Where’s the Beef?

So yeah, we get you, you say. Baking powder is a critical component of American (or more properly Southern American) biscuits. So how come there are only three ingredients in this week’s biscuit recipe and not one of them is baking powder?

Aha…because the baking powder is already in the flour, or I should say, this particular flour. White Lily, which has been making life simpler for biscuit makers since the early 1880’s via a premixed concoction of soft wheat flour, salt and leavening, is the grand-daddy of all self-rising flours. So much so that it’s nearly impossible to find any other kind of self-rising flour on grocery store shelves (if you live in the Northern U.S. it might be hard enough just finding Whit Lily, period. If that’s the case I suggest this recipe which produces a very similar result).

White Lily is very cool stuff, mostly because it produces what is widely considered the benchmark Southern biscuit. The only trouble is it’s not good for much else, being rather salty in my opinion. Also, because chemical leavening does peter out eventually, a sack of White Lily will outlive its usefulness after about six months. No matter, just make a lot of biscuits, or pitch the stuff out after the expiration date passes. Either way, don’t be tempted to buy the small 2-pound bags you might see on the shelves. No one buys them in the South (and I suspect even fewer still in the North…if that’s actually possible) and so they sit there for years until some sucker like me buys one, by which point they’re just plain ol’ cake flour.

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