Why It Works
- Self-rising flour is softer than standard wheat flour which makes for more tender biscuits.
- Heavy cream takes the place of the butter and buttermilk in a standard biscuit recipe.
People have been making two-ingredient biscuits ever since self-rising flour hit supermarket shelves, and it's easy to see why. Stir heavy cream into self-rising flour, scoop it onto a baking sheet, bake, and serve: It's that easy. But not everything worth making is brand new.
There are times when I'm willing to put in the extra effort for an incremental return. And then there are times when I'm willing to settle for less-than-perfect-but-still-really-great results, so long as it only takes a fraction of the work to get there. Some recipes are straight up 50/50 recipes. That is, if you do 50% as much work, you get results that are only 50% as good. Others are 20/80 recipes. With just 20% of the effort, you can get yourself 80% of the way towards perfection. These two-ingredient biscuits have one of the lowest effort-to-greatness ratios of any recipe I can think of. They take practically no effort or practice to pull off, yet produce some of the lightest, tenderest, tastiest biscuits around. They're at least a 5/95 recipe, or perhaps even a 2/98.
The Key to Traditional Biscuits
Traditional biscuits are made by combining a soft flour—one that is finely milled and relatively low in protein content—with salt and baking powder, then cutting in solid butter or shortening. As you work the fat into the flour, some of the flour gets coated in fat, while other bits end up forming a fat/flour paste. When you subsequently add a liquid—typically buttermilk or milk—that liquid is absorbed by the portion of the flour that is not coated or mixed with fat, allowing it to form gluten, the web of flour proteins that form to give bread structure.
The tricky part with biscuits is working the fat into the flour in such a way that just enough free flour is remaining. Too much and your biscuits completely crumble as they bake. Too little and your biscuits become tough, dense, and bread-like. With enough practice, you'll eventually reach a point where incorporating the fat properly becomes second nature. Most of us aren't going to make enough biscuits in a lifetime to hit that stage (though if you really want to, this recipe will start you on the path to biscuit supremacy).
That's where two-ingredient biscuits come in.
The Two-Ingredient Workaround
The first step to streamlining and fool-proofing biscuits is to replace the flour, baking powder, and salt with self-rising flour. Now you may say, but isn't self-rising flour essentially flour with baking powder and salt built into it, and isn't that cheating?
Well yes. That's essentially what self-rising flour is. However, self-rising flour is also typically softer and more finely milled than standard all-purpose or even cake flour, which makes it particularly suitable for making biscuits.*
*True DIY'ers can make their own self-rising flour by finding a soft wheat brand of flour such as White Lily and combine it with 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt per cup of flour.
Cream biscuits solve these issues in one fell swoop by replacing the butter and milk in a traditional biscuit recipe with heavy cream. Turns out that heavy cream already has pretty much the ideal ratio of water to fat in it to form a biscuit that has just enough structure to hold together, but limits gluten development enough to keep it light and tender. And since the fat found in solid butter and the fat found in liquid cream are essentially identical, cream biscuits end up with a rich, buttery flavor even though there is technically no butter in them at all.
Making the Dough
To make two-ingredient biscuits, all you have to do is add self-rising flour to a bowl on top of a scale, (I use about one ounce of flour per biscuit I'm planning to bake), then pour in an equal amount of heavy cream by weight. Stir the two ingredients together, and you've got your basic biscuit dough. The only trick is to ensure that you don't over-work the dough. As soon as there's no real dry flour left in the bowl, you're done.
To Drop or Roll?
From there, you have a couple of options for your biscuits. For the absolute simplest biscuits, use the "drop biscuit" method: just grab a cookie dough scoop, scoop out balls of dough, and drop them onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Bake them and you're done.
You can also use the dough to make semi-laminated, flaky, layered biscuits by rolling it out into a rectangle, folding it up in thirds like a business letter left to right then top to bottom, re-rolling and folding it, then cutting it out into rounds with a biscuit cutter. I personally find this method to be almost too fussy for such a simple recipe. I don't like to do things half-assed: if I'm going to be lazy, I'm going be as lazy as I possibly can.
Since we already have the heavy cream out, brushing the tops of the biscuits with a little bit of it before baking will help them develop a nice golden brown hue with an attractive sheen.
Baked at 425°F, they finish in about 10 minutes, which means they take around 15 minutes altogether. But your guests don't need to know that, now do they?
10 ounces (about 2 cups) self-rising flour
2 tablespoons sugar (if making sweet shortcake-style biscuits)
10 ounces (about 1 1/4 cups) heavy cream, plus more for brushing
Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 450°F. Place flour in a large bowl. If making sweet biscuits, whisk in sugar. Stirring with a wooden spoon, drizzle in cream. Stir until a lumpy dough is formed. Do not over mix.
For Drop Biscuits: Using a 1-ounce cookie scoop, scoop balls of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them 2 inches apart. Brush tops with cream and bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve.
For Flaky Rolled Biscuits: With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 12-inch square. Using a bench scraper, fold the right third of the dough over the center, then fold the left third over so you end up with a 12-by-4-inch rectangle. Fold the top third down over the center, then fold the bottom third up so the whole thing is reduced to a 4-inch square. Press the square down and roll it out again into a 12-inch square. Repeat the folding process once more, then roll the dough again into a 12-inch square. Use a 3- to 4-inch biscuit cutter to cut out rounds and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet, spaced 2 inches apart. Press together scraps to form additional biscuits. Brush tops with cream and bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 15 to 20|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 6g||7%|
|Saturated Fat 4g||18%|
|Total Carbohydrate 10g||4%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||1%|
|Total Sugars 0g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|