A handful of ingredients. Check! A minimum of kneading. Check! Plus, a pretty pinwheel pattern on top. Check! Yes, indeed, these one-bowl biscuits meet every prerequisite for fun, no-fuss picnic food! At my recent Memorial Day celebration, I dunked them in saffron-butter along with steamed lobster and mussels, but they’re equally good at sopping up your favorite BBQ sauce.

Historical Note: I’ve carried around this basic biscuit recipe (sans pinwheel additions) on a tattered notecard since I left home and started my own kitchen some 25 years ago. I’m not sure of the recipe’s exact origins, but I think it hails from my mom’s red-checked old faithful aka “The Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.”

Yield: About 10 biscuits

Piping Hot, Awaiting Butter
Piping Hot, Awaiting Butter Photo by Julia M. Usher

Prep Talk: These biscuits mix in 10 minutes or less, so there’s no reason to make them far in advance. In fact, you shouldn’t; they’re truly their best-served piping hot from the oven.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 5/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • About 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • Snipped fresh chives, to taste (I use about 1/3 of a 2/3-ounce package.)

1 | Position a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

2 | Mix the dough. Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix well. Work the shortening into the dry ingredients with a fork or, better yet, with clean hands.(I dare say, there’s no better way to get familiar with baking than to roll up your sleeves and get your hands in the ingredients.) Reduce the shortening to the size of small peas. Make a well in the center of the mixture, and add the milk all at once. Mix just until the dry ingredients are uniformly moistened.

3 | Shape and fill the dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead about 10 to 15 times. Roll the dough into an 11 x 11-inch square, and sprinkle the top with the grated cheese and snipped chives. Roll up the square into a log about 11 inches long and 2 1/2 inches in diameter. (Secure the loose end to the rest of the log with a schmear of water.) Cover the log loosely with a cloth or plastic wrap, and let it rest 15 to 20 minutes.

4 | Cut and bake the biscuits. Cut the log crosswise into 3/4- to 1-inch thick rounds, and place the rounds cut side down on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake about 10 to 12 minutes, or until light golden brown. Gobble immediately, or store in airtight containers and re-heat to steaming when ready to enjoy.