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Jun 23, 2008 06:21 AM

Biscuits [Split from White Lily Flour Thread]

[Split from


<So I guess I now need to learn how to make biscuits, but that's a topic for the Home Cooking board!> Well, yes, but if you go to the NY Times article at the top of the page, there's a link to Shirley Corriher's "touch of Grace" biscuits. As great as my mom's biscuits were, Shirley's are the best in the world, bar none.

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  1. I just noticed that the recipe for Touch-of-Grace Biscuits, as printed in the Times, is different from the one I have. So I Googled, and looked around, and see there are quite a few variations of the recipe. They're similar, but not exactly the same. The one I have, which I always thought to be the original but now I'm not so sure since I don't have a copy of "Cookwise," calls for 1-1/2 cups White Lily flour and an 8-inch baking pan. The recipe in the Times calls for 2 cups of White Lily flour (and a corresponding increase in liquid) and a 9-inch baking pan.

    I'm just curious. Did the Times reconfigure the recipe because 9-inch pans are more common? Does anyone have a copy of "Cookwise"? If so, could you post the list of ingredients and the recommended pan size? I just wonder if I've been making another "adaptation" all these years.

    35 Replies
    1. re: JoanN

      I've got the (THE) White Lily Sunday Best Baking cookbook in front of me as I type this. It calls for 1 1/2 cup White Lily Self Rising Flour and then 1 cup of White Lily all purpose flour. It says makes ten biscuits in a six to eight inch pan and warns not to use self rising for shaping since it isn't dissovled and will give a bitter taste to the outside of the biscuits.

      1. re: shallots

        Hmm - I bought the Self Rising only - they didn't have all purpose. Can I make biscuits with all self rising? What do you mean by "shaping"?

          1. re: MMRuth

            The NYT recipe calls for 1/4cup sugar,
            THE book calls for one Tablespoon.
            That's a lot more sweet that just increasing the size of the dough would account for.

            The other variable is the cream/buttermilk. In my part of the world we can still buy quality not-low-fat Buttermilk for baking. It makes a heavier dough (pancake, cake, waffle...etc.etc) Which calls for the cook to adjust to texture. When Mr. Shallots brings home lowfat buttermilk, it cooks different.
            (Insert a plug here for making German Chocolate cake with real buttermilk.)
            And thanks to you all, I'll be having biscuits and gravy tomorrow a.m. because I forgot (cough, cough) to buy milk for cereal this afternoon.

            1. re: shallots

              I'll have to be on the look out for "real" buttermilk - we also usually see the low fat one here. I also want to try the one on the back of the flour bag just for the heck of it. Maybe I'll do both tomorrow (especially given the fact that the bag of flour ended up costing $19, since I had to buy a tote bag to put the bag of flour and my handbag in one bag to get it on the plane - with much discussion with the TSA folks at security!).

              I wonder if there are any appropriate substitutions that would bring low fat buttermilk up to "regular" buttermilk? I assume that butter milk has no "butter" left in it? Will do a search on this.

              1. re: MMRuth

                I wonder if the 'instant buttermilk' would add the bulk?

              2. re: shallots

                Ah Ha! this explains the thread about whole buttermilk. "Real" buttermilk is low fat. It is the leftover product when one makes butter from milk. So...I'm not sure why you are calling whole fat buttermilk "real". (not a value judgement, I'm sure the more butterfat in your baked goods, the nicer they are)

                1. re: danna

                  Yes, I was (am?) confused about this subject.

                  "In my part of the world we can still buy quality not-low-fat buttermilk for baking." MakingSense, below, also refers to "real" buttermilk.

                  That suggests to me that there is a buttermilk out there that is not called "low fat" buttermilk, although I understand, conceptually, that buttermilk is what is left over after one makes butter.

                  On another thread, some posters said that they sometimes curdle whole milk, to mimic a higher fat buttermilk. Clearly, I need to do some more research.

                  1. re: MMRuth

                    sounds like a very tasty research project...wish I were your neighbor ;-) Even though I can't sample the results, I'd love to hear about them.

                    Biscuits are a great frustration to me, I can't make them the way my grandmother did, and have to resort to Corriher's method, which, in all honesty and with due respect, I consider to be a cheater method. btw, MaMa used White Lily self-rising, Crisco (maybe lard before I was born, I don't know), and either buttermilk or plain milk, whatever she had in the house. No sugar. Patted them out and used a biscuit cutter. Best of luck.

                    1. re: danna

                      So why is Corriher's method a cheater method - please share MaMa's way!!

                      I am going to greatly reduce the sugar next time, and may try the patting out and biscuit cutter method, though I think for that to work using the Corriher method, I'd need to add a little less liquid.

                      I *meant* to share some of the biscuits with the neighbors downstairs but, well, by the time I was ready to part with some, they were too far gone!

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        It's the wet glob of dough dumped in flour that I consider "cheater". The patting out (no rolling pin, unless you want a hockey puck) and cutting is what MaMa did that I can't do.

                        The version of Corriher's recipe that I have came from some newspaper...I can't remember, but she even gave substitutions for a flour mixture for those who can't get White Lily...I always felt like there was a subtext in the article that said "this recipe w/ its unusual methodology is a sop to the pathetic among you who can't - for regional or genetic or merely coordination reasons - make biscuits in the proper way." I'm sure that's just my paranoia talking, mind you. But I jumped right on it, since I AM pathetically unable to make respectable biscuits, and sure enough, it worked for me. Makes me think I might be adopted.

                        MaMa stopped making biscuits, maybe 6-8 years ago, before I developed the obnoxious habit of hauling around a digital camera and taking pictures of food. I wish you could see them...less than an inch high, very pale, with an interior that would pull apart in moist layers...not the almost crisp layers you see in biscuits or other pastry that is very short, but softer, more like bread w/ a little bit of strech. They were ethereal, and although her children always seemed a bit jaded to me - they had them every day for most of their lives, I suppose - her grandchildren would stand wide-eyed like dogs before the can-opener while she lifted them off the pan and into the official tea towel-lined biscuit container.

                        1. re: MMRuth

                          As much as consider Corriher an oracle, I have always had a problem with the cream in the biscuits. Sort of "not authentic" even though I hate being a snot about that kind of thing. Also about their being almost drop biscuits, but not quite.
                          Few people had electricity, ergo no refrigeration, in rural or even small town America for much of the 20th century, so cream wasn't an option for our grandmothers. It was used up fresh but not kept on hand. Buttermilk lasted for a few days simply kept cool. Lard was easily available and lasted a long time; Crisco was shelf stable. Butter was a luxury reserved for table use and just not used when it rationed during the War.

                          My biscuits got better when I went back to the simple ingredients and the simple recipes. Patting them out as quickly as possible, cutting them and getting them into the hot oven ASAP.
                          I'm now a White Lily, lard and buttermilk girl all the way.

                          1. re: MakingSense

                            I'll try the recipe on the back of the bag next, and see how it goes. I shaped them using Corriher's method - scooping using an ice cream scoop - mine was 2.5 inches, not 2 - into a pan of flour, sprinkling on more flour, tossing between my hands and trying to form them into balls, then snuggling those into an 8" pan. I think that the dough I ended up with was too wet to even pat out. What makes a biscuit a "drop" biscuit?

                            Also, I'm still very confused about this low fat buttermilk thing. When I posted on the Manhattan board asking about "real" buttermilk, some posters said that buttermilk is, by definition, low fat, since the butter has been removed. I understand that conceptually, but other posters have referred to "real" buttermilk. Any thoughts on that? Thanks!

                            1. re: MMRuth

                              Right now I have a lesser brand of whole buttermilk and I'm disgusted at the thickeners in it.
                              I'm almost through with it and will try to find Mayfields' tomorrow.
                              Then, for comparison, I may ask my neighbor who has cows for a gallon of so of pure straight out of the cow milk and see what I can come up with.
                              When I cook cornbread and biscuits and cakes, I have found I have to vary the quantity of buttermilk based on whether it's low fat or whole.
                              I've never had both, but I can see that as a pleasure for a hot summer's day. (But first I'll make sure the digital camera is working.)

                              1. re: MMRuth

                                Buttermilk comes in 2 varieties, natural or cultured. Natural buttermilk is what's left from the butter-making process, and is almost impossible to find these days. Cultured buttermilk is low fat milk to which a culture has been added to approximate the taste of the real thing. Cultured is much thicker than natural, so if you're baking from an old recipe, be prepared to increase the liquid.

                                1. re: pikawicca

                                  Thanks for explaining that - appreciate it.

                                2. re: MMRuth

                                  A "drop" biscuit is just batter scraped out of the spoon rather than rolled and cut. Exactly like the difference between a drop cookie and a cut-out cookie. My Mom, who also could not seem to completely master MaMa's method, although she came a lot closer than I, used to make drop biscuits when she was in a hurry.

                                  Forgive me for belaboring the buttermilk issue, but since you asked for "thoughts", mine are: there is a huge backlash against low fat. Thus people have a knee jerk reaction that if something is to be "real", it must be high fat. (sorry, its my soapbox)

                    2. re: MMRuth

                      Quick question on this - I was looking for non-low fat buttermilk in NYC, but in looking at the recipe again - should I be using that kind (which is all I can find), since the recipe calls for heavy cream as well?

                      Also - I bought real lard from the farmer's market - can I just do a straight substitution with the Crisco?

                      Thanks - hoping to make these today.

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        I use the recipe right off the back the White Lily bag which calls for shortening. I usually use lard because we like it better - crisper crust and a better flavor.
                        But then sometimes I've used a mix of Crisco and butter - like Alton Brown recommends.His Grandmother is a Crisco Gal.
                        You know what? Personal preference!

                        I try to keep "real" buttermilk in the house but it's harder and harder to find these days. The other stuff works fine. I've even used that powdered stuff in a pinch.

                        They all come out fine. I'm just worried now about my White Lily Flour.

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          I thought Crisco was the end of the line. Where do Americans get lard? In Colombia, I have to use a copy of Crisco in order to replace lard.

                          [And can you email? I've been missing your weighing in on other topics}

                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            Crisco is a triumph of American marketing. It's fake lard. Hydrogenated cottonseed oil. Great story for the cynical among us.
                            If you didn't live on or near a farm, when you didn't have refrigeration, during the Depression or WWI or WWII when butter was rationed, there it was. It's still in American pantries and Grandmothers swear by it. I admit sheepishly that there's some in my pantry because there's some old family recipes that don't work the same with butter or lard.
                            Good lard is hard to find in the US. The manager of one really good grocery store recently told me that they didn't carry anything "unhealthy like lard," while she stood in front of the case full of every kind of chemical margarine substitute for butter known to man.
                            We can find some bland commercial varieties but not good manteca. It's even hard to find leaf lard to render your own as there are few real butcher shops and even fewer that carry such things. Fat is verboten. Right up there with cigarettes. It's probably more socially acceptable to buy crack.

                            1. re: MakingSense

                              Commercial lards (i.e.: Farmer John or Hormel) are laced with preservatives too.

                              Any Hispanic market worth it's salt will have pint tubs of semi-liquid lard ("manteca") on or near the butcher case.

                              Tastes faintly like pork, but not enough so that it interferes with flavor in any but the most delicate recipes.

                            2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                              What do you have against lard, Sam? I buy it from a local farmer, and it makes biscuits taste great. Plus, it's a natural product, unlike the creepy Crisco.

                              1. re: pikawicca

                                Not all lard is created equal.
                                When we lived in Ecuador, there were days when the lard in the market would be so strong, you expected it to come when you called it. Sooo-eeee, Pig, pig, pig! Like a hog-calling contest at the Iowa State Fair. No way could we use that stuff for pie crusts or biscuits.
                                It's probably the same for Sam in Columbia if he's shopping at local markets.
                                Things aren't standardized in most of the world like we're used to in the US.

                                1. re: pikawicca

                                  I was unclear. I would use lard for my tamales if I could get it. I'm forced by the lack of lard and the lack of Crisco to use what I can get locally to make my Mexican tamales and the like.

                              2. re: MakingSense

                                Thanks - somehow missed your reply - but made them on Saturday and they were fantastic. I used lard, and "regular" "low fat buttermilk" plus the cream called for. I'll post my photos in a bit - I think (sigh) the only other biscuits I've ever had were McDonald's ones (gasp). My husband told me that he doesn't like biscuits, and then proceeded to eat three of them. They were amazingly light and the first one, with a little honey on it, was the best. I do think I'd add less than the 1/4 cup of sugar next time - didn't notice it with the first one, but the one I had with bacon the next morning seemed a little sweet to me.

                                I was a little worried about forming the balls for the biscuits - I did use all purpose flour - because they were so amorphous, so to speak. I'm not sure that they look like they are supposed to, and maybe my dough was a little too wet. Couldn't take photos before putting them into the oven as my hands were too gloppy.

                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                    i think the holes mean you handled the dough too much. otherwise, they look good in the pan -- albeit a wee bit crowded. the center biscuit was always a prize. soft edges all 'round! ;-)

                                    1. re: alkapal

                                      The holes in the last photo - in interior of the biscuit? Interesting - why does the overhandling (and I handled different individual biscuits for different lengths of time, in my attempt to figure this out) cause holes? I kind of thought that might mean they were light!

                                      I did use a smaller pan than called for, based on advice from another hound, who said she always uses the 8 inch rather than 9 inch pan.

                                      Thanks for all of your comments and suggestions - still trying to figure this all out! On to the recipe on the bag this weekend ....

                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                        thanks for posting the pics. Those look EXACTLY like when I make that recipe. There's alot to be said for a reliable recipe. I would tend to think the little holes are just the nature of this type of biscuit. They ARE light.

                                        Good luck w/ the next phase, and please post those, too!

                                        1. re: MMRuth

                                          interior holes. yes, even slight overhandling of biscuits takes them down a notch. momma just cuts the crisco into the dough, adds the milk, and just sort of brings it together, then pulls off little biscuit size balls with floured hands and lightly cups them into a ball shape. plunk them down in a crisco-greased and floured 9" pan about a 1/2" apart or so (and one in middle). when about 7 around the outside (or 8), then press them lightly, just so they touch. bake at 450-500 for 12 or so minutes. like i said, your color was good.

                            3. re: MMRuth

                              MMRuth: "shaping" as in dusting the cuttting board or dough or hands with raw flour. The leavenings will have a bitter metallic taste. yuck.

                          2. re: JoanN

                            I've got Cookwise and here are the ingredients for "Touch of Grace Biscuits"

                            1-1/2 cups Southern self-rising flour
                            1/8 tsp baking soda
                            1/3 tsp salt
                            1 tbsp sugar
                            3 tbsp shortening
                            1 to 1-1/4 cups buttermilk or 3/4 cup buttermilk and 1/2 cup heavy or whipping cream
                            1 cup bleached all-purpose flour for shaping
                            2 tbsp butter, melted

                            Shirley recommends a greased 8-inch round cake pan

                            Notes on flours: If low-protein Southern self-rising flour is not available, use 1 cup regular self-rising all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup instant flour (such as Shake & Bake or Wondra) or cake flour, plus 1/2 tsp baking powder. If self-rising flour isn't available, use a total of 1-1/2 tsp baking powder.

                            Re: use of self-rising flour during shaping...

                            Shirley's techniques call for you to spoon a biscuit-size lump of wet dough into a bowl of all-purpose flour. Then using well floured hands, shape it into roughly a soft round. Shake off excess flour, place in baking pan, pushing biscuits tightly against each other so they rise up and not spread out.

                            If you used self-rising flour for this shaping step, the leavener in the flour would leave a bitter taste on the outside of the biscuits.

                            Hope this helps,
                            Irish Foodie

                            1. re: Irish Foodie

                              The 1/8 tsp baking soda is the only addition to the recipe I have in the 1998 White Lily cookbook.

                              1. re: Irish Foodie

                                Thanks, Irish Foodie. No longer sure where I got the recipe I've been using, but except for the 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda, that is indeed the recipe that's in my database. Good to know.

                            2. In splitting off this thread, we lost a post by davwud:

                              "Try this one. It's great.

                              Also, make sure you read the advice at the bottom.


                              1. The recipe on the back of the White Lily AP Flour bag is my favorite, except that I use lard instead of vegetable shortening most of the time.
                                I've used Corriher's recipe but I just don't have fresh cream in the house a lot of the time when I need biscuits. There's always buttermilk in the fridge.
                                I've had good success even with the low-fat stuff even though the Real Thing seems to turn out a better biscuit. Who cares? It's always better than Whack-A-Dough!

                                The bigger concern now is the change in the White Lily Flour. What was Smucker's thinking?
                                Why would they buy an American Icon and screw with it?

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: MakingSense

                                  I use the recipe for buttermilk biscuits on p. 632 in the1970s edition of the Joy of Cooking. Of course I've tweaked it a bit to get what I want: a high, light, fluffy biscuit that all but floats off the plate. Here in central Mexico, there is no hope of getting White Lily Flour. I use what's available at the market and always have great results.

                                  So: when you look at the recipe, make the following changes:

                                  1. Instead of 3/4 cup buttermilk, use 2 Tbsp white vinegar and whole milk to make 3/4 cup total liquid. Allow mixture to stand for 10 minutes to clabber.

                                  2. Use 5 Tbsp lard--not the nasty white hard lard in the refrigerator case at your supermarket, but real rendered lard that tastes like pork. "Cut" the cold lard into the flour mixture with your fingers till it's entirely incorporated. It should be a very finely grained mixture.

                                  3. Handle the dough as little as possible. I flour it and knead it gently about five-six times, till it's just smooth.

                                  4. Pat the dough to about one inch thick. At this thickness, the recipe will make six or seven biscuits.

                                  5. I use a crystal red wine glass to cut out the biscuits. The edge is sharp and doesn't stick.

                                  6. Place the biscuits close together in a cake pan to bake.

                                  7. Bake at 450F for approximately 13-14 minutes.

                                  Slather with butter. Swoon.


                                  1. re: cristina

                                    What is the flour mixture you use? My problem when I try biscuits is in handling the dough as little as possible. I always need to knead more than a few times for the dough to adhere. Kneading 5-6 times, it doesn't come together. BTW, is the mexicocooks your blog? The pozole looks amazing.

                                    1. re: chowser

                                      Flour mixture? Oh...I meant the standard all-purpose flour that I buy, mixed with rest of the dry ingredients in the recipe. Sorry for the confusion.

                                      Try the Joy of Cooking recipe with the tweaks I suggested. It's a snap and perfect every time.

                                      Yes, Mexico Cooks! is my blog. Thanks, the pozole is amazing--as is this week's coctel de camarón (shrimp cocktail) and all the rest of the blog.



                                      1. re: cristina

                                        I have my eye on that shrimp cocktail, too. It must be so refreshing in the heat. I'll pick up some shrimp and give it a try. Thanks!

                                2. Here's a beautiful post on making biscuits. It contains info re all sorts of flour plus recipes for making light fluffy biscuits. Highly recommended!!


                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Nancy Berry

                                    DH is from Tennessee. The best biscuits I've made to date were from the pinchmysalt site given above.

                                  2. my mom grew up in the depression. she uses (when she makes biscuits, which is rare these days) crisco, gold medal or white lily self-rising flour, and milk. no sugar. fluffy and flaky, and of course, delicious (esp. with sausage gravy or maple syrup).

                                    i don't think biscuits should be discernably "sweet".

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: alkapal

                                      I also found they got sweeter as the days have gone by - the bite I had yesterday was too sweet - and the biscuits were a bit leaden by then, so I had to throw out the rest.

                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                        i have to laugh at "leaden;" as i well know biscuits do *not* keep! i entered my biscuits (when i was in high school) in the local fair. third place! (and *only entry*). LOL!!! (you gotta judge a biscuit when it comes out of the oven. somehow that did not register when i thought it would be a good idea to enter biscuits for judging 3 days later.)

                                        on the second day (after fresh biscuits have been consumed in (too) large quantities), i split leftover biscuits as an english muffin, toast in toaster oven, and top with good strawberry preserves. it'll make you happy, i ga-ron-tee!

                                        (btw, i recently tasted "hero" brand strawberry preserves, and they were really delicious -- honestly, similar to fresh jam we made from tiny wild strawberries when we summered in highlands, n.c.!).
                                        i just tasted the preserves at a local german import store, but i've seen them in my local regular grocery.

                                        1. re: alkapal

                                          I had half of one, toasted, on the second day with strawberry jam and it was wonderful, though when I tried the spread the jam, the biscuit fell apart (don't know if that is good or bad). Next time I'll add dollops of jam with a spoon. (I also like Hero jams - well priced.)