King Arthur Flour's 2-Ingredient Never-Fail Biscuits

March 11, 2015

Every week -- often with your help -- Food52's Executive Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: How to turn 2 ingredients into perfect biscuits in less time than it takes to drink your coffee. Extra genius points: The formula is so simple, you'll probably never need to look it up again.

Cream biscuits have always been the smart home baker's secret weapon. They're exceptionally simple to make with outsized results -- tender, rich, and crunchy-tipped -- without asking you to be confident cutting butter into flour, or know what a laminated dough is, or have people yell at you if they see you twisting your biscuit cutter. Nobody is going to yell at you over a cream biscuit.

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But it turns out they can get even simpler, putting them in the realm of just-add-water mixes, without the extra suspect ingredients and stabilizers. Even more importantly, as PJ Hamel, the developer of this recipe who's been at King Arthur for going on 25 years, put it, "I'm totally into 'fast and easy,' but for a complete win you need to append 'REALLY tasty' to that, as well -- and these biscuits fit the bill."

If you tend to argue (to yourself or others) that you're not a baker, that will hold up even less than it used to. And if you already love to bake, these will, for better or worse, be within your grasp at all times. This is literally all you do: Stir together equal parts (by weight) of self-rising flour and heavy cream, scoop (or, if you'd rather, roll out and cut), brush with cream or milk or water, bake briefly in a very hot oven.

How does the simplest recipe turn out to be no compromise at all? Why does my grandmother insist we always buy Bisquick?

To answer the first question (the second is beyond the scope of this column): Most obviously, self-rising flour has a proportional amount of baking powder and salt already in it, which is what makes it rise virtually on its own -- the baking powder in the mix gets bubbling with nothing more than the introduction of a liquid and heat, so there's no need to add a measure of leavener on top of that.

But aside from the ease of having all your dry ingredients in one handy bag, self-rising flour is also made with softer wheat than all-purpose. This makes it lower in protein and especially nice for quick breads like biscuits, where you're looking for a lightness of being and very little gluten development.

The forgiving nature of heavy cream (these are very hard to overbake), and the impossible-to-forget 1:1 ratio of flour to cream make these even more friendly to any level of baker (or non-baker). "I love that I can go somewhere and think, 'Hmmm, 14 biscuits would be about right' -- okay, 7 ounces flour, 7 ounces heavy cream. Or, for larger biscuits, 14 ounces," Hamel told me. "I love that you can make 'em up, freeze without baking, then pull out just what you want and bake right from the freezer."

Serve them with butter and jam. Or honey. Or dress them like a Mainer, as Hamel recommends: Split them and dribble with cream before topping with berries and whipped cream (Are you counting? That's 3 creams!). Or embed a sugar cube doused in orange juice in each biscuit before baking, a Southern trick for a sweet, melty core that Hamel also likes. Or add herbs or bacon or cheese. Or just mix up your two ingredients and be -- without sacrifice or shame -- done.

King Arthur Flour's Never-Fail Biscuits

Adapted slightly from PJ Hamel of King Arthur Flour

Makes 12 biscuits

6 ounces/170 grams (1 1/2 cups) self-rising flour
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional; for a saltier biscuit)
6 ounces/170 grams (3/4 cup) heavy whipping cream

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]. Thanks to Food52er and Scone Lady mrslarkin for this one!

Photos by James Ransom

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I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


