Although I’m a born-and-bred Atlanta girl, my mama was a Midwestern gal and while she knew how to make the world’s best fried chicken with white gravy, she wasn’t a traditional Southern cook. My home was a grits-free zone and the only biscuits we had came from a can.
I adore biscuits and have been on the hunt for great recipes. And the next best thing to learning how to cook Southern from your mama or Grandma is learning from some of the best Southern chefs and cooks in the country. And it was just one of the amazing aspects of last weekend’s Atlanta Food & Wine Festival that we were given the opportunity to do so.
Friday morning I attended a techniques lab featuring Natalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubert, authors of Southern Biscuits, who gave us plenty of tips on biscuit-making while preparing their delicious two-ingredient biscuits.
Nathalie and Cynthia’s Two-Ingredient Biscuits
2 cups flour
1 cup whipping cream
First you have to start with the right kind of flour. Southern flour like White Lily Self Rising. Northern flours have higher protein and don’t work as well. “And in the South, we’re fragile,” said Natalie while Cynthia pointed to the flour and told all the Yankees in the group that they needed to take pack several pounds of White Lily in their suitcases for the trip back home.
Take your whisk and just fluff up the flour, right in the bag. Then very carefully measure out two cups of flour into a large shallow bowl. Fold in the whipping cream. “Don’t be afraid of wet dough,” said Nathalie. “You can always add more flour later.”
She recommends buying the flexible plastic pastry mats to roll your dough out on. “You can scrap it up easily and it doesn’t make you suicidal,” she said. “And don’t fondle your dough, although you’ll be tempted.” Throw flour down on the surface and then gently pat in down to a uniform thickness. Cynthia recommends that you don’t knead your dough. “Treat it tenderly,” she said. “Pat and fold it over two to three time to create layers.”
Nathalie says once you’ve rolled out the dough, start on the outside cutting biscuits. That way you work towards the center and can get more biscuits out of them. “And don’t scrunch scraps!” she said.
Place cut biscuits snuggled close together on the pan. Back at 450 degrees for six minutes. Rotate and cook for six more. Take out of the oven and brush with butter. What could be easier?
Cynthia said, “It’s sad young people think a biscuit is something you go through the drive-through for.”
But don’t expect perfection every time. “I give you permission to buy a bunch of flour and whipping cream and just keep practicing til you feel comfortable,” said Nathalie.
Somehow I don’t think you’ll have to worry about leftovers. As the character Bad Blake said in the move Crazy Heart, “Whole worlds have been tamed by men who ate biscuits.”