Biscuits,  Breads,  Side Dishes

Emergency Corn Biscuits

Emergency Corn Biscuits lured me in with the wacky name, but they could just as well have been called Cornbread-Lovers’ Biscuits.

This recipe is out of the 1922 Good Housekeeping cookbook, from an era when American housewives apparently faced corn biscuit emergencies. I tried to imagine such predicaments:

“Honey, the Johnsons just brought over baked beans.”

Or: “The wrestling coach wants you to put on how many pounds, Jimmy?”

Or: “How long has this sack of cornmeal been in the pantry?”

But the emergency—and a serious one at that—was not in the American kitchen but abroad. This recipe came from World War I, when American households voluntarily conserved foods to help feed troops and save victims starving in Europe. Future president Herbert Hoover, head of the US food relief program, appealed to American patriotism and compassion with slogans like “Food Will Win the War.” If nutrient-rich calories were ammunition, the program made sure the US had the best-equipped infantry in the world. Americans who had enjoyed a bountiful food supply embraced campaigns like “Meatless Mondays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays,” changing the way they ate. Many of these changes, including Victory Gardens, have stuck with us.

Cutting back on milk, butter, eggs, sugar and other staples created challenges. And challenges promoted innovation. Good Housekeeping magazine paid at least $1 for this original recipe published in its “For War-Time Saving and Economy” column in February 1918.

Emergency Corn Biscuits prove that delicious biscuits don’t need milk, butter, or even much shortening—just some cornmeal for flavor. There’s a slight crunch as you bite in, and the tender crumb feels like a biscuit but tastes like a corn muffin.

And, like so many wartime recipes, this happens to be vegan.

These fun-sized biscuits encourage you to eat several at a sitting. Have them with butter, honey, or just plain. No emergency required.

Emergency Corn Biscuits

from Good Housekeeping Book Of Menus, Recipes and Household Discoveries (1922)  See the whole book on the Internet Archive.

  • 1 1/4 cupfuls bread flour
  • 3/4 cupful cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoonful sugar
  • 5 teaspoonfuls baking powder
  • 1 teaspoonful salt
  • 2 tablespoonfuls shortening
  • 1 cupful cold water

Mix and sift the dry ingredients. Mix in the shortening with two knives or the tips of the fingers. Add the cold water and mix well. Drop by spoonfuls into greased muffin pans or on a greased baking sheet one and one-half inches apart. (Note: I used baking sheets.) Bake twenty minutes in an oven which registers 450° F.   Trenton, NJ

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