Never-Fail Biscuits: take two (ingredients)

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Let’s set the scene. I’m in Florida visiting my mom. My brother, his wife, and his sons are driving down from Georgia for a mini family reunion.

Since I’m in the South, I decide to make a pot of pulled pork, and some biscuits. Nothing like living dangerously, right?

I make the pork; score! Delicious. Stash it in the slow cooker.

Then the biscuits. A third of them sweet, dusted with cinnamon-sugar; a third studded with cheddar cheese chunks; and a third just plain and simple.

YUM. I love them. But will they pass muster with my adult nephews, born-and-bred Southerners who’ve consumed probably 1,000 times more biscuits than I’ll ever see?

The Georgia contingent arrives. The boys doff their ball caps, kiss their grandma, and settle right in to eat.

Ned: “Did you make these biscuits? These are good. These are REAL good.” i can see the surprise in his eyes. His Massachusetts aunt can bake good biscuits?

“I like how you put the cinnamon-sugar on top,” he adds. Apparently this is a Northern variation – who knew?

So, how did I pull off this minor culinary miracle – baking biscuits that pass muster with true Southerners?

Easy. It’s all in the flour – and the recipe.

Fact: It’s impossible to make bad biscuits with this recipe.

Really. I know, because biscuits have frustrated me for years.

Sure, I could make a pretty good biscuit. I mean, it wasn’t hard as a rock, or flat as a pancake, or any of those other failed biscuit descriptors.

My biscuits were… OK.

But then I discovered the happy symbiosis between our self-rising flour and heavy cream and, as they say in those Facebook memes: everything changed.

Meet my new NBBF (New Best Baking Friend): Never-Fail Biscuits.

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Here’s the recipe: Equal parts King Arthur Unbleached Self-Rising Flour and heavy (or whipping) cream, by weight.

Which translates, in this recipe, to 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) self-rising flour and 3/4 cup (6 ounces) heavy/whipping cream.

And you know what’s even niftier? (Yes, niftier; so shoot me, I’m a Boomer!)

Since each biscuit is made with 1 ounce of dough, you can easily make exactly the number of biscuits you want: 6 ounces flour + 6 ounces cream = 12 biscuits. Thus, this recipe is ridiculously easy to scale up (or down).

Hey, even if you were never a math whiz you can make that calculation, right?

Let me show you exactly how this is done.

First, preheat the oven to 450°F, with a rack in the top third.

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Mix the cream into the self-rising flour, stirring until cohesive. Use your fingers to give the dough a couple of smoothing kneads.

A tablespoon cookie scoop, just slightly heaped, will yield an ounce of dough. If you’re measuring rather than weighing, the ball of dough will be a generous 1 1/4″ in diameter.

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Scoop 1-ounce balls of dough onto an ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Leave a couple of inches between them.

Brush the tops of the biscuits with cream, milk, or water; this will help them rise.

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Bake the biscuits for 10 minutes, or until they’re light golden brown on top. Break one open — it should be baked all the way through.

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Remove the biscuits from the oven, and serve warm, or at room temperature.

Biscuit bliss.

Now, one caveat: these aren’t flaky biscuits, the kind that crumble apart in layers; that type of biscuit requires working butter into flour, as well as folding the dough over on itself a few times and cutting it with a biscuit cutter, rather than simply scooping it.

These biscuits are simply tender, though and through. And for me, at least, ease, tenderness, and flavor trump flakiness.

And, bonus: unlike a typical biscuit, these don’t turn into hard little rocks as soon as they cool off. Wrap them up once they’re cool, store at room temperature, and they’ll stay nice and tender for several days.

Now, why do I brush the biscuits with liquid before baking?

I always thought it was simply for flavor and browning. But a short experiment I did while fooling around with this recipe proved otherwise.

Note: Ignore the fact the biscuits are square; that was a test to see whether you can pat the dough out and cut it with a cutter if you like. And yes, you can.

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Biscuits that are brushed with butter, milk, cream, or water rise better. I assume this is because their moist top surface doesn’t present any physical barrier to their rise, as a dry/stiff top surface might.

See the biscuit in the upper left corner of the photos above? It went into the oven dry. It’s a bit hard to see, but it didn’t rise nearly as well as its fellow biscuits, which had been brushed (starting at upper right and going clockwise) with butter; with water (and sprinkled with coarse white sparkling sugar); and with cream.

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This biscuit looks a bit flat, eh? That’s because it’s bound for glory as the base for blueberry shortcake. To make shortcakes, perfect for berries and whipped cream, add 3 tablespoons granulated sugar to the dough. Flatten the balls of dough to about 1 3/4″ wide before baking. Brush with cream, milk, or water, and sprinkle with coarse white sparkling sugar, if desired. Bake as directed in the original recipe. These biscuits are more tender than traditional shortcake biscuits, so slice them into top half/bottom half carefully, lest they crumble.

