Beaten biscuits

Maryland Beaten Biscuits

Beaten biscuits are an interesting and unique food in Southern cuisine. At first glance, they are hard knobs of dough about the size of a golf ball, with a little pressed pattern on top, colored a light shade of brown. Not many people are enticed by this first impression, especially when you realize just how hard they are, making the biscuit seem more capable of hurting someone than providing any kind of nutrition. However, if you travel to Orrell's Maryland Beaten Biscuits in Wye Mills on the Eastern Shore, you will find many delicious examples of this particular biscuit. Orrell's was founded in 1935 by Ruth Orrell, who made the biscuits in her house in Wye Mills. A combination of flour, lard, salt, sugar, baking powder, and water, the biscuits are mixed and then pounded until ready to be shaped. This seems to be the secret catch: how does one know when the biscuit is properly beaten? In the plantation days, when leavening was in short supply, the beating action served to put air into the biscuits so they would rise without any proper chemical help. For the family, beating for half an hour would do the trick, but for company, 45 minutes produced a better product. Anything could be used to beat, from a hammer to the back of an ax, but now the Orrell company uses a machine to guarantee a consistent result. The biscuits are still shaped by hand, though, due to an issue with creating the right surface tension and a smooth exterior. Then, they are pricked with a fork or a special brand, so air bubbles don't pop up, and baked at a high temperature until a uniform light brown. The interior is surprisingly tender once you get past the harder shell, and the biscuit tastes great with shaved slices of country ham, jam, or just butter.