MTMitchell May 19, 2015
My mom used to make chicken pot pie in a casserole dish, topped with biscuits (to which she added herbs). Could I bake these biscuits that way? The recipe she used is really good, too, but this seems like it would be easier to do on a weeknight, with leftovers. Also, I spent a lot of time just over the river from King Arthur Flour, if you ever find yourself in that part of the country (they're in White River Junction, VT, along the CT River), it's worth a trip.
Jenny P. April 2, 2015
You could also use this method with some icecream. I've made it using the really cheap basic version and it tasted fine, also saves you adding syrup, sugar or honey.
The O. March 24, 2015
looks like scones!!
TSmith March 18, 2015
I feel like trying to recreate this recipe with AP flour is sort of missing the convenience point. If you add other ingredients and/or steps, aren't you just working extra hard to reinvent a regular biscuit recipe?
lizabeth March 18, 2015
I suppose that threshold of convenience is different for everyone. And you'd have to have room for another container of flour besides the AP. There is a recipe for self-rising flour on King Arthur Flour website using 8 c. of flour - that should last while. Or just buy the self-rising : )
Jamie March 16, 2015
anyway you could substitute something for the flour in the biscuits to make them gluten free?
Jenny P. April 2, 2015
You could try coconut or rice flour and oats. Or a mix of all three. That would make them gluten free.
Marina C. December 28, 2015
King Arthur Flour has a fabulous gluten free flour mix. Their GF chocolate cake is better than the traditional version.
Therese P. March 16, 2015
Scones in a Hurry, Australian style:
flour, cream, lemonade
Oi Oi Oi
Darlene D. March 15, 2015
So excited about this simple way to make biscuits and also the tip from Paseo to add a bit of sugar to make shortcakes. I've never seen King Arthur flour, do you have to order it?
Marina C. December 28, 2015
Our Walmart carries it. I've seen it in other grocers, but if you are in the US chances are you have a Walmart.
Ofelia March 15, 2015
To make your own self rising flour: to each 1 cup flour add 11/2tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt.
I had to use almost 1 cup of cream,but they are by far the best biscuits ever.
pamb March 17, 2015
Thanks for this! I didn't want to have to buy another type of flour!
catalinalacruz March 15, 2015
I would love to make this, but as whole wheat biscuits. Has anyone tried making their own self rising flour with w.w. pastry flour, baking powder and salt?
lizabeth March 15, 2015
I emailed King Arthur Flour a few days ago and asked that question, too. They advised me to use the same recipe as for white flour. I believe it's as follows: 2 c. WW pastry flour, 1 Tbsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt. But you can find their recipe on their website under LEARN. That site is really FABULOUS. I'm so impressed. They get back to you within a day with an email question and I have actually called with a question and gotten to talk with someone right away.
catalinalacruz March 15, 2015
Thanks for this helpful response, Lizabeth. Happy baking!
Jenny P. April 2, 2015
You don't have any brown flour handy, you could always add some Weetabix / Shredded Wheat / Grapenuts or bran to the flour. You don't need to add salt to make SR flour. All you need is baking powder, which is 2:1 cream of tartar and bicarbonate of soda. ( two portions of crm tt to 1 portion bicarb ) The cereal will already have added salt.
lizabeth March 15, 2015
I've made these often and just want to suggest to everyone with questions that they go to the King Arthur Flour website because there is an entire blog on their website devoted to these biscuits, with comments from people who have successfully used EarthBalance instead of butter, etc. I have noticed that you can freeze the cut, unbaked biscuits from other recipes, too, and cook them at the same temp as called for in the recipe - just add 3 minutes to the baking time and see how they look. You might try just one, first, to see if it's completely done after an additional 3 minutes. I also like the recipe on 100daysofrealfood because it uses WW Pastry Flour; it's a little harder than adding cream because it calls for cut butter and milk, but very good and made with WW. The amount of cream you need for the KAF No Fail biscuits can vary based on how much protein is in your flour: if you're not using the KAF pastry flour, you may need more cream. You should be able to tell; if it's too dry to hold together, add a bit more. Don't fuss with it too much or you'll make it tough.
Ann G. March 15, 2015
Actually, this cream biscuit recipe appeared in "Gourmet" magazine about l960. This works very, very well. I also like 1 3/4 cups White Wings or King Arthur flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 3 teaspoons double-acting baking powder,1 teaspoon sugar (optional). Sifted together. Work in 5-6 Tablespons 1/2 butter and 1/2 lard with fingers to "sand" texture. Make a well in center and pour in all at once 3/4 Cup whole milk. Stir until dough is fairly free from the sides of the bowl. Turn dough onto lightly floured board. Knead gently and quickly, making about 8-10 folds. Roll with lightly floured rolling pin to about 1" thickness. Cut with biscuit cutter dipped in flour. DO NOT TWIST CUTTER. Place on ungreased baking sheet and lay a thin pat of butter on top of each biscuit. Bake in pre-heated 450 degree oven until lightly browned, about 12-15 minutes. Makes about 24 1 1/2" biscuits. Ann Gaddis, San Antonio, Texas
Wendy March 13, 2015
Hi, Kristen! I'm pretty sure I was your camp counselor back in the day, and now by sheer coincidence, I'm baking your biscuits in Rwanda. They're ideal here where butter costs more than gold... when you can find it.
Kristen M. March 13, 2015
Oh my gosh. I'll need a camp name. Hope you like the biscuits -- what a happy coincidence!
Wendy March 13, 2015
"Krypton"--I don't know if you'll remember me! A long time ago, but your name is an unusual one.
Kristen M. March 13, 2015
Yes yes! And was Calliope your sister? I'm still in touch with Tink and Belle. I'm going to send you a private message so the rest of Food52 doesn't have to keep reading about these people with not-real names.
Anna March 15, 2015
So awesome to see a reunion like this! Have fun reconnecting ladies!
Gary V. March 12, 2015
Never mind. Just add 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoons of salt to a cup and fill it up with AP flour. For this recipie you would do it one and a half times. Worth a try anyway.
Gary V. March 12, 2015
So, who buys self rising flour nowadays. I have 15 kinds of flour in my pantry already. Can you tell us what and how much levining to add to AP flour please.
mrslarkin March 12, 2015
I think full fat coconut milk would work, in addition to a couple spoonfuls of coconut oil.
HL March 12, 2015
I, too, would like to know if it's possible to make these biscuits without dairy. Would soy milk or coconut milk work?
Kristen M. March 13, 2015
HL, see mrslarkin's answer, above.
Tawny March 12, 2015
I have a major dairy allergy...any chance this would work with Earth Balance or a different non-dairy "butter"?
Kristen M. March 13, 2015
Tawny, see mrslarkin's comment above.
Tawny March 15, 2015
Kristen and mrslarkin: we're talking about the canned full fat coconut milk, right? Also, does temperature matter for the coconut milk or the coconut oil? I know I've made other recipes with coconut oil...sometimes it needs to be solid, sometimes melted.
paseo March 12, 2015
With all respect to PJ Hamel, this recipe has been a White Lily favorite for eons. It was on a bag of their self rising flour in the 1980s and 90s. It was my (and others) never fail recipe back then when I needed to crank them out fast, and with a bit of sugar, they make great shortcakes.
A.ndrea March 12, 2015
I love the shout out to King Arthur Flour. They've been my go to for bread/pastry/cookie recipes and baking tips for years. Plus, the campus it sits on is absolutely gorgeous.
Cindy A. March 11, 2015
Drops mic, walks away.