I can still memory-taste the fresh buttermilk pancakes and hot buttermilk biscuits—both made with lard.” –
Vernon L. Smith, American economist and author
Memories of homemade pancakes and biscuits stay with us forever, but over the years, most of us made the switch from “scratch” to box-style mixes.
Prior to the 1930s, many dishes were indeed prepared from “scratch” and cooking was a time-consuming and priority job for housewives, moms and grandmothers.
You can imagine the excitement when the first box biscuit mix, Bisquick, hit the stores in 1931.
According to Bisquick company lore, Bisquick was first promoted for making biscuits only. It’s slogan: “90 seconds from package to oven”.
It didn’t take long for cooks to realize that Bisquick could be used to quickly prepare a variety of other foods, such as cake mixes and cookies.
Home baking was never the same again.
I did a little research into the history of baking mixes and found one fact that genuinely surprised me.
Did you know that long before Bisquick emerged in the cooking world, Aunt Jemima pancake flour was invented in 1889 in St. Joseph, Missouri? It was actually the first self-rising flour for pancakes and the first ready-mix food ever to be introduced commercially.
I grew up near St. Joseph never realizing until now that Aunt Jemima flour originated there.
Incidentally, some folks never fully liked or embraced the taste of box mixes and continued to bake from scratch.
In the 1960s, the University of Missouri Extension Division introduced a product called ‘Missouri MIX’ that apparently solved the box-taste problem. It tasted good, very good.
I first heard of this miracle homemade pancake and biscuit mix in 4-H food projects and later in high school home economics classes.
My mother would make up big batches and store in glass jars until we were ready to use it.
Her favorite Missouri Mix creation was making pizza crusts. In 15 minutes or less, one could have a perfect, nice and soft, not-too-thick crust just like you find in pizza shops. Sometimes, she would add a teaspoon of sugar to the Missouri Mix but I never understood exactly why. It’s an easy recipe–one cup of MIX and ¼ cup water, stir, roll out, add sauce and toppings, and bake on cookie sheet for 12-15 minutes at 425 degrees.
Besides pancakes and biscuits, we used Missouri MIX to make something called Salad Sticks, which are what we call bread sticks today. The difference is that Salad Sticks were rolled in garlic butter and sprinkled with your choice of caraway, dill, sesame or anise seed before baking.
We made Swirls (a lot like muffins) loaded with cheese or cinnamon or banana-peanut butter fillings.
One could make coffee cakes, fried pies, date bread, corn fritters, apple fritters, Boston Brown Bread, cobblers and cornbread with Missouri MIX.
It was an entire bakery in a jar.
All one needed to add was a little creativity. Another bonus about MIX that I might mention is that in our current tight economy, MIX can save a great deal of money.
By now you may be wondering, where does one find Missouri MIX, and the answer is: you make it, from scratch.
It took a little searching through my mother’s old cookbooks to find the original MIX recipe, but I did. Incidentally, if you search online for “The New Missouri Mix”, you will find a re-invention of the 60s recipe complete with yummy home baking suggestions.
It is always good to start at the beginning, so here is the original basic Missouri MIX recipe that will yield about 13 cups of MIX:
9 cups sifted all-purpose flour
One-third cup double-acting baking powder
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons nonfat milk solids (dry milk powder)
4 teaspoons salt
1 and three-fourths cups vegetable shortening OR one and one-half cups lard.
Stir baking powder, dry milk and salt into the sifted flour. Sift all dry ingredients together until well mixed.
Cut fat (shortening or lard) into flour mixture until all particles of fat are thoroughly coated and mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.