Beaten biscuits are a southern tradition said to have originated in Virginia and spread over the mountains to Kentucky and then north to Maryland. In the 1800's, before the invention of baking powder or baking soda, biscuit dough was often beaten by hand against a hard surface for at least 30 minutes with a mallet, hammer, rolling pin, or even the side of an axe! This was a daily chore of both the plantation cook and the southern housewife and the biscuit roller (or brake) was used to help take the drudgery out the preparation.
They were commonly handmade by farmers to their wives' specifications with a hand crank to make the rollers turn. Some people even made their own versions from converted wringer washing machines. Main ingredients in the dough were flour, salt, lard, and cold water or milk. Folding and continuously beating the dough caused it to become smoother and added air to help it to rise slightly when baked. The result was a crispy biscuit similar to a cracker in texture which was often served with thin slices of country ham. Yum!
This example is about 16" wide (including handle) Base is 7 1'2" deep and height is 8". It's completely handmade and appears to have never been used -- perhaps a folk art rendition to capture memories of days long gone. Written on the bottom of the base is the following: "Kentucky style for making beaten biscuits. Make a batter and knead in machine for half an hour by the clock. Made by Mr. James Ryan Sa......(illegible). Old but exact age unknown.
The gear wheels on one side have a few small unimportant chips and there is a 2 1/2" crack where the crank is attached on the other side which may have been part of the original construction (see image 4). The crank turns the wheels counter-clockwise. This piece is in excellent vintage condition and is well constructed throughout.
This would make a unique addition to your farmhouse kitchen or would look great in a buttery with crocks, churns, bowls, etc. Just don't see these very often - it's the first one we've had!
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