Lone Hand Western - Old West History

Biscuits, Rolls and Muffins

Biscuits, Rolls and Muffins

Victorian Biscuits, Roll and Muffin Recipes

The Art of Sour Dough

This article will cover creating a basic sour dough starter and the use of that starter for traditional biscuits.  This recipe may seem rather involved but it really only takes a few minutes a day

Sour Dough Starter

On day one, soften 1 package active dry yeast in 1 quart of lukewarm, non chlorinated,  water in a large crock or bowl. Add 2 Tbsp. of sugar and 4 cups of all-purpose flour. Beat by hand  to mix. Cover with a kitchen towel and place in a warm place, 65 -70 degrees, to sour for 2 days.

On day 3, throw away half of the leaven culture and then add and mix in  2 cups of non chlorinated water and 2 cups of all purpose flour.

On day 4 do the same thing as on day three.

On day 5, you will notice that your leaven will have become active and will be nearly ready to use as a starter sponge for bread recipes.  It will have a nice beer like quality to its aroma. After the mixture has reached the desired sourness it can be kept in the refrigerator. This sourdough starter can be used as a leavening agent in any sourdough recipe.  When using the starter to create a sponge for a bread recipe simply replace the amount of starter used with equal amounts of flour and non chlorinated water.

The consistency of the sourdough in the recipe will be comparable to a thick gravy after the first mixing. As the sourdough ferments it will begin to bubble and take on a mild, sweet alcohol odor. The starter will also increase in mass as it ferments. Below you will see an illustration of a sourdough starter just after being mixed and after 2 days of fermentation.

Sourdough Starter before and after fermentation.

Sourdough starter after fermentation.
Note the small bubbles caused by fermentation.

If your starter sits idle for a while you will notice that it will develop a clear, beer like liquid.  This doesn't hurt anything and is part of the process.  If your starter mixture seems dry the liquid can be incorporated back into the starter or the liquid can be poured out of the mixture. You be the judge.


Sourdough Biscuits

I have received a few inquiries from some of the chuck wagon folks asking why their biscuits are so tough, they usually compare their biscuits to “adobe bricks”. The single largest factor in the tough biscuit problem is the tendency to over handle the dough. Although biscuits are a basic bread, they are handled differently in their preparation. The dough for a standard bread recipe requires quite a bit of kneading - compared to biscuits, some of which are a basic quick bread, where less handling is better.

Basic Sourdough Biscuit Recipe

2 Cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
2 Cups sourdough starter

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl; add the sourdough starter then mix to make a firm dough. Once the sourdough starter and dry ingredients are incorporated quit mixing - do not over knead the dough. Use a biscuit cutter of a desired size or pinch off walnut sized pieces of dough and roll into the shape of a ball. Nest the biscuits close to each other in a greased pan and cook in a 400 degree oven for 30 - 35 minutes.

Sourdough biscuits before and after baking.

Don’t forget to replenish your sourdough starter by adding flour and water equal to the amount removed. For the recipe above two cups of flour and two cups of water would be added the sourdough starter.

  Use homemade biscuits for strawberry shortcake.

Homemade biscuits work great for strawberry shortcake, just add a little extra sugar to your favorite biscuit recipe.

Rhubarb Muffins

Victorian recipes for
Biscuits, Rolls, Muffins, Etc.


In making batter-cakes, the ingredients should be put together over night to rise, and the eggs and butter added in the morning; the butter melted and eggs well beaten. If the batter appears sour in the least, dissolve a little soda and stir into it; this should be done early enough to rise some time before baking.

Water can be used in place of milk in all raised dough, and the dough should be thoroughly light before making into loaves or biscuits; then when molding them use as little flour as possible; the kneading to be done when first made from the sponge, and should be done well and for some length of time, as this makes the pores fine, the bread cut smooth and tender. Care should be taken not to get the dough too stiff.

Where any recipe calls for baking powder, and you do not have it, you can use cream of tartar and soda, in the proportion of one level teaspoonful of soda to two of cream of tartar. When the recipe calls for sweet milk or cream, and you do not have it, you may use in place of it sour milk or cream, and, in that case, baking powder or cream of tartar must not be used, but baking-soda, using a level teaspoonful to a quart of sour milk; the milk is always best when just turned, so that it is solid, and not sour enough to whey or to be watery.

When making biscuits or bread with baking powder or soda and cream of tartar, the oven should be prepared first; the dough handled quickly and put into the oven immediately, as soon as it becomes the proper lightness, to ensure good success. If the oven is too slow, the article baked will be heavy and hard.

