Biscuits or rolls are always a favorite at any holiday meal, and making them yourself is easy and inexpensive with a few tips. The first and most important tip:
NEVER over handle the dough.
Follow the instructions to the letter, and afterwards gently handle the dough when rolling, patting, cutting or shaping. Biscuit dough that's been over mixed or kneaded too long will result in hard biscuits. I should know because I've baked many a biscuit failure in my oven over the years, until I learned this lesson.
The recipe below is from The Home Comfort Cook Book, published in 1948, with a few of my changes.
Basic Biscuit Recipe
2 cups sifted all purpose flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. shortening
Sift together dry ingredients, blend in shortening with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture is like course corn meal. One or two more tablespoons shortening may be added for richer biscuits, and part water may be used with milk. Make a well in the center of flour mixture, pour in liquid and stir vigorously with a fork for 1/2 minute. Then turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead gently and quickly for another 1/2 minute.
Roll dough with lightly floured rolling pin or pat it out gently to the desired thickness--about 1/4 inch for plain biscuits, 1/2 inch for tea biscuits and 1 inch for shortcakes. Cut dough with biscuit cutter, dipped in flour. Tops may be brushed with milk or melted butter for a soft, well-browned crust. Place 1/2 inch apart on greased baking sheet and bake in a hot 425 degree oven about 7-15 minutes.
A note on "sour milk": you can use buttermilk or add a tsp. of white or cider vinegar to regular milk which will "sour" it.
Drop Biscuits: Add 2 tbsp. or more milk to the recipe, stir dough about 1 minute and then drop by spoonfuls on greased baking sheet. Bake according to recipe above.
Buttermilk/Sour Milk Biscuits: Use 3 tsp. baking powder and 1/2 tsp. soda instead of the 4 tsp. baking powder called for in recipe. 2 tbsp. shortening and 3/4 cup sour milk or buttermilk instead of sweet milk. Mix and bake as per recipe above.
Orange Biscuits: Add grated rind of 1 orange and 1 tbsp. sugar to dry ingredients. When biscuits are ready for the oven press a sugar cube dipped in orange juice into each biscuit and bake as usual.
Pineapple Biscuits: Use part canned pineapple juice instead of milk in the recipe. Dent tops of biscuits and fill with drained, crushed pineapple. Sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar and bake as usual.
Cheese Biscuits: Add 3/4 cup grated or finely chopped cheese to recipe and substitute water for half of the milk. (Brush with garlic butter to make garlic cheese biscuits!)
Biscuit Sticks: Cut biscuit dough into strips, 1/2 inch high, 1/2 inch wide and 3 inches long. Brush with melted butter and bake.
Whole Wheat Biscuits: Use 2 cups unsifted whole wheat flour instead of white flour and use 3 tbsp. shortening instead. Dot each biscuit with a dab of butter before baking.
On OFL we also have instructions for easy yeast bread: