1) Preheat the oven to 425°F; move a rack to the top third of the oven.
2) Whisk together the flour and the sugar.
3) In a separate bowl, whisk the vanilla into the cream.
4) Make a well in the flour/sugar mixture, pour the vanilla and cream into the well, and stir until everything comes together. If there's dry flour around the sides and bottom of the bowl, stir in additional cream or milk until all the flour is moistened.
5) Turn the dough onto a well-floured work surface, sprinkle flour on top of the dough, and fold it over several times.
6) Pat the dough into a 7" circle about 1/2" thick.
7) Use a sharp biscuit cutter (2 1/4" is a good size) to cut rounds. Place them on an ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheet.
8) Brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse sparkling sugar or cinnamon-sugar, if desired. This is a nice touch if you're going to use the biscuits for shortcake.
9) Bake the biscuits for 12 to 16 minutes, until they're golden brown.
10) Remove the biscuits from the oven, and cool them right on the pan, or on a rack.
11) To make shortcake: Split the biscuits in half horizontally. Top each bottom half with berries or sliced fruit (and whipped cream, if desired). Add the top halves, and top with whipped cream.
Yield: about 9 large biscuits.