Beaten Biscuits

picture of beaten biscuits

Hans, the Wornall’s hired hand, put the problem with making biscuits in a nutshell. It was a lot of work since baking powder hadn’t yet made it into most of America's kitchens, although housewives in England had been using it for years.

Yet American women, especially those from the South, had nice fluffy biscuits on the table every morning in spite of the dough having to be beaten for a full 30 minutes!

Of course, that was no problem if there was a slave boy or girl around. In the absence of slaves, Billy was the designated expert for the Carter family. If he slacked off, as Billy was prone to do, he got plenty of complaints—from Ma and everyone else in the household.

For if those biscuits hadn’t gotten their full beating, the soda in the dough would bubble up, making ugly brown spots. They'd also be tough instead of fluffy. Even worse, those ugly biscuits tasted bitter.

Now, for rich folks who, for whatever reason, didn’t have slaves, ….or even some who did......they probably owned a gadget called a “biscuit brake.” There were many different kinds, and every bakery had one sort or another.

Since I’m no expert on that contraption and have never made a beaten biscuit in my life, I decided you should meet a lady who IS an expert. Not only does she know all about the biscuit brake, she’s got TWO recipes for beaten biscuits to give you. Allow me to introduce Tamera Alexander.


To learn much more about the cuisine, culture and conflict in the days of the American Civil War, check out Just Following Orders: Escape from Guerrilla Warfare in 1863