As in beating cake, never stir ingredients into batter, but beat them in, by beating down from the bottom, and up, and over again. This laps the air into the batter which produces little air-cells and causes the dough to puff and swell as it comes in contact with the heat while cooking.


To freshen stale biscuits or rolls, put them into a steamer for ten minutes, then dry them off in a hot oven; or dip each roll for an instant in cold water and heat them crisp in the oven.


Dough after it has become once sufficiently raised and perfectly light, cannot afterwards be injured by setting aside in any cold place where it cannot _freeze_; therefore, biscuits, rolls, etc., can be made late the day before wanted for breakfast. Prepare them ready for baking by molding them out late in the evening; lay them a little apart on buttered tins; cover the tins with a cloth, then fold around that a newspaper, so as to exclude the air, as that has a tendency to cause the crust to be hard and thick when baked. The best place in summer is to place them in the ice-box, then all you have to do in the morning (an hour before breakfast time, and while the oven is heating) is to bring them from the ice-box, take off the cloth and warm it, and place it over them again; then set the tins in a warm place near the fire. This will give them time to rise and bake when needed. If these directions are followed rightly, you will find it makes no difference with their lightness and goodness, and you can always be sure of warm raised biscuits for breakfast in one hour's time. Stale rolls may be made light and flakey by dipping for a moment in cold water, and placing immediately in a very hot oven to be made crisp and hot.


Hardtack is a very simple recipe that creates what could be the world's most durable, long lasting food.

For a medium sized recipe combine 2 cups of flour with 2 tablespoons of salt (optional) and 1/2 to 2/3 cup water.  Knead the bread until the dough does not have any dry flour.  Roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/3 to 1/2 inch and cut in to 3" squares.  Poke 16 holes into each of the squares and bake in a 250 degree oven for two hours.  Flip the hardtack every 1/2 hour for an even bake.  Let the hardtack cool thoroughly before storing.

Hardtack recipe.  Hardtack was a staple of both the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War.


One quart of sifted flour, one teaspoonful of soda, two teaspoonfuls of cream of tartar, one teaspoonful of salt; mix thoroughly, and rub in two tablespoonfuls of butter and wet with one pint of sweet milk. Bake in a quick oven.


Two pints of flour, butter the size of an egg, three heaping teaspoonfuls of baking powder and one teaspoonful of salt; make a soft dough of sweet milk or water, knead as little as possible, cut out with the usual biscuit-cutter and bake in rather a quick oven.


Rub into a quart of sifted flour a piece of butter the size of an egg, one teaspoonful of salt; stir into this a pint of sour milk, dissolve one teaspoonful of soda and stir into the milk just as you add it to the flour; knead it up quickly, roll it out nearly half an inch thick and cut out with a biscuit-cutter; bake immediately in a quick oven. Very nice biscuit may be made with sour cream without the butter by the same process.


Sift two quarts of flour in a mixing-pan, make a hole in the middle of the flour, pour into this one pint of warm water or new milk, one teaspoonful of salt, half a cup of melted lard or butter, stir in a little flour, then add half a cupful of yeast, after which stir in as much flour as you can conveniently with your hand, let it rise over night; in the morning add nearly a teaspoonful of soda, and more flour as is needed to make a rather soft dough; then mold fifteen to twenty minutes, the longer the better; let it rise until light again, roll this out about half an inch thick and cut out with a biscuit-cutter, or make it into little balls with your hands; cover and set in a warm place to rise. When light, bake a light brown in a moderate oven. Rub a little warm butter or sweet lard on the sides of the biscuits when you place them on the tins, to prevent their sticking together when baked.


Take a piece of bread dough that will make about as many biscuits as you wish; lay it out rather flat in a bowl; break into it two eggs, half a cup of sugar, half a cup of butter; mix this thoroughly with enough flour to keep it from sticking to the hands and board. Knead it well for about fifteen or twenty minutes, make into small biscuits, place in a greased pan, and let them rise until about even with the top of the pan. Bake in a quick oven for about half an hour. These can be made in the form of rolls, which some prefer.


When you bake take a pint of sponge, one tablespoonful of melted butter, one tablespoonful of sugar, the white of one egg beaten to a foam. Let rise until light, mold into biscuits, and when light bake.


