The secret to avoiding rock-hard biscuits, according to cookbook author Marion Cunningham, is not to overhandle the dough; a light hand makes a flaky, airy biscuit.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1⁄3 cup vegetable shortening, chilled
- 1 cup milk
- Preheat oven to 425°. Lightly grease a baking sheet with butter. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a large mixing bowl, then stir with a fork until well blended.
- Add shortening to flour mixture in 5 or 6 large pieces, cutting it into flour with a pastry cutter, or rubbing it in with your fingers. The mixture should have the consistency of coarse cornmeal, with no large pieces of shortening visible.
- Add milk and stir in with a fork just until mixture pulls away from sides of bowl. The dough will be quite sticky.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Dust hands with flour and gently knead dough just until it’s no longer sticky and holds together, about 30 seconds. Pat dough into a circle about 9″ round and 3⁄4″ thick.
- Cut out biscuits with a cookie cutter or the rim of a juice glass and place on baking sheet. If biscuits touch each other, they will have tender sides when baked; if you prefer crisp sides, separate them a bit. Bake until tops are golden, about 12–15 minutes. Serve warm.