easier to make biscuits that way. Simply eliminate the backing powder and salt, and add a little more flour to the mix (maybe 1/4 cup?).
I hope these directions are clear enough. If something confuses you, please ask! When you make a recipe over and over, you tend to get so comfortable with the process you forget what you do!If you have a different biscuit recipe, I'd love to see it.