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Rachel’s Very Beginner’s Cream Biscuits

“A respectable homemade biscuit is an essential art of the Southern table, and this scandalously simple recipe makes turning out the perfect biscuit a snap. This recipe breaks all the rules of Southern biscuit making; there’s no shortening to cut in, and you don’t even roll out the dough. The results are remarkable and even a novice can turn out fluffy, perfect biscuits in minutes. Would a respectable Southern lady bend recipe rules, defy convention and use sneaky shortcuts all in the name of turning out a hot, homemade biscuit? You better believe it!”

That’s what Atlanta chef Gena Berry said about her similar adaptation of this recipe. It’s a traditional recipe found in many books, including the 1964 issue of Joy of Cooking. I learned a similar shortcake in England when I was a culinary student. It’s a snap to make, uncomplicated, with few ingredients, yet produces a stunningly tender and fluffy biscuit.

As for its namesake, there are two Rachels—my husband’s granddaughter, Rachel Bass, and co-author Cynthia’s daughter Rachel Graubart.–Nathalie Dupree

LC Woo'd by White Lily Note

An intrepid recipe tester of ours, Eydie Desser, recently had the good fortune of chatting with the lovely Nathalie Dupree about this very cream biscuits recipe, which comes from Dupree’s recent cookbook, Southern Biscuits. Nathalie imparted many words of biscuit-minded wisdom in response to Eydie’s questions, including the fact that she prefers to work with White Lily, a Southern belle of a flour that boasts a relatively low gluten content and, as a result, invariably turns out biscuits that are lighter and fluffier than anything made with standard-issue flours. If you aren’t able to find White Lily (or another self-rising, low-gluten Southern flour such as Martha White or Midstate Mills), continued Nathalie, you can substitute an equal measure of self-rising cake flour and the results will be close to indistinguishable. Even if all you have available to you is standard-issue self-rising flour, simply scale back on the amount of flour in this recipe by two tablespoons and your biscuits will mimic those made with White Lily. Neat-o, yes?

One last flour fact. Because we know self-rising flour isn’t necessarily a must in everyone’s pantry, we wanted to share how to make your own self-rising flour via a very easy equation: 1 cup of self-rising flour = 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt + 1 cup all-purpose flour. [In case you haven't a calculator handy, when you do the math for this recipe, that equates to 1 tablespoon of baking powder + 3/4 teaspoon salt + 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour. You're welcome.]

Easy Cream Biscuits Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 15 M
  • 30 M
  • Makes 12 to 16 biscuits

Ingredients

  • Butter for the baking sheet and brushing
  • 2 1/4 cups self-rising White Lilly Flour or 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons homemade self-rising flour (See LC Note)
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream, divided

Directions

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C). Adjust the oven rack to one of the top positions, setting the rack one shelf above the middle shelf, but not so close to the top of the oven that the biscuits will bump into it as they rise.
  • 2. For a soft exterior, select an 8- or 9-inch cake pan, pizza pan, or ovenproof skillet. The biscuits will nestle together snugly, helping each other stay tender but rise while baking. Brush the pan with butter.

    For a crisp overall exterior, select a baking sheet or large baking pan where the biscuits can be spaced wide apart, allowing air to circulate and creating a crisp exterior. Brush the pan with butter.
  • 3. Fork-sift or whisk 2 cups of the flour in a large bowl. Make a deep hollow in the center of the flour with the back of your hand. Pour 1 cup of cream into the hollow and stir with a rubber spatula or large metal spoon, using broad circular strokes to quickly pull the flour into the cream. Mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened and the sticky dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. If there is some flour remaining on the bottom and sides of the bowl, stir in 1 to 4 tablespoons of the reserved cream, just enough to incorporate the remaining flour into the shaggy, wettish dough. If the dough seems too wet, use more flour when shaping.
  • 4. Lightly sprinkle a cutting board or other clean surface with some of the reserved flour. Turn the dough out onto the board and sprinkle it lightly with flour. Flour your hands and then fold the dough over in half. Pat the dough into a round about 1/3- to 1/2-inch-thick, using a little additional flour if the dough is sticky. Fold the dough in half a second time. If the dough is still clumpy, pat and fold it a third time.
  • 5. Pat the dough into a 1/2-inch-thick round for a normal biscuit, 3/4 inch thick for a tall biscuit, and 1 inch thick for a giant biscuit. Brush off any visible flour from the top. Dip a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter into the reserved flour and cut out the biscuits, starting at the outside edge and cutting very close together, being careful not to twist the cutter. Re-flour the cutter after each biscuit. (The scraps may be combined to make additional biscuits, although these scraps make tougher biscuits.)
  • 6. Using a metal spatula, move the cream biscuits to the pan or baking sheet. Bake the biscuits for 6 minutes, then rotate the pan so the front is now turned to the back. If the bottoms are browning too quickly, slide another baking pan underneath to add insulation. Continue baking another 4 to 8 minutes until the cream biscuits are lightly golden brown. When the biscuits are done, a total of 10 to 14 minutes, remove from the oven and lightly brush the top of the biscuits with softened or melted butter. Turn the biscuits out upside down on a plate to cool slightly. Serve hot, right side up.
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