Amanda & Merrill

Cream Biscuits

November 30, 2010

Cream Biscuits

- Merrill

This week, I'm embarking upon a three-week series on yeast-free bread recipes. Popular wisdom holds that you are either a baker or a cook. Very few people are both; Amanda is one of these few, but I am not. It's not that I'm totally incompetent as a baker, but it's certainly not my forte, and when forced to roll out dough or rely on yeast, I start to sweat a little.

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Strangely, my adventures in cooking began with bread -- specifically a couple of quick bread recipes from the Joy of Cooking (more on that later). And throughout my life as a cook, I've gravitated to bread recipes, like those first forays, that do not involve yeast or rising of any kind.

Today, I'm sharing one such recipe for what are quite simply the best biscuits I have ever had. According to Marion Cunningham, author of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, this recipe was taught to her at one of James Beard’s summer cooking classes in Seaside, Oregon. Instead of buttermilk or regular milk, they call for heavy cream, which keeps them from being even remotely dry. And more great news for non-bakers like me: the recipe is completely forgiving. You knead the dough before shaping it, but the resulting biscuits are as tender as could be. Maybe it's all that cream...

Cream Biscuits

Adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook (13th Edition) by Marion Cunningham

Makes 12 biscuits

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar 
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • Melted butter

1. Heat the oven to 425°F. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in a mixing bowl, stirring with a fork to blend.

2. Slowly add the cream to the dry ingredients, stirring constantly, until the dough holds together. Knead gently on a lightly floured surface for about 1 minute. Pat it into 1/2-inch thick round and use a sharp knife to it cut into 8 wedges.

3. Arrange the wedges 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet and brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned. Serve warm with plenty of butter and/or honey.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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Miche June 25, 2023
I'm a little confused. The recipe says "Makes 12 biscuits" but the instructions say to cut into 8 wedges. Which is correct, 12 or 8?
Sylvia9000 January 20, 2015
Has anyone tried mixing up the flour a bit? Using buckwheat or rye blended with the white? Not looking for gf, just different flavours.
aklemm January 5, 2011
This recipe works wonders and it's so easy. I've made them several times in the last few weeks, including once as biscuits and gravy on Christmas morning with a bunch family. Good times.


Cutting in 1 quarter to 1 half stick of butter, as @ShoeboxKitchen, mentioned makes them flakier and all the better. Just break off small chunks of butter and smash each one into a handful of the dry ingredients. Triangle, square, any shape you want work nicely and, if the dough is too wet, you can make drop biscuits which turn out wonderfully craggy.

Due to cow dairy and wheat intolerances in the family, I use spelt flour in place of the all-purpose flour and canned evaporated goat milk for the cream. The substitutions work perfectly, maybe even better than the originals.

Thanks for turning me on to these! They're definitely my go-to biscuits from here on out.
gustus December 7, 2010
Here's a lazy variation from down south...just use cream and Martha White's Self-Rising Flour.
lastnightsdinner December 5, 2010
These were fantastic! It was all we could do not to eat them all in one sitting, and I'm already looking forward to making them again, maybe with herbs or a bit of grated cheese in the mix. Thanks for sharing this terrific recipe!
SpecialSka December 4, 2010
Can you stand one more OMG? Just made these and cannot believe how easy and perfect they are. Thank you!!
Loves F. December 2, 2010
Love that you posted this! My family has been making these (straight out of the identical Fannie Farmer's that my sister, mother, and I all own) for years! Sometimes we substitute flavored coffee creamer (like vanilla caramel!) for the heavy cream, for an added touch of flavor!
Victoria C. December 2, 2010
I have known about this recipe for a long time but have never tried it. This weekend I am making it for sure.

Marion Cunningham is a true treasure. Her first revision of The Fanny Farmer Cookbook, which was still available in paperback, is my favorite basic cookbook, and I always sneak a copy into whatever present I am sending a new bride or someone getting his or her first apartment. If there were only two cookbooks in the world, I would hope they would be that one and Marcella's Essentials (although I would not be willing to part with the two books that were consolidated into this one).

I enjoyed this year's Piglet very much and would have gone to the Piglet Party if I didn't have tickets to see Chanticleer at The Metropolitan Museum. Their performance in front of the Angel Tree starts the Christmas season for me every year.
mcs3000 December 1, 2010
I have Marion Cunningham's Breakfast book and this was one of the first recipes I made. Her book is a large reason why I am a baker. When I was in school I rode horses near where she lived. She'd zip by in her Jag and wave (the only thing flashy about her - so down to earth). Everyone loved her. Thanks, Merrill - made me pull out that book again and remember MC - how I cherish her.

ShoeboxKitchen November 30, 2010
These look amazing, Merrill. And like others have said, very similar to a cream-based scone (just less sugar, really). I wonder if they'd be even flakier if you were to cut some chilled butter into the dry ingredients before adding the cream . . .
Merrill S. December 1, 2010
I like the way you think!
fiveandspice November 30, 2010
Nice! My top scones are a cream scone recipe, in the wedge form. These look like they have all the same perfect features. Yum!
mrslarkin November 30, 2010
Hello breakfast, indeed! They'd be awfully nice for lunch or dinner, too, maybe with some finely chopped chives or thyme mixed in. I think you could definitely freeze these before baking.
Merrill S. December 1, 2010
Love the idea of adding fresh herbs.
Kitchen B. November 30, 2010
What a short list of ingredients for a stunning wedge! food52ers, you are churning out GREAT recipes faster than I have the time and tummy space to cook!!!!!!!
Merrill S. December 1, 2010
Glad you like them!
elltea November 30, 2010
I use a similar recipe that was published in Gourmet a few years ago. I love making these on vacation -- everyone swoons over them, and they require so few ingredients and so little time! You can also just drop the batter (without forming it) onto the baking sheet, which gives the biscuits a nice craggy, crispy edge. Agree with Soozll above -- they make great shortcakes!
Merrill S. December 1, 2010
I love dropped biscuits too -- they look so pretty!
mpjoyn November 30, 2010
My first cookbook was the Fanny Farmer 13th Ed., and so I have been making these since before I knew how to make anything.
Merrill S. December 1, 2010
So nice to have company!
elfleming November 30, 2010
Is it possible to freeze these before baking?
Merrill S. December 1, 2010
I've never tried it, sorry! But they do freeze well afterwards -- just wrap tightly and make sure to reheat in a 350 degree oven before serving.
Soozll November 30, 2010
These do make a nice tender biscuit and you don't even need to put butter on them. They are so rich, I go straight for jam only!. I actually prefer to up the sugar and use the lesser amount of cream to use them as shortcakes for all the summer fruits
casey_ellis November 30, 2010
I've been making these ever since "Beard on Bread" came out decades ago--theey're simply the best.
Merrill S. November 30, 2010
So nice to hear that someone else knows and loves these.
MrsWheelbarrow November 30, 2010
I love the wedge cut. (Hate having those extra scraps from making rounds... )
Merrill S. November 30, 2010
Me too!
aargersi November 30, 2010
These are biscuits I may actually try! Signed, a member of the non-bakers club ....
Lizthechef November 30, 2010
add me to your membership list ;)