Butter Palm or Appalachian Biscuits


These are a delicious family recipe. This is the method that my mom, grandmother, granny, and her mother, and her mother made biscuits. I can only assume that this method that has been passed down in my family came from a time when no one had rolling pins, or thought to cut a biscuit out with a tin can. I have only heard of a few other families that used this method, and they lived in close proximity to my family. I have recently learned that this method is also known as Appalachian biscuits. Appalachian biscuits are made in the palm of the hand like I have been taught. Usually families made little ones for everyday, and very special occasions, giant biscuits were made called cat head biscuits. I can only assume they were called cat head biscuits because they were close to the same size as a cat’s head. Too funny! This recipe can be made completely authentic by substituting the crisco for lard. To make the cat head biscuits, just double the recipe and make biscuits in your hand the size of your cat’s head (or the neighborhood cat!). I make them a bit smaller than the size of my cat’s head, because he is a giant Maine Coon, a huge barn cat. I have never made them this way, because the thought of it makes my arteries clog, ad I know I would eat the whole batch by myself. My great grandmother started using crisco instead of the lard. The technique with this recipe is very easy once you get the hang of it, you just have to not be afraid of getting your hands messy. Just be sure to take your rings off first! You can even make this recipe straight on the counter by making a well in the flour for the milk. I know that this method is used when making pasta an old Italian way. If anyone knows any other information about this method or any similar experiences, I would love to hear them.

Butter Palm or Appalachian Biscuits  Breads

Butter Palm or Appalachian Biscuits

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2 Cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
Butter to top biscuits


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Sift baking powder, salt and flour together. Add vegetable shortening and combine with a fork until mixture is crumbly. Then make a well in the middle of the mixture and add the milk. Mix with the fork till it begins to come together.
Then take out out and place on a lightly floured surface. Fold over and knead just a few times until everything is incorporated. Do not overwork the dough.
Then instead of rolling out the dough, tear away a golf ball size ball of dough, and with lightly floured hands roll around in the hand about 4-5 times till you get a uniform slightly flatted ball. Do this by having your left hand, if right handed, palm up , fingers together, and flat. Put the dough in the middle of your palm, and with the other hand make a closed dome with your hand so that the dough is enclosed in your hands.
Then take your right hand and move in a complete circle so that the dough is always touching the left hand, yet is moving around the palm of the hand. Do 4-5 quick complete circles in the palm. The dough should then be a circle that is slightly flattened. Then place on your cookie sheet. Use two fingers to press down in the center to create a slight depression.
Place biscuits just touching on cookie sheet for more of a rise and soft sides. For crunchy biscuits with soft centers, space then about an inch apart. Then place 1/2 a pad of butter in each depression on every biscuit. Then bake your biscuits at 450 degrees until golden brown.

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*Nutritional Information is not guaranteed for 100% accuracy.

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  10 Responses to “Butter Palm or Appalachian Biscuits”

  1. Verena — August 16, 2009 @ 9:07 pm

    Hi! I found your blog through Southern Plate.Com and wanted to ask something about this recipe: is it possible to use butter instead of shortening? I really don´t enjoy this kind of fat and try to do it the old way. Have you tried?
    Thanks for your attention! Cheers from Brazil!

    • Angie — August 18, 2009 @ 2:45 pm

      thanks so much for your comment My granny used lard, then my mom used shortening, but after my dad’s heart attack, she started using vegetable oil. I have never used butter, it seems to me that you would have to use a little more butter than the amount of vegetable shortening, because butter has water. And decrease the amount of milk. Butter is about 15 % water so I would try 1 cup of milk minus about 2 tablespoons, and then increase the amount of butter by 2 tablespoons. That’s an idea, granted I haven’t done it, but now I want to try.

  2. Stephanie — August 18, 2009 @ 5:54 am

    This looks great! I like homemade biscuits and prefer them rolled but never have the time. This looks to be the way to get fluffier biscuits without the rolling and cutting. Thanks!!!!!

    • Angie — August 18, 2009 @ 2:42 pm

      Its easier to me, I actually did not know how to roll and cut biscuits until I learned in Home economics class

  3. Heather — December 31, 2009 @ 3:18 pm

    I saw your blog from SouthernPlate.com, this is the way my mother made biscuits and how she taught me to make them. My grandmother used to make them the same way except she just poured a large amount of flour into a wooden “bread bowl”, and just made her biscuits from memory, she never measured anything. I don’t know of many people that still make them this way either. My mom laughed at me when I got married and told her I was rolling and cutting biscuits, she told me that was too fancy and showed me how to make them this way!

    • Angie — December 31, 2009 @ 3:25 pm

      Thanks so much for nice words. My granny never measured either, but I have to! Its so nice to find another person who learned to do them the same way. Have a wonderful New Year.

  4. Annarose — June 9, 2010 @ 4:37 am

    This method is the same as how I make my biscuits! My ingredient proportions are slightly different, but same idea. I’m glad to know that shaping the biscuits in the hand is an actual technique 😀 I’ve always done it that way because I’m too lazy to clean the counter, sprinkle flour, roll out the dough, cut it out, then clean up. It’s so much easier to just make them this way, and the dough doesn’t get overworked 🙂 Now I can just call my biscuits Appalachian Biscuits!

  5. Mae — August 14, 2012 @ 11:30 pm

    I learned to make biscuits just like you and now teaching my Granddaughter how to. I use vegetable oil inside but melt bitter in pan (1 Tbspn) then spay top with butter pan spray. Great taste and gives me the butter taste of course Butter inside while hot. Yes I can eat more than I should and still enjoy a cold one with a big slice of onion.

    My mom and grandma was from Tennessee. They made these wonderful flour and water dumplings when they cooked an old rooster. Do you know the recipe for something like them?

  6. Lorene — September 22, 2014 @ 4:01 pm

    Love it! My family is from Eastern Kentucky and my family has always made biscuits in the hand without rolling and cutting. I now have my northern husband hooked on this style biscuit Sounds like you have Appalachian roots. Hope you get a chance to check out my site called Appalroot Farm: a blog inspiring those with Appalachian roots to celebrate their heritage. I enjoyed this post! Thanks so much! http://www.appalrootfarm.com

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