One can’t talk about Impossible Cheeseburger Pie without first explaining what Bisquick is but before that one has to figure out what is a biscuit is and where they came from. Generally speaking in the perfect world of biscuits in the Deep South, biscuits are to Southerners as the potatoes are to the Irish. But I hear tell that what we call biscuits are really meant as crackers or cookies to many in Europe. In other parts of the United States biscuits can be understood as a doughy mixture used for topping on pies to the type of bread characteristically served with chicken fried steak and gravy. In the past, ship's biscuit and hard-tack were staples of sailors and soldiers because of the food's endurance. Biscuits known as the European counterpart of the American crackers date back to earliest times:
"The Reims biscuit was originally a flat cake that was put back in the oven after being removed from its tin. This made it drier and harder but improved its keeping qualities. This very hard, barely risen biscuit was for centuries the staple food of soldiers and sailors. Roman legions were familiar with it and Pliny claimed that "Parthian bread" would keep for centuries...Soldiers biscuits or army biscuits were known under Louis XIV as "stone bread." In 1894, army biscuits were replaced by war bread made of starch, sugar, water, nitrogenous matter, ash, and cellulose, but the name "army biscuit" stuck, even with the method of manufacture changed...Traveller's biscuits, in the 19th century, were hard pastries or cakes wrapped in tin foil which kept well."
(Larousse Gastronomique, Jenifer Harvey Lang editor Crown:New York 1988.)
The word biscuit is a compilation of the Latin words bis meaning “twice” in addition to coctus meaning “cooked”. (I snuck that right in there didn’t I? I’ll bet you never saw it comin’) In 1818 John Palmer wrote about the American meaning of them in his Journal of Travels in the United States of North America, and in Lower Canada. A decade later Webster 1828 was defining the confection as "a composition of flour and butter, made and baked in private families."
By and large just before the Great Depression this was implied to be "soda biscuits" or "baking-soda biscuits” that are puffy leavened little breads which were in contrast to the unleavened cracker type. Soda biscuit recipes can be found in just about every 19th century cookbook, especially in reference to southern cooking. The southern states are also the home to the buttermilk biscuit or less commonly known as the “beaten biscuit,” first mentioned in print around 1853.
In 1930, when Carl Smith, a General Mills sales executive, was returning to San Francisco by train, he arrived at the dining car too late to order. Yet he was served a plate of delicious, oven-hot biscuits only moments after he sat down. He was amazed by the cook's ability to produce fresh biscuits in such a short time. His curiosity led him to the galley, where the chef was pleased to show him his trick for making fresh baked biscuits. The chef had blended lard, flour, baking powder and salt and stored the mixture in an ice chest. From this batter, he had quickly made the biscuits to order. This was an entirely new idea at the time. Smith recognized the potential of a pre-mixed baking mix and took it to the head chemist of the Sperry division of General Mills, Charlie Kress.
The challenges in creating such a product were significant. Most important was the creation of the proper blend of ingredients to make the biscuits as good as - or better than - homemade. Secrecy surrounded all testing operations; General Mills was concerned that other companies also were going to market biscuit mixes. Bisquick, however, was the first on the market. And just months after its release nationally, there were 96 biscuit mixes on the market. Only six, though, survived into the following year, and they all trailed in sales behind Bisquick.
Some of the technologies used in the development of Bisquick were later used to create cake mixes. In the beginning, Bisquick advertising told consumers that it” Makes Anybody a Perfect Biscuit Maker.” The new product, however, could be used to make a variety of foods. Recipes were developed for meat pies, coffee cakes, pancakes, nut breads, dumplings, shortcake and cobblers….In the mid-1950s, the advertising claimed, quite appropriately, that Bisquick was "A World of Baking in a Box." … In the late 1960s, a new Bisquick formula was created, adding more shortening, a new leavening system and buttermilk.
Impossible Cheeseburger Pie is an easy dinner for busy people to throw together and still feel like they’re preparing a home cooked meal. One of the more popular recipes from Bisquick, it can be found on the side of the box from time to time. Divided it in half and bake in a small casserole dish and it’s a perfect meal for two.
Impossible Cheeseburger Pie
What to have on hand:
What you will need to do:
Pre heat the oven to 400 degrees. While it’s heating, Polly put the Skillet on and brown the ground meat and onion in a pre-seasoned iron skillet* over medium heat. Break the meat up into crumbled pieces with a fork and cook it until there is no pink showing then drain off any fat.
While the meat is browning get out a medium sized mixing bowl and combine the milk, biscuit mix, eggs, salt and pepper and whisk together until fairly smooth. If you’re up for the mess you can put it in the blender for about 15 seconds. I prefer to use a whisk, it takes all of a minute to get it the right consistency plus I don’t have to assemble, take apart, and then wash the blender.
Now you’re ready to pour the batter over the meat in the hot skillet. The hot skillet is the key secret here to a nice golden brown crust on the edges. Pop the skillet into the oven for 25 minutes take it out, top with the tomatoes and sprinkle the cheese on top then bake about 5 to 8 minutes more. You can tell it’s done by inserting a knife in the center of the pie and it comes out clean. Cool it for five minutes.
Serve this sassafrassin’ food with mixed greens, some toast, and a fruit salad. It says it feeds about six, but it’s more like four hungry hombres.
*A greased ten-inch pie plate will do in a pinch, if you don’t have a cast iron skillet, you can brown the meat in a pan on the stove top put it in the pie pan and top with the batter then follow the rest of the recipe.
Yummy! And informative too! I love that British naval biscuits during the Napoleonic Wars
*depended* upon weevils for essential protein. Great recipes in those books, btw, if you take to historical novels.
The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani. Lebhar-Friedman:New York, 1999.
The Food Timeline--history notes: