Of the three, the easiest is biscuits, so let's start there. If you've only ever eaten the kind that come in a tube that you whack on the edge of the counter to unravel, a homemade biscuit will be a revelation. And once you see how easily and quickly they can be made from scratch and how much better they taste, you will never again resort to a mix or a frozen or canned biscuit.
The three keys to good biscuits are:
1 butter rather than shortening (the less said about that, the better; I don't want to get into one of those Oprah-versus-the-beef-industry things!)
2 not over-mixing after adding the liquid (working the dough too much after the liquid is added makes a tough biscuit)
3 very hot oven (for a crisp and golden exterior and a fluffy interior)
My basic recipe has many variations. Sometimes I use milk, sometimes buttermilk, sometimes a combination of milk and buttermilk or milk and sour cream or milk and plain yogurt. It's very flexible.
2 packed cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (if using food processor, put butter in the freezer for 15 minutes)
2/3 cup milk
1 Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly spray an insulated baking sheet with cooking spray. If you have a food processor and want to use it for this, with metal blade in place, combine the flour, baking powder and salt in work bowl of food processor. Pulse 3 times to combine. Add frozen butter and process for 8 to 10 seconds or until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer mixture to mixing bowl. In 1-cup glass measure, combine buttermilk (or sour cream or plain yogurt) and milk; pour over flour mixture and gently mix until just combined.
2 If you don't have or want to use a food processor, whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. With your fingers or a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the cold butter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs with some bigger chunks remaining. In 1-cup glass measure, combine buttermilk (or sour cream or plain yogurt) and milk; pour over flour mixture and gently mix until just combined.
3 On a lightly floured surface, gently pat the dough into about a 3/4-inch-thick 6x8-inch rectangle. Cut into 12 square biscuits, and then gently round each biscuit by hand (as in photo above) or leave square. (If you use a round biscuit cutter, you either waste dough or have some tough biscuits made from re-rolled dough.) Place about 2 inches apart on the insulated baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Biscuits may be frozen, double-wrapped, for up to one month. Thaw at room temperature, wrapped, then unwrap and heat at 350 for 5 minutes. Keep some on hand for biscuits and gravy!