In 1873, Mrs. Charles Henry Manship won a $5.00 prize for the “Best Beaten Biscuit without soda or chemicals” at the State Fair. Daughter Minnie Manship Phelps was also known for her excellent beaten biscuits. Highly prized for their soft flaky layers, beaten biscuits were very labor intensive to make. Since beaten biscuits contain no leavening agent, the dough was either beaten with a rolling pin or mallet, or fed though a machine called a biscuit brake to create flaky layers. Similar to an old fashioned clothes wringer, biscuit brakes had rollers operated by a hand crank. The biscuit dough was folded and fed through the rollers over and over to trap air between the folded layers.
The following recipe was passed down from Manship family descendants:
2 cups Postel’s Elegant Flour (soft winter wheat flour)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound butter which has been chilled and cut into pea sized pieces
1/2 cup ice water
Cut butter into flour mixture until it is the consistency of fine meal. Add water slowly. Knead until dough is very stiff. Roll dough through rollers of beaten biscuit machine over and over until surface of the dough blisters. Place on a marble-top slab and roll with rolling pin until thin – about 1/8″ thick. Work with half the dough at a time. Flour marble-top lightly. Cut out with 1 1/2″ cutter. Place 1″ apart on biscuit pans. Bake in moderately hot oven for 30 minutes until barely brown. Butter while hot or split and fill with thin slices of “old ham.”