Mix together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda into a large bowl. Cut in shortening until it is the 'consistency of coarse cornmeal'. Add buttermilk and mix so that all the flour, etc., is moistened. Feel free to add more buttermilk if necessary, but try not to make the dough so wet that it exceeds your dough-folding skills.
Pour dough onto a well-floured cutting board. Pat out and fold the dough a few times--I usually do six to eight folds, but it depends on the consistency of the dough. As it's much harder to pat out and fold wet dough, I usually will give fewer folds when I've put a lot more buttermilk than necessary in...
Finally, pat the dough out to around biscuit thickness (about one inch) and then cut them out with a biscuit cutter, and place on a cookie sheet. Cook for 10-12 minutes at 450 degrees F, or until brown on top.
Note on shortening: My mother uses Crisco or some other vegetable shortening. I use butter. We've found that the Crisco acutally makes the biscuits fluffier, but the ones made with butter, not surprisingly, taste a bit better. If you want to use margarine, be careful; the one time I tried that, the biscuits came out tasting somewhat like cornbread.
I use a piece of Tupperware. My mother uses what was at one time a piece of pipe that my grandfather cut specifically to use for cutting biscuits. Basically, anything that's round and about two inches in diameter is fine.
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Last modified: March 30, 1998.