Silver linings, secret to a delicious southern biscuit

I know a good biscuit when I taste one, but baking them at home was always disappointing. That is, until the pandemic flour shortage changed everything.

Suddenly, like a great silver lining to my empty shelf sadness, Pete's Fresh Market miraculously had a bag of White Lily flour. White Lily is the unicorn of flours. It's often talked about as being the key ingredient to the quintessential southern biscuit, but it's scarcely seen outside a small pocket of the South. Alas, after reading about it, I had not had the opportunity to taste it. So, I was thrilled to try baking biscuits to see if it made a difference.

The first batch had a truly superior crumb. They were so tender, but they lacked the height that I had hoped for. Thus, I began my great biscuit experiment. How could I keep the tender crumb while increasing the rise? And what was I going to do when I inevitably used the last of my White Lily flour? The answer I learned was one part science and one part art.

As I delved into the science of flour, I learned that the distinguishing feature that sets White Lily apart is its lower protein content. However, as I looked into the percentages, I discovered that White Lily's soft wheat was very similar to cake flour. So, to create a fluffier biscuit, I used cake flour and then I added buttermilk and a combination of baking soda and powder. I found that using cake flour was the secret to replicating the taste of a White Lily biscuit.

Still, the most important part is the art of handling the dough. One of my favorite tools for making doughs is the food processor. It's quick and keeps the dough from being overworked. The other sometimes unspoken secret is how the biscuits are cut. Roll them thick and resist the urge to twist the biscuit cutter, because it can pinch the rise.

So far, I haven't seen White Lily flour at any grocery again, but thankfully I discovered cake flour. Now my favorite biscuits are the ones I bake at home. They are flaky, soft and wonderful with butter and jam. To add a Chicago twist, try making a biscuit sandwich with fig jam, prosciutto and burrata cheese. It's ridiculously delicious!

- Amy McCauley of Hinsdale is the paper's

food columnist. Readers can email her

at [email protected].