Single-purpose baking mixes for cakes, cornbread or brownies are a great convenience in the kitchen, turning out an acceptable finished product at the drop of a hat. A general-purpose mix, such as Betty Crocker’s Bisquick, is even more versatile. With a few quick changes of ingredients or technique, you can use it for pancakes, muffins, cobblers or many different kinds of biscuits. Frugal or health-conscious bakers can easily make a similar mix at home, from simple pantry ingredients.

The Basic Mixture

For every cup of flour you use — ordinarily, plain all-purpose flour — you’ll need roughly 1/2 tablespoon of baking powder and 1/4 to 1/3 teaspoon of salt. For a Bisquick-like mixture, add about a teaspoon of sugar per cup of flour and increase or decrease that quantity in future batches until it suits your taste. The final ingredient is fat, usually shortening. A cup of shortening will make 6 cups of rich mix or up to 10 cups of leaner mix, with the commercial product falling somewhere in between. Pulse the mixture in your food processor until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs, then store it in an airtight container.

A Few Variations

Traditionalists can swap out the shortening for lard or butter, but the resulting mix should be refrigerated to extend its shelf life. You can also replace part of the all-purpose flour with pastry flour, for a tenderer biscuit, or multigrain or whole-wheat flour for added nutrition. Whole-grain flours quickly become rancid, so those mixes should be frozen rather than refrigerated. You can even use your favorite blend of gluten-free flours to create a comparable biscuit mix, though you’ll need to add xanthan gum, guar gum or another textural aid to replace the gluten. The gums vary in strength, so check the manufacturer’s instructions to see how much you’ll need.