Recipe: “The Best Ever” Southern Biscuits

by Nealey on July 18, 2012

Southern Biscuits

It’s a bold statement on my part to call a recipe the best. While I always attempt to uncover the “ultimate” version of a dish, it is virtually impossible to conclude whether something is or isn’t, in fact, the greatest in the world. Personal taste, in addition to the countless other external factors that effect a recipe, can all swing the pendulum of perfection either way.

But when it comes to Southern biscuits, I’d like to think I have a pretty decent grasp of the qualities a good one should possess. I worked at a Cracker Barrel for goodness sake, home to the airiest, most angelic of them all. (And no, the following is not their recipe. This is soooo much better.) And just in case you were wondering, here are my personal requirements for an unparalleled biscuit:

1. A superior biscuit, to me, is featherlight and fluffy as a cloud. It should spring to the touch, crumble when cupped, and melt away the minute it hits your lips.

2. I want—wait, scratch that—I demand big flavor. A biscuit needs plenty of salt, and a biscuit isn’t good if it must be slathered in condiments to be edible. Hot-from-the-oven, it should be a divine sensory experience all on its own.

3. Last but not least, a biscuit needs butter. Lots and lots of butter—I’m talkin’ inside, on top, and everywhere in between. Trust me here, this is definitely not the time to be holding back on the calories.

Are y’all with me?! You see, biscuits are practically in my blood. One of my fondest food memories involves my six-year-old self, devouring a Tyler’s all-butter biscuit in the backseat of my parents’ yuppy station wagon. We were headed to church, and I vividly remember the look on my mother’s face when she saw streams of butter dribbling down my chin, grease splattered across my pressed cotton jumper and formerly-white tights. Boy was she mad. (And lets just say it wasn’t the first time, and definitely not the last!)

I’ve spent many years since trying to recreate the perfect Southern biscuit—the one that requires a fistful of napkins; I’ve even blogged about the search here (and here and here). I’ve found pretty good recipes, and less-than-decent ones, but none that ever pulled me from the power of Pillsbury. At least until I discovered Shirley Corriher, the apple of my biscuit-lovin’ eye. More importantly, I discovered her “Touch of Grace” Biscuits. Deemed a “genius recipe” by the smart gals at Food52, it was unlike any biscuit recipe I had ever seen. Which is why after reading it, I headed straight to the kitchen to see what all the fuss was about.

Let’s just say my prayers were answered—no other biscuit recipe will pass through these oven doors again. Seriously, they are that good. So good, that you just want to devour them all by yourself, straight from the oven, afraid if you take them any further there won’t be any more left to eat. And with that, my friends, I leave you with the best. biscuit. ever.

P.S. Pair with sausage gravy if you’re feeling particularly indulgent.

Southern Biscuits 2SOUTHERN BISCUITS

As much as I love the original recipe, I couldn’t leave well enough alone. I have made significant changes to suit my tastes, which are reflected in the version below. To see my detailed notes, scroll to the end of the recipe. To view the unaltered version, follow the Food52 link below.

Source: Inspired by Shirley Corriher’s “Touch of Grace” Biscuits via Food 52
Yields: 6 biscuits

2 cups spooned and leveled SELF-RISING flour, preferably White Lily
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 cup very cold shortening
2 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup plain ALL-PURPOSE flour, for shaping
Melted butter, for brushing

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease a cast iron biscuit pan (or use a cake pan according to Corriher’s original recipe).

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the SELF RISING flour, sugar, and salt. Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the shortening and butter into the dry ingredients. Toss gently to evenly distribute the fats. Stir in heavy cream and buttermilk until the mixture becomes a very thick, wet batter (cottage-cheese texture, according to Shirley.)

Spread the ALL-PURPOSE flour into a shallow pan. Roughly divide the batter into 6 dough balls. Turn each ball around in the flour, dust off excess, and pat into the biscuit slots (there will be one empty one).

