Emergency Biscuits: The Quick Dough Your Great-Grandma Used to Make

This recipe for emergency biscuits will save the day.

Forgot to make the biscuits for breakfast? Don’t panic! This vintage Fannie Farmer recipe for emergency biscuits has got you covered. You don’t have to knead or roll out the dough. You don’t even have to cut out the biscuits. This recipe couldn’t be simpler to follow.

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What Are Emergency Biscuits?

To start, they’re called “emergency biscuits” because you can make ’em in a hurry. They’re also called drop biscuits, because they’re made by dropping biscuit dough by the spoonful onto a baking sheet. Compared to traditional biscuit dough, these biscuits are made from a thinner, spoonable batter. This thinner batter means you can skip the steps of rolling out the dough and cutting it into biscuit shapes.

The resulting texture is different, but these biscuits still have the same delicious biscuit-y flavor you’re looking for.

Find more kitchen shortcuts to help you save time on prep.

How to Make Emergency Biscuits

This recipe is adapted from Fannie Farmer’s The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, published in 1918. It makes six large biscuits.


  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cold and cut into small cubes
  • 1-1/4 cups milk, divided


Step 1: Sift together the dry ingredients

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Step 2: Cut in the butter

Use a knife or pastry blender to cut the cold butter cubes into the flour mixture until it resembles large pebbles.

Step 3: Add the milk

Pour in the milk. Use a fork to mix together until a shaggy dough forms. Add additional milk (in small amounts) if the dough is too dry.

Step 4: Spoon the batter onto a baking sheet

To prepare a baking sheet, butter the sheet or line with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Use a quarter-cup measuring cup to scoop six rounded mounds of dough onto the prepped baking sheet. Brush each biscuit with milk.

Step 5: Bake the biscuits

In her recipe, Fannie Farmer says to “bake in hot oven eight minutes.” We preheated the oven to 400° F and baked the biscuits for 20 minutes. Keep an eye on them and pull ’em out when golden brown.

Serve warm with butter and honey.

horizontal image biscuit cut in halfSusan Bronson for Taste of Home

The Outcome

While the emergency biscuits lacked the flakiness of standard buttermilk biscuits, they were fluffy in texture and had all the biscuit flavor I craved. When served warm from the oven with a pat of butter and a generous dollop of honey, this recipe hit the spot! And given these biscuits only require dirtying one bowl, the next time I need biscuits, emergency or not, I think I’ll reach for this recipe. Thanks, Fannie Farmer!

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Susan Bronson
Susan Bronson is a writer and editor based in Northern Wisconsin.