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A Cornwall woman is trying to raise the dough in more ways than one.
Delores Griffin has come out with what she calls the ultimate guide to biscuits – The Biscuit Bible.
But, there’s more to this book than just recipes.
Various chapters go into the history of biscuits, the different types, details about each of the ingredients and, in an effort to give the book an extra flair, Griffin reached out to the Prince Edward Home in Charlottetown and talked to a few residents about their lives and about their cooking.
“I thought I needed stories in it that really humanize the book," Griffin tells The Guardian as she takes a fresh batch of biscuits out of the oven in her kitchen. “I thought Island seniors have baked their whole lives and had some wonderful challenges along the way."
The idea of a book about biscuits came to her one day when she was listening to the radio and the host was talking to a woman about her book on rhubarb. Griffin loves research and writing and making biscuits and decided to go for it.
She met with five residents over three afternoons in January. They had tea and biscuits, of course, and talked about life during the Depression: the difficulty in getting ingredients and how sugar was rationed in those days.
They also discussed the challenges of learning how to cook as new brides.
“Mothers back in the day were so busy they didn’t have time to teach their children, so cookbooks were the real guide for them."
Griffin learned to bake biscuits from scratch, partly by observing her mother.
“She had no recipe. It all came from her head. She had no utensils. She used two knives and a glass to cut out the biscuits. I’d watch her but she had no measurements. She’d say, ‘just add milk to make a nice dough’," Griffin laughs.
This is Griffin’s second book. Her first book, A Prince Edward Island Mother’s Legacy of Love, came out 10 years ago. It was a biography of her mother’s life and her favourite recipes.
The Biscuit Bible, which even contains some humour, courtesy of Griffin’s original jokes in each chapter, has been well received. The initial print of the book was 200 copies, selling out within two weeks. It is now available at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital gift shop, Independent Grocer in Cornwall, MR Seafoods on Thompson Drive in Charlottetown and through Griffin. She takes orders by email at [email protected].
The book sells for $14.95 with net proceeds to social programming at the Prince Edward Home.
“I thought of the ladies (I talked to for the book) and the fact the pandemic hit them hard. They lost social contact (with the outside world) and all of the social events in the house were severely restricted in-house. They used to go to ceilidhs or to bingo or to dinner. All of that was cancelled."
The Guardian also asked Griffin if there is such thing as the perfect biscuit. She said it’s all about personal taste but she does swear by two things — using butter as the fat and buttermilk as the milk.
Following is a sample of some of Delores Griffin’s jokes in her new book, Biscuit Bible:
- “What’s the difference between a biscuit and a hockey puck. Nothing if my sister makes them."
- “A biscuit gets fined for contempt of court for not rising when the judge enters the courtroom. The lawyer gets the biscuit off for diminished capacity because testing revealed the baking power was inactive."
- “A biscuit goes to Hollywood looking for a job as an actor. The studio exec replies, ‘You’ll never rise to be a star unless you have a leavening agent."
- Biscuit enters a bar and asks for a drink. The bartender says that’ll be $10. The biscuit replies, ‘no problem I’m made of dough."
- “Why was the buttermilk biscuit not liked by the other types of biscuits? Because they said it was too cultured for them."
- “A biscuit goes to the pearly gates and is met by St. Peter. St. Peter says, ‘you’re looking a bit scorched there buddy and a little worse for the wear’, and the biscuit replies, ‘yeah, like any other biscuit, I like a hot oven but that guy downstairs is a devil for punishment and I thought I would check out your oven."
Recipe: Island biscuits
Following is a recipe submitted by Delores Griffin, who explains it was a very popular recipe in many Island vintage cookbooks:
- 2 cups of all-purpose flour
- 4 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/3 cup shortening or lard or ½ cup butter
- 1 egg
- ¾-1 cup milk or buttermilk
- Pre-heat oven to 425 F
- Whisk dry ingredients into large bowl
- Cut in shortening or lard or butter, blend until fine.
- Whisk egg and milk together and start by stirring in ¾ of a cup into the dry ingredients until the dough comes together. If the dough is still dry, add a little more milk but no more than another ¼ cup of milk. Tip dough onto floured surface and knead lightly no more than five or six times. Flatten dough with your hands or rolling pin until it is ¾-inch-thick and cut with biscuit cutter or sharp knife. Do not twist the cutter.
- Arrange on a lined baking sheet with each biscuit slightly touching each other. Brush top of the biscuit with milk.
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until tops are golden. Makes eight biscuits.
- You can substitute plain yogurt (not low-fat) instead of milk – use the same amount.
- Use ½ cup of butter instead of shortening or lard. Cut into small cubes or grate it frozen. You will need more butter than shortening or lard because butter contains some water. Since there is a teaspoon of salt in the recipe, it is preferable to use unsalted butter.
- For a little extra lift or rise, you can also add ½ teaspoon of baking soda.