Take one pint of water or milk, one large tablespoonful of butter, two tablespoonfuls of sugar, a half cup of yeast and a pinch of salt; take enough wheat flour to use up the water, making it the consistency of batter-cakes; add the rest of the ingredients and as much Graham flour as can be stirred in with a spoon; set it away till morning; in the morning grease a pan, flour your hands, take a lump of dough the size of an egg, roll it lightly between the palms of your hands, let them rise twenty minutes, and bake in a tolerably hot oven.


Sift together a quart of dry flour and three heaping teaspoonfuls of baking powder. Rub into this thoroughly a piece of butter the size of an egg; add two well-beaten eggs, a tablespoonful of sugar, a teaspoonful of salt. Mix all together quickly into a soft dough, with one cup of milk, or more if needed. Roll out nearly half of an inch thick. Cut into biscuits, and bake immediately in a quick oven from fifteen to twenty minutes.


One pint of milk, boiled and cooled, a piece of butter the size of an egg, one-half cupful of fresh yeast, one tablespoonful of sugar, one pinch of salt, and two quarts of sifted flour. Melt the butter in the warm milk, then add the sugar, salt and flour, and let it rise over night. Mix rather soft. In the morning, add to this half of a teaspoonful of soda dissolved in a spoonful of water. Mix in enough flour to make the same stiffness as any biscuit dough; roll out not more than a quarter of an inch thick. Cut with a large round cutter; spread soft butter over the tops and fold one-half over the other by doubling it. Place them apart a little so that there will be room to rise. Cover and place them near the fire for fifteen or twenty minutes before baking. Bake in rather a quick oven.

PARKER HOUSE ROLLS. (Unfermented.)

These rolls are made with baking powder, and are much sooner made, although the preceding recipe is the old original one from the "Parker House." Stir into a quart of sifted flour three large teaspoonfuls of baking powder, a tablespoonful of cold butter, a teaspoonful of salt and one of sugar, and a well-beaten egg; rub all well into the flour, pour in a pint of cold milk, mix up quickly into a smooth dough, roll it out less than half an inch thick, cut with a large biscuit-cutter, spread soft butter over the top of each; fold one-half over the other by doubling it, lay them a little apart on greased tins. Set them immediately in a pretty hot oven. Rub over the tops with sweet milk before putting in the oven, to give them a glaze.


Three cups of sweet milk, one cup of butter and lard, mixed in equal proportions, one-half cup of good yeast, or half a cake of compressed yeast, and a teaspoonful of salt. Add flour enough to make a stiff dough. Let it rise over night; in the morning, add two well-beaten eggs; knead thoroughly and let it rise again. With the hands, make it into balls as large as an egg; then roll between the hands to make long rolls (about three inches). Place close together in even rows on well-buttered pans. Cover and let them rise again, then bake in a quick oven to a delicate brown.


Two quarts of sifted flour, a teaspoonful of salt, a tablespoonful of sweet lard, one egg; make up with half a pint of milk, or if milk is not to be had, plain water will answer; beat well until the dough blisters and cracks; pull off a two-inch square of the dough; roll it into a ball with the hand; flatten, stick with a fork, and bake in a quick oven. It is not beating hard that makes the biscuit nice, but the regularity of the motion. Beating hard, the old cooks say,  kills the dough.

An old-fashioned Southern Recipe.


Boil six good-sized potatoes with their jackets on; take them out with a skimmer, drain and squeeze with a towel to ensure being dry; then remove the skin, mash them perfectly free from lumps, add a tablespoonful of butter, one egg and a pint of sweet milk. When cool, beat in half a cup of yeast. Put in just enough flour to make a stiff dough. When this rises, make into small cakes. Let them rise the same as biscuit and bake a delicate brown. This dough is very fine dropped into meat soups for pot-pie.


Take two quarts of flour, one large tablespoonful of lard or butter, one tablespoonful and a half of vinegar and one teaspoonful of soda; put the soda in the vinegar and stir it well; stir in the flour; beat two eggs very light and add to it; make a dough with warm water stiff enough to roll out, and cut with a biscuit-cutter one inch thick and bake in a _quick_ oven.


Boil and mash two white potatoes; add two teaspoonfuls of brown sugar; pour boiling water over these, enough to soften them. When tepid, add one small teacupful of yeast; when light, warm three ounces of butter in one pint of milk, a little salt, a third of a teaspoonful of soda and flour enough to make stiff sponge; when risen, work it on the board, put it back in the tray to rise again; when risen, roll into cakes and let them stand half an hour. Bake in a quick oven. These biscuits are fine.