Oh, and one more thing: there’s no need to limit yourself to plain biscuits. This dough is very amenable to additions of berries, cheese cubes, crumbled bacon or diced ham, chopped scallions, chocolate chips, dried fruit… use your imagination.

I know whatever you try, Ned will give you his Georgia blessing!

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Never-Fail Biscuits.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Amy

    PJ, I’ll never make these biscuits because I’d need to sub white flour for whole wheat and cream for something else (but that’s what the fine KAF whole wheat-grape seed flour biscuit recipe is for), but I just have to say: I was born in the 1980′s and nifty is one of my favorite words ever. Nifty is just a nifty word. I mean, seriously, it describes itself, and how nifty is that!

    Reply
  2. aecummingsII

    lovely biscuits BJ! But give me flaky layers every time; which I now have mastered with slightly more butter than KAF suggests and a 500 degree oven for about 10-11 minutes made with KAF self rising flour, butter and buttermilk. Delish every time! And you are right about the brushing the tops with liquid making for a better rise. Doing so keeps the surface of the biscuit moist long enough to allow the interior to expand before the high heat sets the “crust” on the exterior restricting further over spring. Same reason we add steam when baking Artisan Loaves of bread. I’m going to bake up some of the gems for the very reasons you state, tender, easy ,deliscious ,easy ,easy,easy…

    Reply
  3. Lorraine Stevenski

    PJ, I too, am from the North. Great biscuit making is not in the DNA of people from the South. It is a skill that is perfected with technique and many batches of bad biscuits. I learned to make great biscuits 30 years ago. Although your cream biscuit recipe looks really easy, I think the best biscuits are made with butter and buttermilk. The technique is gently rubbing the butter into the flour with your fingers and then just a few gently kneads to bring the dough together. Since I live in the South, I can easily find bleached soft Winter wheat flour that is perfect for biscuits. But as a substitute, I use part King Arthur AP flour and part King Arthur cake flour blend. And…there is nothing more delicious that a drizzle of local honey and melted butter over fresh baked biscuits.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Lorraine, you paint a tasty picture! And you’re right, treating the dough gently is key. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here – PJH

  4. Shellie

    Oooooh I love easy, but is there any way to use some whole wheat flour? My kids love bisquits but they are not my best baked good so I like the a recipe with adjectives like tender & easy. But, I do want a higher nutrient content. Any ideas?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Shellie, the secret to these easy biscuits is the self-rising flour – but honestly, regular biscuits aren’t that much more work. Try these whole-grain biscuits, leaving out the “add-ins” (bacon, chives, etc.) – I think you and your kids will enjoy them. PJH

  5. Kim Kiernan

    These sound delicious! Is there any way I can add the salt and leavening to regular all purpose flour? I don’t use self-rising flour but is love to try these biscuits.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Kim, you can – but self-rising flour is lower protein than all-purpose; so be prepared to increase the cream in the recipe somewhat, and expect the results to be less tender. Try this formula for making your own self-rising flour: 1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour; 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and a heaping 1/4 teaspoon salt. Of course, you could also buy a bag of our self-rising flour, and keep it for biscuits, dumplings, cobbler, shortcake, and all kinds of other biscuit-like treats! :) PJH

  6. Kathy in Cali

    I usually make the wonderful “Bakewell Cream Biscuits” and freeze most of them to use as I need them. Can these “Easy, easy Biscuits” be frozen before baking? And if so, how long would they need to bake and at what temp?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Sure, Kathy – freeze away. I’d probably add 2-3 minutes to their baking time (same temperature) when frozen. Enjoy – PJH

  7. Lydia

    Not only were these delicious, but they were super easy to make! The biscuits were gone in a flash during dinner today! Thanks for this great recipe. Next time, I will try adding cheddar and chives…

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Lydia, I am glad you like the recipe. The chives and cheddar sound like excellent variations. ~Jaydl@KAF

  8. Marguerite Rigby

    I can get a scoop at a restaurant supply store near me. What is the scoop size (number) for the tablespoon-size scoop specified in the recipe?

    Reply
  9. Marianne Fitzgerald

    Boy, howdy! Love biscuits – but only when made with a mixture of pure leaf lard and good rich European style butter. To each his own, but the gentle handling of the dough is a must. Thanks for the pictures & recipe.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Both types are quite delicious, I love a lard biscuit. I really need to find some good leaf lard this year for pies…Jon@KAF

  10. Sara S

    Hi PJ. I’m surprised to see you using ultra-pasteurized cream. Personally, I hate the stuff and search out pasteurized cream. Perhaps there isn’t an appreciable difference if it’s used in baking?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Sara, some people can tell the difference. But for most readers – no. Plus many of our readers don’t have access to non-ultra-pasteurized cream (at least at a price they can afford), and I like to make recipes accessible to as many people as possible. So, that’s the story – PJH

  11. Sherry Alvey

    I made these last Sunday for breakfast. They weren’t even “just” ok. I won’t bother again. Too much of a waste of good ingredients!! I won’t make these again!!! On the other hand, the Peanut Butter Cookie recipe is THE best I’ve ever had!! It’s never a failure at my house!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sorry to hear that you didn’t like the biscuits Sherry. Luckily, we have plenty of other biscuit recipes available that may work better for you. Jon@KAF

  12. Cheryl King

    Incredibly good for such an easy recipe. They were so tender. I like the fact that you can adjust the recipe to get the number of biscuits you want. I will definately be making these again. Thanks KAF for another great baking experience.

