I made tea biscuits from a store bought mix once. Just add milk. They weren’t nearly as good as this recipe from Juney. The mix version had a cakier quality and dissolved into a crumby mess with the first bite. I figure that if you have to eat a biscuit with a spoon, it ought to be called cereal.
2 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup of vegetable oil
2/3 cup of milk
Mix dry ingredients. Measure wet ingredients together but do not stir. If you are feeling fancy, use a nice canola oil from a tall elegant bottle. Add wet ingredients to dry. Blend with a fork until mixed. Plop dough onto a cutting board that has been dusted with all-purpose flour. Knead a few times. Don’t get carried away with the kneading or you’ll end up with chewy, albino hockey pucks instead of light, doughy biscuits.
Choose a biscuit-sized implement for cutting the dough. My mom, Juney, always used a ribbed plastic tumbler an inch in diameter. I think that tumbler was an orphan: it was the only one to be found in our robin’s egg blue kitchen on Hilda Street. I use a little shot glass with gold trim. I’d like to say that the recipe goes better if you have a shot of rum before commencing to shape the biscuits, but I’ve never actually tried that. I get sleepy if I have so much as a half-a-glass of wine so I have to stay perfectly sober if I expect to get the baking done.
Place biscuits in an ungreased pan. Juney usually uses an 8” square pan. I use a 9” pie plate because it is usually on the top of the pile. That way I avoid all the clatter caused by digging through a stack of baking sheets in a metal warming oven.
Bake at 475˚ for 10-12 minutes.
Eat while warm preferably with a cup of tea. Split in half and douse with honey. Be prepared to get sticky.
Variations: I lived on tea biscuits when I was in law school. It got a little boring so I started to fiddle with the recipe, adding big crumbs of cheese or fat Thomson raisins. Sometimes I’d sprinkle the dough with brown sugar and cinnamon before kneading in the hope of getting a little river of flavour through the middle, but it never really worked out that way. My older sister Karen advocates adding garlic because everything is better with garlic. She has a point.
Source of Recipe
When I asked Juney where the recipe came from, she looked up from her newspaper and pondered for a moment.
“I have no idea.”
This surprised me. I figured it was handed down from one generation to the next. But no.
“I really don’t know,” she said.
She was sitting at our dining room table in Florida, when I asked her this question, enjoying her morning coffee. Gramper, my Dad, sat across from her doing the same. She was wearing pale green Nick and Nora pyjamas dotted with the pink flamingoes and barbeques. (Mine are a startling pink with monkeys and candy canes.)
“Why do you ask?”
“I am collecting recipes for the kids.”
“Oh,” she said, and then after a moment: “I should start noting down the titles of the cookbooks where these came from and so if I lose them…” Her voice trailed off. She seemed to be riffling through a mental index of cookbooks and recipes snipped from magazines.
By this time, Gramper had taken an interest. He rose from his chair and came over to where I sat.
“Did I ever tell you how my dad’s brother choked on a carrot?” he asked me.
“I remember the story.”
“My Dad would never let me eat a raw carrot,” he says.
“I never knew that,” I answer. And now I am the one left to ponder, my mind trailing over my own instances of parental paranoia.