Maryland beaten biscuits originated on the Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland and date as far back as the 16th century. The exact origin and specific knowledge of the person or group that started making the Maryland beaten biscuit is not known. The recipe has been passed down by local families.
One such family, the Orrell’s of Wye Mills, started making these biscuits in their kitchen in 1935. In the 1990s they were the last known commercial bakery making beaten biscuits.
They are made from a simple recipe of flour, salt, sugar, lard, and cold water or milk. The “beaten” in beaten biscuits is literal. To make up for the lack of yeast or other leavening agent, biscuit makers beat the dough with special hammers, rolling pins, axe handles, or even baseball bats. This effort was an energetic and time-consuming substitute, however, taking a half-hour to hour of pounding — or more.
Unfortunately, if you are looking for beaten biscuits this holiday season you will have to make them yourself.