Warm one-half cupful of butter in a pint of milk; add a teaspoonful of salt, a tablespoonful of sugar, and seven cupfuls of  sifted flour; beat thoroughly and when the mixture is blood warm, add four beaten eggs and last of all, half a cup of good lively yeast. Beat hard until the batter breaks in blisters. Set it to rise over night. In the morning, dissolve half a teaspoonful of soda, stir it into the batter and turn it into a well-buttered, shallow dish to rise again about fifteen or twenty minutes. Bake about fifteen to twenty minutes. The cake should be torn apart, not cut; cutting with a knife makes warm bread heavy. Bake a light brown. This cake is frequently seen on Southern tables.

SALLY LUNN. (Unfermented.)

Rub a piece of butter as large as an egg into a quart of flour; add a tumbler of milk, two eggs, three tablespoonfuls of sugar, three tablespoonfuls of baking powder and a teaspoonful of salt. Scatter the baking powder, salt and sugar into the flour; add the eggs, the butter, melted, the milk. Stir all together and bake in well-greased round pans. Eat warm with butter.


Three cups of milk, one cup of yeast, or one cake of compressed yeast dissolved in a cup of tepid water, and flour enough to make a thick batter; set this as a sponge over night. In the morning add half a cup of melted butter, one cup of sugar, half a nutmeg grated, one saltspoonful of salt, half a teaspoonful of soda, and flour enough to roll out like biscuit. Knead well and set to rise for five hours. Roll the dough half an inch thick; cut in round cakes and lay in rows in a buttered baking-pan, and let the cakes stand half an hour, or until light; then put them in the oven, having first made a deep cross on each with a knife. Bake a light brown and brush over with white of egg beaten stiff with powdered sugar.


In one large coffeecup of warm milk dissolve half a cake of compressed yeast, or three tablespoonfuls of home-made yeast; to this add three well-beaten eggs, a small cup of sugar and a teaspoonful of salt; beat these together. Use flour enough to make a smooth, light dough, let it stand until very light, then knead it in the form of biscuits; place them on buttered tins and let them rise until they are almost up to the edge of the tins; pierce the top of each one and bake in a quick oven. Glaze the top of each with sugar and milk, or the white of an egg, before baking. Some add dried currants, well-washed and dried in the oven.


Two cups of raised dough, one of sugar, half a cup of butter, two well-beaten eggs, flour enough to make a stiff dough; set to rise, and when light mold into high biscuit and let rise again; rub damp sugar and cinnamon over the top and place in the oven. Bake about twenty minutes.

RUSKS. (Unfermented.)

Three cups of flour sifted, three teaspoonfuls of baking powder, one teaspoonful of salt, three tablespoonfuls of sugar, two tablespoonfuls of butter, three eggs, half a nutmeg grated and a teaspoonful of ground cinnamon, two small cups of milk; sift together salt, flour, sugar and baking powder; rub in the butter cold; add the milk, beaten eggs and spices; mix into a soft dough, break off pieces about as large as an egg, roll them under the hands into round balls, rub the tops with sugar and water mixed, and then sprinkle dry sugar over them. Bake immediately.


Thoroughly mix, while dry, one quart of sifted flour, loosely measured, with two heaping teaspoonfuls of baking powder; then rub into it a tablespoonful of cold butter and a teaspoonful of salt. Be sure that the butter is well worked in. Add sweet milk enough to make a very soft paste. Roll out the paste about a quarter of an inch thick, using plenty of flour on the paste-board and rolling pin. Cut it into triangular pieces, each side about four inches long. Flour the sides and bottom of a biscuit tin, and place the pieces on it. Bake immediately in a quick oven from twenty to thirty minutes. When half done, brush over with sweet milk. Some cooks prefer to bake them on a floured griddle, and cut them a round shape the size of a saucer, then scarred across to form four quarters.


Two cups of rich milk, four tablespoonfuls of butter and a gill of yeast, a teaspoonful of salt; mix warm, add flour enough to make a light dough. When light, roll thin and cut in long pieces three inches wide, prick well with a fork and bake in a slow oven. They are to be mixed rather hard and rolled very thin, like soda crackers.


Make a batter of one pint of sweet milk, one teaspoonful of sugar, one of salt, a tablespoonful of butter or sweet lard and a half cup of yeast; add flour enough to make it moderately thick; keep it in a warm,  not hot, place until it is quite light, then stir in one or two well-beaten eggs, and half a teaspoonful of soda, dissolved in a little warm water. Let the batter stand twenty-five or thirty minutes longer to rise a little, turn into well-greased muffin-rings or gem-pans, and bake in a quick oven. To be served hot and torn open, instead of cut with a knife.


