Beaten biscuits have a history here in the South. When Eugene Walter wrote about them in American Cooking: Southern Style for Time-Life in 1971, he interviewed Mrs. J. Millard Tawes, wife of the former Maryland governor. He gave her recipe for six dozen biscuits and mentioned that once the dough is made, she puts it on a chopping block and “pounds it with a hammer, flailing away for 20 minutes.”
He also pictured them in the section on Thomas Jefferson, that he “relished such native delicacies as Jerusalem artichokes, grown and pickled at Monticello, and that Southern specialty, beaten biscuits.”
You can buy them online (although not many places offer them for sale, I imagine because they are so arduous to make) — I got these from Broadbent’s in Kentucky because they’re traditional Derby party food. Many people pair them with ham but beef bacon is quite fine too:
Shug has started to enjoy cooking with me, so we made them this past week from an old recipe that dates back to the 1700s. I found it in a cookbook that was so old that almost every letter ‘s’ was replaced with an ‘f’:
“Take one quart of flour, lard the size of a hen’s egg, one teafpoonful of salt. Make into a moderately ftiff dough with fweet milk. Beat for half an hour…”
How much lard (I used butter) do you think equals a hen’s egg? I asked some friends on FB and the most popular answer was 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup, which according to this page is right (1/4 c.)!
Rather than beat the dough for a half hour with a hammer, we put it in the Cuisinart and let it do the work for us — about seven minutes later, the dough was smooth and velvety and ‘popped’. It needed no flour at all when Shug helped me roll it out. We cut the biscuits out with a jelly glass, then put the customary three rows of three pinpricks (just used a serving fork) on, then into a 400* oven for about 25 minutes:
They were just as good as the ones we got from Broadbent’s and maybe even a little better. Now, these aren’t gorgeous, fluffy, huge cathead biscuits like I make in a cast iron skillet here at home and make everything smell wonderful, but these are simple, subtle, fair, more cracker-like biscuits.
The boys loved them spread with a little bit of the apple butter we got this past weekend at the Amish community in Mississippi.