Something that you don't realize when you grow up outside the South: there are a lot of people in this country who take their biscuits very seriously. I got to meet some of those people in Knoxville, Tennessee, at the third annual International Biscuit Festival this month, and every one of them said the same thing when we talked about biscuit secrets: White Lily flour.
White Lily flour, originally founded in Knoxville, although it is now produced in Ohio (Smucker's bought the company in 2006). It's a soft wheat flour, which means that only soft winter wheat, which has an especially low protein and gluten content is used. This is what makes White Lily so light and silky, which makes for lighter, fluffier biscuits. White Lily makes all-purpose flour, a heavier bread flour, a line of cornmeals and even frozen biscuits, but the thing all the biscuit-makers go bananas for is their self-rising flour. The self-rising flour includes exactly the right proportions of flour, baking powder and salt to make perfect biscuits. It's a shortcut even the pros are happy to admit they gladly take.
Can we tell you definitively that White Lily is the best flour for making biscuits? No -- White Lily is pretty hard to find around here, and I am a total biscuit novice. But the hoards of White Lily evangelists are pretty convincing. Don't just take our word for it, watch Husk and McCrady's chef and owner, James Beard Award winner and very serious biscuit enthusiast Sean Brock talk about why White Lily is his only biscuit flour, for Outside Magazine.
When you watch this video, see if you can catch the one small second that is our absolute favorite. The moment where Brock splits open a hot biscuit in one hand, like a ripe grape, straight down middle, without even thinking about it. Those kinds of memorized kitchen behaviors are like a stamp that says "pay attention to what this person says about this food."
Chef Brock says that "biscuits are very personal." That sentiment rang true at the Biscuit Festival as well. It's hard not to be fascinated by biscuits, even if you didn't grow up with them. The idea that flour, butter and buttermilk can come together to create light, fluffy biscuits, dense, chewy biscuits and every variation in between is about as inspired by science as we're likely to get around here.
We know some of you are biscuit people, and we want to know which flour you think is the best. Let us know in the comments! And click over to Outside Magazine for Sean Brock's buttermilk biscuit recipe.