Vintage Basics: Cream Biscuits

I came across this recipe for cream biscuits shortly after completing the bread and pastry module in school and I was immediately furious. Every recipe for biscuits that we made in school required cutting butter into flour — it’s a process that I’m not so fond of. Basically, you take cold butter and rub it into the flour until it resembles sand. It’s a tedious process and the reason that I often shy away from making pies and biscuits…don’t tell Collin Murray. That’s why this recipe for Cream Biscuits is a revelation, at least to me. 

The original recipe comes from James Beard’s cookbook Beard on Bread and what makes these biscuits unique is that they don’t have any butter in them. They don’t require making sandy flour, or any fancy butter cutting tools and most importantly, these biscuits don’t give you baking angst. They are just so darn easy to make, it’s almost sinful. Plus they just taste really fantastic.

When Collin Murray and I lived in New York, I would make these biscuits a couple times a week. They are great in the summer with whipped cream and fresh fruit but they are also really tasty just lightly crisped in the toaster with a little salted butter. Since my Mama is from Texas, I’m a big fan of biscuits with honey and butter but Collin Murray thinks that these cream biscuits are particularly tasty with just with a little smear of jam.

The best part of these biscuits, in addition to how easy they are to make, is their versatility. You can add cheddar cheese and chives, Old Bay seasoning, chopped ham and Swiss cheese, cinnamon, really, anything to the dough just before cutting out the biscuits. Truly, the possibilities with these cream biscuits are endless which is why they have been chosen to be the first recipe in a series of recipes posted on Baking Vintage classified as Vintage Basics –recipes that are foundational and so versatile that once mastered can be transformed into limitless different imaginings.

Cream Biscuits (adapted from Beard on Bread by James Beard)

Makes 10 to 12 biscuits

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar (see note)
1 ¼ to 1 ½  cups heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350F. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a medium sized bowl and whisk to incorporate. Make a well in the center and add almost all the heavy cream, reserving about 1/4 of a cup as it may not all be needed to moisten the dough. With a spoon, gently mix the cream into the flour, using your hands once the dough comes together and adding the rest of the cream if the dough doesn’t come together or is very dry. Place the dough on the counter and push it flat with your hands till the dough is about a ½ inch thick.

Using a 2 ½ to 3-inch round cutter (or a juice glass) punch out the biscuits. Continue by bunching up the scraps and punching out the dough till you’ve cut out as many biscuits as possible and the dough is used up. Place biscuits on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake till lightly golden and slightly firm, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Additions:

To add other ingredients to the cream biscuits, follow the suggested amounts below:

– Cheese – 2 to 3 tablespoons, finely diced

– Meat – 2 to 3 tablespoons, finely diced

– Herbs – 1 tablespoon, finely chopped

– Spices – 1 to 2 teaspoons

Note: If using the biscuits to for savory dish like a chicken or beef stew, simply omit the sugar from the recipe.

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