It all started with a letter.

Not an email, mind you – a good, old-fashioned letter. Yes, typed on a computer; but printed on paper, put into an envelope with a stamp, and mailed.

I was going to quote from the letter to you; but it's so sweet, I thought you'd like to see it in full, as follows:

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Well, who can resist a challenge like this? The Biscuit Throwdown is on. I answer Doris with an actual letter – complete with a postage stamp, as payment in advance for sharing her recipe.

Doris quickly writes back, saying, "Thank you for responding to my biscuit challenge. I hoped my letter to King Arthur proposing a 'duel' would be received in the manner it was intended – one of fun, not of arrogance or conceit. Since your letter seems very warm and encouraging, I believe you have recognized my intent."

We do indeed, Doris. Baking is sharing; and even when pursued in the arena of "competition," it's just as simple as that.

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Doris encloses her recipe...

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...as well as a series of pictures, including this one of her mise en place. Her secret ingredient? Yogurt.

Which makes total sense. As you carefully mix together biscuit dough, the flour's gluten develops; too much development = tough biscuits. Like buttermilk, yogurt's acidity tenderizes gluten, helping to blunt any over-working you might inflict on the dough.

I choose two challengers to Doris' prize-winning biscuits: our butter-and-shortening Baking Powder Biscuits, which mimic most closely Doris' ingredients and technique; and our fast and easy cream-based Biscuits.

The gauntlet has been thrown; time to start measuring and mixing.

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Traditional biscuits, if not always easy, are simple: whisk together the dry ingredients, cut in the fats, add the liquid, stir, gather into a ball. These are Doris'.

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And here are our butter-and-shortening biscuits. The dough's nearly identical, right?

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The King on the left; the Champion on the right.

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Pat, cut...

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...all the biscuits look very similar. These happen to be Doris'; the only difference so far is that her dough seems a bit more golden.

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And here they are in the pan, ready to pop into a hot (425°F) oven...

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...along with our cream-based biscuits.

I don't need to show you the mixing process for these. Add cream to dry ingredients. Stir. Pat. Cut. End of story.

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Into the oven they go. Which will rise higher? Which will become more ravishingly golden? Fifteen minutes later...

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...we know the answer. The biscuits all rise similarly, but the Champ's, on the left, are definitely more golden. The King's cream-based biscuits (right) place second in the beauty contest; and our butter-and-shortening biscuits (center) are a noticeably wan third.

Score one for Doris!

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Let's look at other attributes. Same rise (top); and same interior (bottom).

So far, Doris is in the lead by a crumb.

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And here we are, ready for the taste test. I gather my digital marketing and Web teammates around; and have them taste the warm biscuits plain, before adding their toppings of choice – butter, cheddar cheese...

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...or bacon.

And you know which topping option everyone takes, right?

The consensus?

Well, there IS no consensus. Most people say, "I like them all." I mean, what's not to like about a hot biscuit, right?

Liz, one of our product managers who's happened to wander by, indicates that Doris' biscuits seem richer than the other two. Her actual words: "They're greasy, and I don't mean that in a bad way at all. I mean they're RICH." Liz is a Southerner by birth, so I trust her biscuit opinion.

Peter says he thinks the King's cream biscuits and Doris' are the most tender. Aime likes the cream biscuits' flavor best. But really, there's no slam-dunk Biscuit Throwdown winner.

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Because, after all – you simply can't go wrong with a hot buttered biscuit!

Our thanks to Doris for suggesting this throwdown, and for sharing her award-winning recipe, winner of the Traditional category at the 2011 International Biscuit Festival in Knoxville, TN.

Filed Under: Recipes
PJ Hamel
The Author

About PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!