    Reply
  13. Denell

    I made these with 50% whole wheat flour by making a self-rising substitute with whole wheat pastry flour and adding an equal weight of regular self-rising flour. I increased the cream a bit and let it rest a few minutes to allow the flour to hydrate. The results were great with just a bit more heartiness to the flavor. I think I’ll keep some of the whole wheat self rising substitute mixed up to make the process quicker for the next time.

    Reply
  14. J Kessler

    I replaced some of the heavy cream with butter, added about 3Tbsp of sugar and made the best the shortcake.

    This is just the best idea. Ever!!! I can’t wait to get creative.

    Reply
  15. BR95510

    Do you think these can be made with almond milk or oat milk so they are vegan? Or will that affect the rise (or lack of)? Thanks!!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I wouldn’t suggest it as both have very little fat so they will make for less tender biscuits, but you can certainly give it a try! Jon@KAF

  16. Dena

    Hi, Love the recipe and pics. Thanks. Just curious, what’s the significance of heavy cream over whole milk? what would happen if I just used whole milk, I mean?
    Also, you said these were not the layered type biscuits. Do you recommend a recipe for the layers variety too? Thanks again!
    Dena

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Dena, if you use milk, the biscuits will be less tender; and you should use less milk than cream, so add it gradually. For “layered” biscuits, follow the folding method in these classic Baking Powder Biscuits. Enjoy! PJH

  17. mb grey

    Thank you for the experiments and pictures. I really appreciate the explanations. I am so glad you have made a substitute for White Lily.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Our pleasure – we think everyone, South AND North, should be able to enjoy tender biscuits! PJH

  18. trudi

    Yum!!! I have not had success with biscuits! Can’t wait to try–I see honey and a warm biscuit in my future!!

    Reply
  19. wayne kirtley

    I have to smile at the many “yes but” comments. There are many biscuit recipes and if you’re going to eat one with homemade jam there are definitely flaky biscuit recipes that would probably be better. If you’re wanting to get something to lay under gravy, chicken ala king, or any of many recipes seen more often farther South, or just get out of the kitchen fast in the morning, this recipe is unbeatable. Made with a scale they are so easy adjust and so good there simply is no better. In fact it is probably the only table bread that can be made if you are short on one of the ingredients. Low on cream, just add an amount flour to match what you have, how’s that for fast and easy?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You bring up some great points Wayne as there certainly are many different kinds of biscuits that all have a given dish in which they shine through. Thank you so much for sharing and we’re very happy to hear you’ve enjoyed this recipe so much. Happy baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  20. Don Michel

    Cream is not often found in our fridge as we just don’t use it often. But half and half is always there for coffee. Could it substitute, and if so what adjustments would you suggest?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You should be able to make the biscuits with your half and half. They won’t be nearly as rich, but they will still be very good.~Jaydl@KAF

  21. Jim Hicks

    I like to cook in my Dutch Oven when out camping, well, actually, “glamping” in our vintage 1968 Airstream trailer. This recipe makes me the king of the campground. Thanks for something so easy AND so good and Dutch Oven friendly.

    Reply
  22. Gordon Wagner

    Not impressed! “Nothing good happens fast” is a favorite phrase of mine, and it was all too apt in this instance. Flavorless little doughballs. I usually prepare the “Texas Buttermilk Biscuits” from Cook’s Illustrated in 2007, a very slack dough which produces irregularly shaped but excellent biscuits. I’m glad I prepared a test batch so I didn’t have to experience the bewilderment of my family wondering how I’d prepared these nasty “Never Fail Biscuits”. Not worth the cost of the self-rising flour nor the cream, not worth my time. A major disappointment. Profoundly unimpressed. Bisquik makes better biscuits, they were that bad! And, yes, thank you, I know how to bake.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re disappointed in your results as well, GW. Never Fail Biscuits and those made with cream, instead of fat cut into the flour, will produce a cake-like biscuit instead of the flaky standard. Thanks for your frank review – happy baking – Irene@KAF

  23. Laurie

    I was surprised at the tenderness of these biscuits! I did miss flaky layers, but they were so easy and fast, I didn’t mind. I added about ounce of shredded extra sharp white cheddar and a few grinds of pepper to the flour. Now, I have to experiment with ways to use up the bag of flour.

    Reply

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