Homemade master mixes a valuable time-saver

When preparing meals for the field or school lunches, master mixes are convenient. The large batch measuring and mixing of the dry ingredients and fat make the ingredients ready for quick preparation of a variety of fresh baked items like biscuits, pancakes, waffles, muffins and cookies.

Commercially available biscuit or pancake mixes are comparable products. With the economical home-prepared version, additives are avoided and the salt can be reduced.

Several university extension divisions researched and developed homemade master mix recipes during the 1930s and 1940s.

My mother-in-law, Marie Deobald, often mentioned that she used these mixes when preparing meals for threshing crews, while working as a hired girl.

Their convenience for the busy cook still makes these recipes useful today.

Master Mix

  • 9 c. all-purpose white flour 2.25 L
  • 1/3 c. baking powder 75 mL
  • 1 tbsp. salt 15 mL
  • 1 tsp. cream of tartar 5 mL
  • 1/4 c. sugar 60 mL
  • 1 1/2 c. powdered skim milk (optional for a milk-free version) 325 mL
  • 1 lb. cold vegetable shortening 454 g

For a whole-wheat mix, replace four cups (1L) white flour with whole-wheat flour.
In large bowl or food processor, combine all dry ingredients. Mix well. Cut in shortening using a pastry blender or process to a cornmeal texture. Place in airtight container or large sealable plastic bag. Label and store in a cool, dry place. Use within three months or freeze.

Flaky Biscuits

  • 3 c. master mix 750 mL
  • 2/3 c. water, milk or cream 150 mL

Preheat oven to 450 F (320 C).

Combine the master mix and liquid in bowl, mix with a fork until dough sticks together.
Gather dough together and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Pat the dough down, then fold in half and then in quarters onto itself. Pat down again and refold, repeat four to five times. This produces the flaky layers. Finally, press down to 1/2 inch (1 cm) thickness, cut with a floured small glass. Distribute across the cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until golden brown. Makes 10 to 12 biscuits.
This dough can also be used to make individual pizzas or hand held pies with fruit or pizza fillings.

Drop Biscuits

This dough can be used for biscuits, dumplings or fruit cobblers.

  • 3 c. master mix 750 mL
  • 3/4 c. milk, water or cream 175 mL

Preheat oven to 450 F (320C).
Combine the master mix and liquid in bowl, mix just until blended. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until golden brown. Makes 10 to 12 biscuits.


Drop by tablespoonfuls over top of boiling stew. Boil gently 10 minutes uncovered, cover and cook over medium high heat 10 more minutes until cooked through.

Fruit Cobbler

Drop spoonfuls over top of hot, sweetened fruit or berries and bake in an eight-inch (20 cm) square pan for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown.

Biscuit variations

For either type of biscuit, add to dry ingredients:

  • 1/3 c. grated cheddar cheese and/or 75 mL
  • chopped parsley, chives or herbs to taste

To increase fibre and protein content, add 2/3 cup (150 mL) lentil puree with liquid ingredient.


  • 2 1/4 c. master mix 560 mL
  • 1 tbsp. sugar 15 mL
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 1/2 c. milk or water 375 mL

Combine master mix and sugar in bowl, mix well. Mix egg and liquid in separate bowl. Add liquids to dry ingredients, stir well. Let stand five to 10 minutes.

Cook in a non-stick pan on medium heat for four minutes until browned on both sides. Makes 10 to 12 pancakes.


The pancake batter can be used to make waffles on an oiled, preheated waffle iron. Bake until golden brown, about five minutes.


Endless variations of muffins can be created using this method.

  • 2 1/2 c. master mix 650 mL
  • 1/4 c. sugar 60 mL
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 c. milk or water 250 mL

Additional ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. raisins, dates or nuts, finely chopped 125 mL
  • 1 c. blueberries, saskatoons, chopped rhubarb or grated raw apple 250 mL
  • 2/3 c. fresh cranberries, chopped 150 mL
  • 1/2 – 3/4 c. grated cheddar cheese 125 – 175 mL

For oatmeal or bran muffins, reduce master mix to 1 3/4 cups (425 mL) and add 3/4 cup (175 mL) quick rolled oats or all-bran cereal to dry ingredients. Preheat oven to 425 F (220 C).
Generously oil muffin pans. Place master mix in bowl, add sugar and choice of additional ingredients, mix well.
In separate bowl, combine egg and liquid, mix well. Add liquid to dry ingredients, stir just until blended. Fill prepared muffin pans 2/3 full.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Note apple muffins may take an additional five minutes to bake. Makes 12 muffins.

Muffin topping, pre-baked

  • 2 tbsp. melted butter 30 mL
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar 30 mL
  • 1/4 c. oatmeal 60 mL

Mix and sprinkle on before baking.

Muffin topping post-baked

  • 1/4 c. butter melted 60 mL
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice 15 mL (optional)
  • 1/2 c. sugar 125 mL
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon 5 mL

Mix butter and lemon juice in small bowl. Mix sugar and cinnamon together in a second bowl. Dip hot muffins tops in butter mixture then roll in sugar cinnamon mixture.


  • 3 c. master mix 750 mL
  • 1 c. sugar 250 mL
  • 1/2 c. milk or water 125 mL
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla, lemon or almond extract 5 mL

Choice of additional ingredients, if desired:

  • 1 c. chopped nuts, raisins, small gumdrops, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips or dates 250 mL
  • or 1 1/2 c. shredded coconut 375 mL
  • or 1/2 c. peanut butter 125 mL

Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C). Lightly grease cookie sheets.
Combine master mix, sugar and choice of additional ingredients in bowl.
In a small bowl, combine egg, liquid and flavouring. Add liquid to dry ingredients, mix well. Drop by teaspoonful onto prepared cookie sheets.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly browned.
Yields 30 to 36 cookies.
For dropped or rolled cookies, decrease milk or water to three tablespoons (45 mL).
Roll dough into one-inch balls (2 cm) and flatten with a glass dipped in sugar or place dough on a floured surface and roll to 1/8-inch (.5 cm) thickness and cut into shapes.

Self-Crust Cheese& Bacon Pie

  • paprika
  • 1 c. grated Swiss cheese 250 mL
  • 4 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp. salt 1 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, if desired
  • 1 1/2 c. milk 375 mL
  • 1 tsp. dried onion 5 mL
  • 1/3 c. master mix 75 mL

Preheat oven to 325F (165C). Generously butter a nine-inch (23 cm) pie plate.
Sprinkle sides and bottom of plate with paprika. Lay cheese and bacon on the bottom.
Combine eggs, salt, nutmeg, milk, onion and master mix in a blender. Blend at medium speed for one minute. Pour over cheese and bacon. Bake 30 to 40 minutes until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Serve hot.
Makes six servings.
For individual servings, cook in well buttered muffin cups. Sources: www.cooks.com, Make-A-Mix Cookery.

Betty Ann Deobald is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact: team@producer.com.

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