Biscuits could easily be considered the South’s perfect mascot, inspiring idioms and gracing menus from fast food joints to fine dining restaurants. And while there are as many ways to make them as there are to enjoy them, there are also pro tips and pitfalls. Nathalie Dupree, often called the Grand Dame of Southern cooking, has literally written the book on biscuits. Her go-to recipe calls for just two ingredients: heavy cream and self-rising flour. But don’t let the simple makings fool you; biscuitry requires precise supplies and techniques. Her fat of choice is heavy whipping cream; the flour must be a Southern self- rising flour (White Lily, Martha White). “Southern flour clings together, and it keeps well in place when cream is poured in,” she says. That means you won’t overwork your dough.
The tools, too, are specific. There’s a reason the wooden bread bowls from days of yore were large and wide—ample mixing room helps the baker (again) avoid overworking the dough. Punching out biscuits properly means using the sharp edge of a small cutter. (In a pinch? Use a clean tomato paste can.) Because, yes, size matters. “Traditional biscuit cutters are small,” Dupree says. “These big biscuits are not Southern; they’re someone else’s idea. If you lived on a farm, you weren’t making big ole biscuits for each of your kids.” That small diameter will also help the biscuits rise higher. Cut straight down—“Do not twist; do not twist”—and work from the outside in. That way, you’ll push dough toward the center, which means more biscuits. And that’s always a good idea.