No brag, just fact: I'm a good yeast bread baker.
Not Jeffrey Hamelman great; but pretty darned good. James Beard hooked me with Beard on Bread about 35 years ago, and I've been practicing regularly ever since.
So you'd think, having mastered yeast bread, baking something as simple as a biscuit would be – well, a piece of cake for me.
Tough biscuits, tasteless biscuits, biscuits whose acrid baking soda flavor made my mouth pucker. Biscuits that never browned (how is that even possible?) Biscuits that flattened into nubbly puddles. I mean, if anything can go wrong with a biscuit – I've been there.
Those unhappy days are gone, though – since I discovered Never-Fail Biscuits.
Self-rising flour. Heavy cream. End of story.
I mean, it's impossible to mess up a recipe with two ingredients, right?
Still, a little voice in the back of my brain kept nagging, "Those can't possibly be as good as REAL biscuits. You know, the kind where you work the butter into the flour, add milk, roll out the dough, cut it with a cutter... the kind REAL bakers make."
Simple Never-Fail Biscuits vs. Traditional Bakewell Cream Biscuits – we'll go nine rounds here, then crown a winner. Let the Battle of the Biscuits begin!
Round 1: Ingredients
Bakewell Cream Biscuits use six ingredients.
Never-Fail Biscuits: 2 ingredients.
Round 1 winner: Never-Fail Biscuits
Round 2: Preparation
Bakewell Cream Biscuits require four steps to prepare the dough:
- Mix the flour/leavening;
- Cut up the butter;
- Work in the butter;
- Stir in the milk.
Never-Fail Biscuits, just one step:
- Stir the cream into the flour.
Round 2 winner: Never-Fail Biscuits
Round 3: Biscuit formation
Bakewell Cream Biscuits require four steps:
- Fold the dough over on itself several times;
- Roll/pat it into a 3/4”-thick round;
- Cut biscuits with a cutter;
- Re-roll and cut the scraps.
Never-Fail Biscuits require 1 step:
- Scoop the dough into balls.
Round 3 winner: Never-Fail Biscuits
Wait just a minute; the judges are conferring...
Patting/rolling/cutting the Never-Fail biscuit dough results in a more traditionally shaped (flatter-topped) biscuit. If you go this route, we'll call Round 3 a draw.
Round 4: Baking
Bakewell Cream Biscuits (top) bake in a 475°F oven for 5 minutes, then rest in the turned-off oven for an additional 5 to 10 minutes.
Never-Fail Biscuits (bottom) bake in a 450°F oven for 10 minutes.
Round 4 winner: Draw
Round 5: Appearance
Bakewell Cream Biscuits (right) brown better than Never-Fail Biscuits (left).
Round 5 winner: Bakewell Cream Biscuits
Round 6: Rise
Left to right, you see Never-Fail scooped biscuits; Bakewell Cream Biscuits; and Never-Fail cut biscuits. I'd say there's no appreciable difference in rise.
Round 6 winner: Draw
Round 7: Taste
Very similar taste; Bakewell Cream Biscuits were a tiny bit saltier, probably due to the baking soda.
Round 7 winner: Draw
Round 8: Texture
Both biscuits were equally delightful hot out of the oven: crisp outside, steamy/soft inside. As they cooled, Never-Fail Biscuits retained their soft texture; while Bakewell Cream Biscuits firmed up a bit. Neither held onto their crisp crust.
By the following day both biscuits had hardened just slightly, with Bakewell Cream Biscuits becoming harder than Never-Fail Biscuits, though both were still perfectly acceptable served at room temperature. And rewarming them in the oven brought both of them close to their fresh-baked texture.
Round 8 winner: Draw
Hold on, the judge is calling a timeout –
Look closely at the two biscuits above. See the single horizontal fault line in the Never-Fail Biscuits, and the multiple horizontal lines in the Bakewell Cream Biscuits? This difference provides a vital clue to the winner of our final round.
Round 9: Versatility
Making shortcake? Ah, here's the biggest difference between these two biscuits. Never-Fail Biscuits (left) crumble when you try to split them in half for shortcake. Bakewell Cream Biscuits (right) split easily along their "layer line."
Round 9 winner: Bakewell Cream Biscuits.
Biscuits, join the referee (that would be me) in the center of the ring – er, kitchen. The judges are tallying up the score. And the winner is:
Never-Fail Biscuits – by a crumb!
But only if you scoop them. If you like cutting your biscuits with a cutter, then it's a perfect draw: 2 rounds to Never-Fail Biscuits, 2 rounds to Bakewell Cream Biscuits, and 5 rounds ending in a draw.
Recap: If you're into ease of preparation and simplicity of ingredients, Never-Fail Biscuits are your choice.
If you enjoy whisking together ingredients, working butter into flour, adding milk, stirring GENTLY, rolling or patting dough into a round, and using your biscuit cutter – in other words, if you're comfortable with the classic biscuit process – then go ahead and stick with your favorite traditional biscuit recipe, like our Bakewell Cream Biscuits.
Bottom line: everyone wins.
Most of all the lucky recipients of your tender, tasty biscuits!
Want to wage your own Battle of the Biscuits? Pit our Never-Fail Biscuits against your own favorite recipe. And may the best biscuit win!