Kitchn Love Letters

Don’t Have Flour? Here’s the Pantry Staple I’m Using to Bake Right Now.

published Apr 15, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Bisquick Biscuits
Credit: Christine Gallary

Maybe you were lucky enough to grab some flour at the grocery store before shelves emptied out, or you’re a seasoned sourdough bread baker who only buys 50-pound bags. But if you don’t fall under either umbrella and still want to dive into the comfort of baking, there’s an alternative you should know about: good ol’ Bisquick.

The sunny yellow box has been the start of countless pancake breakfasts since 1931, but did you know this simple blend of flour, leaveners, and oils can make an appearance at any meal? I’ve made banana muffins with Bisquick when a vacation rental pantry yielded only very expired baking powder. It also jumps effortlessly to the savory side with my husband’s favorite: cheeseburger pie. It’s surprisingly versatile.

In these uncertain times when I’m nose-diving into cooking and baking for survival — but also just to escape — Bisquick is a comforting sight to me. It’s as predictable and reliable as they come. So, instead of using the little flour that I did have to bake something with my daughter last week, I reached for the Bisquick in the back of my pantry.

Credit: Christine Gallary

As someone who works in food and mostly cooks from scratch, it’s always a surprise to others when they find out I have Bisquick in the first place. My introduction to it was through my husband’s family. They use Bisquick for blueberry pancakes and shortcakes — both recipes found on the box — but the Gallary family specialty is Bisquick ham and cheese biscuits. These biscuits are so special they usually only make an appearance on Christmas morning. There’s no real recipe either. My mother-in-law stirs together Bisquick with a ton of shredded cheddar cheese and diced ham without measuring, then binds it all together with just enough milk to turn it into a wet dough. It’s dropped in large spoonfuls on the baking sheet and emerges from the oven with crispy, lacy edges, and tender, steaming insides. I always have to stop myself from reaching for another.

Right now, Bisquick baking projects are helping my 7-year-old daughter stay busy as we’re quarantined at home. Her attention span isn’t that long (especially for measuring!), so the quicker we can get to stirring and shaping — and her favorite part, the eating — the better.

As an introduction to Bisquick, I decided to have her tackle the Gallary family biscuits in the hopes that she’ll share them with her own family when she’s grown. We didn’t have ham and had to blend a few cheeses together, but the recipe is forgiving. My husband taught her how to strip the leaves from some fresh thyme as a last-minute addition, and our dough had too much milk so we had to keep adding more Bisquick.

How did they turn out? Well, they were nothing like the Gallary family biscuits, but they still worked. They were fluffy and herby instead of crisp and super cheesy, but my daughter scarfed down two as soon as they cooled.

It might not be Christmas (or anywhere close to it), but it was just as nice to make our own version of the Gallary biscuits this week and teach my daughter how to resourcefully bake with what we had. So, if you spy Bisquick in virtual or real grocery stores anytime soon, consider picking up a box so that you can keep on baking like we are — even if there’s no flour to be found.

This story is part of our Staying Home series, in which Kitchn editors and contributors share the recipes, tools, and habits that are helping them through the pandemic. As we work to flatten the curve, we’re cooking more, shopping less frequently, and looking for the good and the bright as much as we can. In this very disorienting time, here’s what’s keeping us going.