Bake the biscuits until they are light golden brown, about 17 – 20 minutes. Generously brush the hot biscuits with melted butter. Allow to cool in the pan for a few minutes, then remove with a small offset spatula or knife. Get ‘em while you can!

Recipe notes and alterations:

— Reduced amount of sugar from 1/4 cup to 2 tablespoons
— Increased amount of salt by 1/4 teaspoon
— Added 2 tablespoons butter to the recipe in addition to shortening
— Reduced amount of buttermilk
— Changed baking equipment from cake pan to cast iron biscuit pan
— Included my personal method for grating cold butter & shortening into dry ingredients

Southern Biscuits 3

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Erika July 19, 2012 at 5:09 am

Your “requirements for an unparallelled biscuit” should be the preface for a book about biscuit making. : ) These look divine, can’t wait to try this recipe.

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Nealey July 19, 2012 at 6:25 am

Erika, burning the midnight oil while writing about biscuits seemed to bring out the poet in me… or the x-rated romance novelist. I kept shocking myself with the adjectives flowing from my keyboard!!

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meghan July 19, 2012 at 6:17 am

Oh I made Shirely’s recipe with Gena Berry at RCA a few years ago and loved the recipe. But something wasn’t quite right about it to me. I’m excited to try your adaptation.

Mr Brown has been teaching me his biscuit personal biscuit recipe and method and its my favorite so far. Involves White Lily self-rising too. I read King Arthur just released a self rising flour and I’m interested to try that out too.

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Nealey July 19, 2012 at 6:24 am

Meghan, same with me—the texture of the original recipe was perfect, but the actual taste was a little too sweet and not quite salty enough, which is why I adjusted the flavor components. And I think butter always belongs in a biscuit. While I liked the novelty of the cake pan, in the end I really wanted traditional round biscuits (which are better for chicken biscuits!)

I think you’ll be quite happy with the changes. I am!!

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Amelia Saltsman July 19, 2012 at 7:42 am

You know how I can tell you’re really from the South? all that talk about salt and less sugar in a proper biscuit. i didn’t know about a southerner’s disdain for sweet Yankee biscuits and cornbread until i met you! All that sugar should go straight into a tall glass of iced tea.

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Natasha July 19, 2012 at 10:30 am

I have been looking for a good biscuit recipe too!! I have a tried a few and just haven’t been that impressed. I mean they were okayyy I guess but just not up to my dreamy biscuit standards. These look awesome tho. On the “to bake” list they go!

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Maggie July 19, 2012 at 5:12 pm

I am a born-and-bred, true Southerner as well. Grew up in the kitchen with my grandma making her own homemade biscuits from scratch. These are better…just sayin’ :-) (Let’s keep that between us girls, shall we?)

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Sarah July 20, 2012 at 9:31 am

These biscuits look soooo gooood. I will definately try this recipe and post how it goes.

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Nealey July 23, 2012 at 9:28 am

Sarah, I can’t wait to hear your results. Please keep me posted!!

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aida mollenkamp July 20, 2012 at 12:31 pm

This sounds like my kind of biscuit! I’m with you on less sugar, grating the butter, and anything/everything Shirley recommends!

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Kimberly Jones July 24, 2012 at 11:01 am

For the past few weeks I’ve been on a mission to discover the perfect southern style biscuit! I’ve made biscuits almost every single morning for about a month, and finally discovered a recipe I love! It’s very similar to this one, except for the sugar and heavy cream. I can’t wait to try your method! They look delicious!

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Nealey July 24, 2012 at 11:33 am

Kimberly — if you make them, please let me know how it goes! Thanks for stopping by.

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Lisa | With Style and Grace July 31, 2012 at 7:13 pm

these look incredible, so light & fluffy!

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Cathy November 1, 2012 at 10:32 am

These look wonderful,and have decided I need to get all the ingredients to try them!

But,I do have to say, I am a northerner, have a southern Georgia Godmother, and my mother nor any of my relatives ever made sweet biscuits to go with our sausage gravy.

