Quick Cream Biscuits
With high rise and light texture, biscuits made with a simple combination of heavy cream, flour, baking powder, and salt beat out more complicated recipes.
The challenge: For a number of cooks, the idea of cutting butter or shortening into flour, as called for in traditional recipes for biscuits, is a nonstarter. They're just not comfortable with the process. In addition, the need to roll out the dough--another traditional prerequisite for most homemade biscuits--immediately puts off many prospective bakers. Our question, then, was whether we could come up with a recipe for homemade biscuits that could be made quickly and easily and did not require cutting fat into flour or rolling out dough. In short, was there a homemade alternative to Poppin' Fresh?

The solution: We began our tests with a standard biscuit recipe calling for 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. To get around the hurdle of cutting in a solid fat, we tried a variety of liquid (or liquidy) alternatives: yogurt, sour cream, milk, milk and melted butter, and heavy cream. All but the heavy cream proved disappointing, but it proved to be so good that it actually beat out our version of a traditionally made biscuit in a blind taste test.

Shaping (getting around rolling out the dough) was the next problem. When we just plopped our cream-based biscuit dough in a pan, it tended to become too meltingly soft when baked. While most cookbooks warn against overworking biscuit dough because it can make the dough tough, in this case a little kneading was just what was called for to give the biscuits some structure. A mere 30 seconds of kneading, until the dough was smooth and uniform in appearance, was just the thing; these biscuits baked up high and light and fluffy.

For good measure: For those cooks who are up to rolling out the dough, we recommend our Cinnamon Swirl Cream Biscuits recipe.

Makes eight 2 1/2-inch biscuits

Bake the biscuits immediately after cutting them; letting them stand for any length of time can decrease the leavening power and thereby prevent the biscuits from rising properly in the oven.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl. Add 1 1/4 cups cream and stir with wooden spoon until dough forms, about 30 seconds. Transfer dough from bowl to countertop, leaving all dry, floury bits behind in bowl. In 1 tablespoon increments, add up to 1/4 cup cream to dry bits in bowl, mixing with wooden spoon after each addition, until moistened. Add these moistened bits to rest of dough and knead by hand just until smooth, about 30 seconds.

3. Shape the dough into a round, 3/4-inch thick. Cut into rounds with a biscuit cutter or cut into wedges with knife. Place rounds or wedges on parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking.


Use the herb of your choice in this variation.

Follow recipe for Quick and Easy Cream Biscuits, whisking 2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs into flour along with sugar, baking powder, and salt.


Follow recipe for Quick and Easy Cream Biscuits, stirring 1/2 cup (2 ounces) sharp cheddar cheese cut into 1/4-inch pieces into flour along with sugar, baking powder, and salt. Increase baking time to 18 minutes.


Follow recipe for Quick and Easy Cream Biscuits, adding 3 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger to flour along with sugar, baking powder, and salt. Before baking, brush tops of biscuits with 1 tablespoon heavy cream and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar.

(please see illustrations, below)
For Rounds: Shape the dough into a round and cut with a biscuit cutter.

For Wedges: Press the dough into an 8-inch cake pan, then turn the dough out and cut into 8 wedges.

May, 2000

Original article and recipes by Christopher Kimball


Biscuit Cutters
Cinnamon Swirl Cream Biscuits