Nathalie and Cynthia
The ladies of biscuit-making, with their awesome cookbook.
Use a Wide Bowl
Cynthia models the ideal biscuit-making bowl: wide and shallow, so that "no one part of the dough gets overworked."
These biscuits depend on self-rising flour, "preferably Southern," made of soft winter wheat. "Don't get all Northern—all King Arthur."
"Those are good for bread, but they're too high protein for biscuits—when you slap it around it punches you back. We want something more tender down in the South. We're delicate."
Whisk it Up
Rather than sifting the flour, Dupree simply whisks hers in the bag, breaking up clumps and fluffing it up a bit. It's spooned into a measuring cup and leveled off ("really carefully," Dupree says, rolling her eyes, as her imprecision becomes clear. She'll give measurements, but she's baking by feel).
"Y'all might not know that cream makes butter," Dupree jokes. Whipping cream is the second ingredient; the biscuits require 2 parts self-rising flour to 1 part whipping cream.
Make a Hollow
"Not a well!" says Graubart. "Wells go all the way down. Just brush out a little hollow to pour your cream into." Her other helpful tip as the flour started flying: "Don't make biscuits in black." She was, of course, wearing black.
Stir the dough around the outside of the bowl just until incorporated—as little as possible.
Pile On the Wet Dough
"Don't be afraid of wet dough!" Dupree emphasized. "Don't be afraid of sticky hands. You can always flour your hands again." She turns the dough out onto a floured flexible plastic sheet, "one of those amazing bendy plasticy things you can by three of for $2 at the grocery store."
Pat It Down
"Pat the dough, don't fondle it! And don't knead it—take 'knead' out of your vocabulary." Dupree carefully pats the wet dough into something like a rectangle.
Then fold the whole sheet over so that the still-pretty-wet biscuit dough folds over on top of itself, in half...
... like so...
Then carefully pat it back into a rectangle. "If the dough's still too wet at this point and you want to kill yourself for doing it all wrong," just sprinkle on a little more flour, pat it into the dough, and re-fold it. "Start wet, you can always add more flour!"
A ruler will tell you when you're done patting: 1/2" for baby biscuits (which Dupree and Graubart prefer), 3/4" for slightly bigger, 1" for "those gigantic things you see all the time these days, the ones you could drive a truck through."
Cut and Punch
"Always start on the outside, so that the excess dough moves to the center," says Dupree. And when you have leftover scraps, "layer them, don't scrunch them"—that is, don't smush them all up into a ball, but carefully stack them in layers and then pat together with more flour.
For these little guys, bake for 12-ish minutes at a 475° oven: bake for 6 minutes, rotate the pan, then check back after an additional 4 minutes or so to check if they're golden brown on top. Take 'em out, brush with butter (fine, that's a third ingredient, but it's optional) and you're good to go.