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Clint December 28, 2012 at 9:09 am

LOL @ Amelia Saltsman’s comment above! I’m squarely in that category of southerner who believes (has believed?) sugar belongs in a beverage, not a biscuit! These biscuits look amazing, but, I’m curious, do they taste at all sweet? That would be a deal breaker for me. I’d love to hear from folks who’ve baked ‘em!

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Nealey December 28, 2012 at 9:30 am

@Clint: These biscuits aren’t sweet—the sugar just helps round out the flavor. If you are feeling timid, feel free to reduce the amount to your personal taste. And if you do make them, let us know how it goes!

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Bo Patterson March 17, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Hey There,

We have a little bit in common.. I grew up in Auburn too… And I married a Georgia girl (she is from Dunwoody).

I came across your recipe and decided to try it. I had made biscuits Saturday morning using a different recipe that tasted OK but were flat.. I know about scrunching them together in the pan to get them to rise up but it didn’t work. So I made your recipe Sunday AM they were awesome. I didn’t have any shortening so I used lard instead (pork fat rules) and it seemed to work just fine.

I really like your site and am looking forward to trying some of the recipes on it.

War Eagle

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Yasmin April 8, 2013 at 6:49 am

Thank YOU, thank YOU for this recipe. I was craving biscuits and made these yesterday (2 days before my due date with our first). They were so easy to make AND my Southern husband declared them to be my best biscuits ever. Yay! I agree. Great recipe!!

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Nealey April 8, 2013 at 8:57 pm

So glad you loved them, Yasmin! I think they are pretty darn wonderful, too.

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Steve May 23, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Nealy, Do you preheat the biscuit pan in the oven? Just checking ’cause it seems like it would take a while for the pan to come up to temperature. But as long as that’s factored in… Also, have you ever tried freezing the dough balls and then cooking them later?

BTW: My Dad was damn proud Auburn grad, BS EE, Class of 1960, and a pioneer of the Space Program in Houston. The first song I ever learned to sing was War Eagle.

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Nealey May 23, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Hi Steve,

I do not preheat the cast iron, and Shirley does not preheat the pan in her recipe either. I haven’t tried freezing the dough, but that’s an interesting idea. Next time I make these I’ll have to try it and see what happens. I’m inclined to think freezing them after they are cooked would work better, but then again, after you taste just one, there might not be any left to freeze ;)

Best,
Nealey

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toomanygrandkids July 18, 2013 at 7:50 pm

I have to try making these ASAP except I’m somewhat intimidated by biscuits. The last time I attempted making them was so long ago that I can’t remember. But I do recall they were terrible. Anyway, I can’t find White Lily Flour anywhere. Do they carry it at a specific store? Thanx.

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Nealey July 19, 2013 at 6:40 am

Hi Gina, where do you live? If you can’t find White Lily in stores, I believe you can order it from the Smuckers website. I sent a 4-pack of All-Purpose and self rising to my California boss last year. Not a bad surprise to find on your doorstep ;)

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anne August 25, 2013 at 8:25 pm

White Lily is found in nearly all grocery stores in the south. It is more of a novelty item in stores outside the area. It can be ordered online from several places but it requires buying multi 5# bags.

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wendy February 10, 2014 at 12:28 pm

Can you double this reciepe?

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Nealey February 20, 2014 at 11:20 am

Hi Wendy,

I actually re-made this cake a few weeks ago and it was still as wonderful as I remember it!! Do you have any questions about it?

Thanks,
N

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Jaeson & Sharron April 13, 2014 at 2:48 am

Hi Nealey,

Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe. I’d followed it using the re-tweaked amounts. Less sugar & buttermilk. More salt. Added cold butter. Grated the shortening and butter.

Result?: Sensorial delight!

It’s not everyday that I hand out the Sensorial Delightful accolade but today it was well deserved.

My wife who’d just awoken from her weekend-catch-up-rest-from-a-long-week-at-work-slumber was greeted with a hot biscuit I’d just baked with your thorough instructions and the flavour and texture was nothing short of edible alchemy.

Keep up the passionate work you’re doing.

You have two new fans from Australia.

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