2 C. all-purpose flour
heaping 1/2 t. salt
3 1/4 t. baking powder
1 t. sugar, if desired
1/2 t. baking soda
5 T. chilled shortening or lard
7/8 C. buttermilk
Sift the dry ingredients together into a large bowl. Add the cold shortening and work all through the flour with your fingertips until all the flour is combined with a bit of fat. Add the buttermilk and stir vigorously until the dough forms a ball.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Flouring your hands if necessary, knead lightly for 10 strokes. Stop just as soon as dough begins to look smooth. (Sprinkle some additional flour on the dough if needed, but add as little as possible.)
Pat dough out into a rectangle, about 8 by 7 by 3/4 inches. Using a cutter dipped in flour, cut into 2-inch rounds. (Dough scraps can be pulled together and patted out again once.) Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake in an oven preheated to 500°F. for about 8 minutes, until lightly browned. Serve hot.
Makes about 12 biscuits.