Beaten biscuits are a unique delicacy born in the southern portion of the United States long before the Civil War. The time it takes to prepare the biscuits likely have something to do with the fact they were a specialty item served at breakfast, steaming hot with slices of ham and slathered with gravy. They truly are “beaten” when made. Folded and kneaded several times, the dough was also beaten with a rolling pin or mallet. Some stories relate iron hammers being employed to smash the dough flat, fold it over, and then beat it over and over. Some might get the notion they’re hardtack, but do not be misled on that! While a leftover beaten biscuit may end up drying out and getting as hardened as the tough hardtack served soldiers, these gems are actually more like a thick cracker.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup lard
3/4 to 1 cup of iced cold water
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a small bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Use a fork to cut the lard into the dry ingredients till it all looks crumbly. Make a hole in the center of the crumbly mixture into which you should add 3/4 cup iced cold water all together, and then stir it briskly, making a stiffened dough. You can add up to 1/4 cup more water as needed to make this dough. Place the dough ball onto a floury surface and smash down flat. Beat the batter flat with a mallet or wooden spoon. Beat down till very flat, then turn the dough and fold it over, and continue beating and folding over for about 15 minutes. Form the dough into a flattened, 1/4 inch thick sheet. Using a 2-inch heavily floured cutter, cut biscuits and place them on an ungreased sheet. Be sure to keep the cutter well-dusted with flour. When all the biscuits are cut out, use a fork to poke holes in the tops of each biscuit. Traditionally there ought to be 12 holes, or poking a four-tined fork into them three times each. Bake till they are lightly browned and crisp. Serve with butter, ham, gravy, or whatever is in the larder! Makes 24.