Watch our historic foodways staff cook this recipe, then try it at home
When researching 18th-century recipes one often gets a feeling of deja vu. Such is the case with our soufflé biscuits. Though not readily apparent from the title, after making these light, airy little treats we were immediately struck that these could be seen as our modern day oyster crackers. Easy, light and delicious, these lovely little crackers can be kept for several months in an airtight container.
Rub four ounces of butter into a quart of flour, make it into paste with milk, knead it well, roll it as thin as paper, and bake it to look white.
— Randolph, Mary, “The Virginia Housewife,” 1827.
- 4 oz. or 1 stick of butter
- 4 cups or 17 ounces of all-purpose flour
- ½ cup milk*
- Put the flour in a bowl.
- Cut the butter into small squares and put into flour. Cut the butter into the flour with two knives or a pastry cutter until it is the size of small dried peas.
- Begin by adding ¼ cup of the milk into the butter/flour mixture. Knead till dough is smooth. *If the dough is too dry, add the milk, a tablespoon at a time, until it makes a smooth, but not sticky dough. If the dough is too wet, add one spoonful at flour at a time, until it makes a smooth dough.
- Knead the dough for at least five minutes, turning the dough a ¼ turn and folding it over itself to work in some air.
- Roll the dough out on a floured table or marble board. The dough should be at least ¼ “thick, but thinner is better.”
- Cut the dough out using a sharp knife or pastry jagger into small squares, or use a small ½ inch round cutter.
- Place the dough on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. NOTE: Depending upon your oven it may take more or less time for the biscuits to brown. You want them baked, but as pale as possible. Try one at 10 minutes and adjust your recipe accordingly.