Biscuit recipes usually call for baking soda and baking powder to make the dough rise, resulting in fluffy, soft biscuits, while shortening is a common ingredient that results in a flaky, flavorful crust. Without a leavening agent, the biscuits won't rise and will more closely resemble pancakes than biscuits. Without fat, the biscuits lack flavor. Of course, that doesn't mean you can't bake biscuits if you don't have baking powder, baking soda and shortening in your pantry. Instead, use self-rising flour or a baking mix that contains leavening agents to make the biscuits rise and replace the shortening with butter.
Combine self-rising flour or baking mix with a bit of sugar to taste, if desired. Mix in about 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar for every 2 cups of flour or baking mix. Sugar is a common, but nonessential ingredient for biscuits. Most biscuit recipes call for baking soda, baking powder and salt to be mixed with all-purpose flour or cake flour, but these aren't needed with self-rising flour and baking mix.
Mix softened butter into the dry ingredients, using a pastry blender to cut the butter and blend it with the flour. Add one stick -- 8 tablespoons -- of softened butter for every 2 to cups of self-rising flour or baking mix, which results in six to 10 biscuits depending on the size.
Stir in buttermilk or regular milk to finish the dough. The dough should be moist, but not wet. The amount of milk largely depends on the humidity in your environment. A biscuit dough made with 2 cups of flour might need only 3/4 cup of milk in high humidity, or as much as 1 cup in drier areas. Add the milk a little at a time until the proper consistency is achieved.
Place balls of dough directly on a baking sheet to make drop biscuits; drop about 2 tablespoons of dough depending on the desired size. Alternatively, knead the dough slightly to form a ball. Roll the dough out to about 1/4-inch thick and use a juice cup or biscuit cutter to cut 2- to 3-inch circles of dough. Leave about 2 inches of space between drop biscuits and rolled biscuits. Rolled biscuits result in a more perfect shape, but the taste is the same.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the biscuits for 15 to 20 minutes or until cooked through and the tops are golden brown. Oven temperatures vary with some preferring to bake at 450 F and hotter for a shorter period of time. Biscuits sometimes burn before the inside is done when cooked quickly in a hot oven.
All biscuit recipes differ slightly, so experiment with the amount of each ingredient to find a biscuit recipe you really love. Try adding a little more butter if you want a stronger butter flavor or skip the butter altogether, using an increased amount of lumpy buttermilk.