Three pints of flour, three eggs, a piece of butter the size of an egg, two heaping teaspoonfuls of white sugar, one-half cake of compressed yeast and a quart of milk; warm the milk with the butter in it; cool a little, stir in the sugar and add a little salt; stir this gradually into the flour, then add the eggs well beaten; dissolve the yeast in half a cup of lukewarm water and add to the other ingredients; if the muffins are wanted for luncheon, mix them about eight o'clock in the morning; if for breakfast, set them at ten o'clock at night; when ready for baking, stir in half a teaspoonful of soda dissolved in a teaspoonful of hot water; butter the muffin-rings or gem-irons and bake in a quick oven.


One quart of flour, sifted twice; three eggs, the whites and yolks beaten separately, three teacups of sweet milk, a teaspoonful of salt, a tablespoonful of sugar, a large tablespoonful of lard or butter and two heaping teaspoonfuls of baking powder. Sift together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder; rub in the lard cold, add the beaten eggs and milk; mix quickly into a smooth batter, a little firmer than for griddle-cakes. Grease well some muffin-pans and fill them two-thirds full. Bake in a hot oven fifteen or twenty minutes. These made of cream, omitting the butter, are excellent.


One egg well beaten, a tablespoonful of butter and a tablespoonful of sugar, with a teaspoonful of salt, all beaten until very light. One cup of milk, three of sifted flour and three teaspoonfuls of baking powder. One-half Graham and one-half rye meal may be used instead of wheat flour, or two cups of corn meal and one of flour. Drop on well-greased patty-pans and bake twenty minutes in a rather quick oven, or bake on a griddle in muffin-rings.


One quart of buttermilk, a teaspoonful of soda dissolved in the milk, a little salt, and flour enough to make a stiff batter. Drop in hot gem-pans and bake in a quick oven. Two or three tablespoonfuls of sour cream will make them a little richer.


One pint of corn meal, one pint of flour, one tablespoonful of sugar, one teaspoonful of salt, three of baking powder, one tablespoonful of lard or butter, two eggs and a pint of milk. Sift together corn meal, flour, sugar, salt and powder; rub in lard or butter cold, and eggs beaten and milk; mix into batter of consistency of cup-cake; muffin-rings to be cold and well greased, then fill two-thirds full. Bake in hot oven fifteen minutes.

CORN MEAL MUFFINS. (Without Eggs.)

One cup of flour, one cup of corn meal, two tablespoonfuls of sugar, water to make a thick batter, or sour milk is better; mix at night; in the morning add two tablespoonfuls of melted butter and one teaspoonful of soda; bake in cake rounds.


Two cups of boiled hominy; beat it smooth, stir in three cups of sour milk, half a cup of melted butter, two teaspoonfuls of salt, two tablespoonfuls of sugar; add three eggs well beaten, one teaspoonful of soda dissolved in hot water, two cups of flour. Bake quickly. Rice muffins may be made in the same manner.


Two cupfuls of Graham flour, one cupful of wheat flour, two teaspoonfuls of baking powder, a tablespoonful of sugar, one of salt and one well-beaten egg. Mix with sweet milk to make a thin batter; beat it well. Bake in gem-irons; have the irons well greased; fill two-thirds full and bake in a hot oven. Will bake in from fifteen to twenty minutes.


Three cups of sour milk, one teaspoonful of soda, one of salt, one tablespoonful of brown sugar, one of melted lard or butter, one or two beaten eggs; to the egg add the milk, then the sugar and salt, then the Graham flour (with the soda mixed in), together with the lard or butter; make a stiff batter, so that it will _drop_, not pour, from the spoon. Have the gem-pans very hot, fill and bake fifteen minutes in a hot oven.

The same can be made of sweet milk, using three teaspoonfuls of baking powder instead of soda, and if you use sweet milk, put in no shortening. Excellent.

Muffins of all kinds should only be cut just around the edge, then pulled open with the fingers.


Two cupfuls of the best Graham meal, two of water, fresh and cold, or milk and water, and a little salt. Stir briskly for a minute or two. Have the gem-pan, hot and well greased, on the top of the stove while pouring in the batter. Then place in a very hot oven and bake forty minutes. It is best to check the heat a little when they are nearly done. As the best prepared gems may be spoiled if the heat is not sufficient, care and judgment must be used in order to secure this most healthful as well, as delicious bread.


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