“Biscuit” is probably one of the better known words which has a completely different meaning on one side of the Atlantic from the other. Back in England, biscuit brands such as Rich Tea, Digestives, Hob Nobs and Custard Creams are crunchy baked products, which Americans would call cookies and which are incredibly popular, especially when dunked into a cup of tea.
In the States on the other hand, biscuits are soft, flaky and scone-like and are commonly eaten for breakfast. Here in the South, they are particularly loved and even though they are traditionally made with just a few ingredients (flour, buttermilk, lard or butter, baking powder and/or soda and a little salt), there is much debate over exactly which combinations of ingredients and techniques produce the best biscuit. I’ve tried quite a few biscuit recipes over the years before settling on a couple of reliable options which I regularly return to.
I’m a fan of this recipe from Leite’s Culinaria which uses just self rising flour, butter and buttermilk but produces great results. Many Southerners swear by the legendary White Lily self rising flour which is already blended with leavening and salt, making the job even easier.
An even simpler but still very tasty biscuit recipe is the one for “Miracle Drop Biscuits” from Sheri Castle’s excellent book “The New Southern Garden Cookbook“. It uses just self rising flour, heavy cream and a little butter. The recipe calls for minimal handling of the dough so they are hand shaped rather than rolled and cut, which results in a slightly craggy appearance but they are none the worse for that.
I decided to experiment with the miracle drop biscuit recipe, replacing the heavy cream with home made crème fraiche. More commonly found in Europe than here in the States it is a thick, rich, slightly sour cream that is a versatile ingredient in the kitchen. Over here it can be hard to find and quite pricey when you do come across it but it is simple to make by adding 2 or 3 tablespoons of buttermilk to a cup of heavy cream and just leaving it at room temperature for a few hours until it thickens and develops a characteristic sour flavour. It can then be kept in the fridge for a week or so.
Crème Fraiche Drop Biscuits
Adapted from Sheri Castle
2 cups self rising flour (I used White Lily)
1 cup home made crème fraiche
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Mix flour and crème fraiche together in a bowl and stir to make a soft dough.
Divide the dough by hand into 6 equal parts and place on a baking tray.
Brush the tops with melted butter and bake until golden, 12-15 minutes.