1 Tablespoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening, lard, Crisco or butter (I use butter)
1 cup of milk (cream) or buttermilk
if using buttermilk add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda)
Optional. Add a little sugar if you prefer sweet rather than savory.
Mix the flour with the baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter/shortening until it resembles coarse meal. Stir milk or cream in to flour mixture. Mix quickly with fork just until dough starts to come together. Tip out on to lightly floured surface. (Will look shaggy) Using hands gently pat mixture to flatten. Now fold dough like an envelop. Turn and fold again. Do this at least three to four times. The dough is now ready to roll out. This whole step should only take 30 to 45 seconds. Do not over-handle. (Folding forms layers which makes for a very flakey biscuit).
Pat out to about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick on a lightly floured board. Cut with biscuit cutters and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Brush biscuits with a little milk or cream and bake for approximately 12 to 15 minutes at 450°F.
If making cheese biscuits add the mustard and cayenne to the dry ingredients and add the cheese after the shortening has been cut into the flour.
Tip: An easy way to cut the butter into the flour is to use a box grater. The large side of the grater makes the perfect size pieces of butter.
You can use any favourite cheese. Gorgonzola and other blue cheeses are wonderful with the addition of black pepper. Cheddar cheese is good with chives or green onions. Sometimes I add dry mustard and cayenne pepper. Or bacon or ham.
NOTE: If you like the tops to stay soft, dip the biscuits, top side down into melted butter.