Every Southerner Knows This Is the Secret to the Best Biscuits

One ingredient makes all the difference.

<p>Adam Dolge</p>

Adam Dolge

If you have ever wondered why biscuits in the South are so special, it's all because of a single ingredient. No, it’s not the gentle hands of a loving cook or even vegetable shortening (though they can both help). It’s the distinctly light, low-protein White Lily Flour that gives Southern biscuits the pillowy, fluffy, yet tender and sturdy texture we all love.

Several years ago, I lived and worked as a test cook and recipe developer in Alabama. As a Yankee, I was a bit skeptical of how some staple ingredients could make a big difference in classic Southern recipes. My friends and colleagues turned me on to (and in some cases, converted me to), ingredients like Duke’s Mayo, Crystal Hot Sauce, and even Alabama-style white barbeque sauce. But these ingredients are mostly a personal preference. White Lily Flour, on the other hand, is actually built differently than most flours available outside of the South.

Walk through the baking aisle of a Piggly Wiggly or Publix in the South and you’ll be greeted by the extra tall bags of White Lily Flour. The bags are larger than other flour brands as White Lily weighs less per pound than other flours. Inside those bags is an exceptionally fine flour ground from 100 percent soft red winter wheat, which has a lower protein content compared to other wheat. It literally feels softer and finer in your hands than other common brands, and it’s this texture that gives baked goods a uniquely light yet tender Southern twist.

Why White Lily Flour Makes the Best Biscuits

If you’ve spent any time baking, you likely know the importance of protein in flour. The more protein in a flour, the stronger it is. Bread flour, for example, has upwards of 12 percent or more protein content, which creates chewy pizza crusts and crusty baguettes. All-purpose flour, which, as the name implies, is for general baking use, ranges from about 10 to 12 percent protein, depending on the brand.

White Lily's all-purpose flour has a protein content of about 9 percent, which makes it closer to cake flour at 10 percent. The lower protein in White Lily means it will produce less gluten compared to all-purpose flour from other brands. Less gluten means baked goods are light and tender rather than tough and chewy.

But lower protein alone doesn’t make a perfect Southern biscuit. White Lily flour is also extremely fine, with a consistency that's similar to powdered sugar. It is so fine, in fact, the company recommends using 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons in place of 1 cup of regular all-purpose flour in a recipe.

Testing the Difference: White Lily vs. King Arthur

It's been several years since I lived in the South, and now that I’ve returned to the North, it’s quite difficult to get my hands on White Lily flour. I snagged a bag from Amazon (at a premium!) and conducted a side-by-side buttermilk biscuit taste test using all-purpose flour from White Lily and another from King Arthur Flour.

First, the good news is that both flours performed well and created deliciously buttery, sturdy yet airy biscuits. To be honest, I would be perfectly happy with a biscuit made with King Arthur Flour. However, when put up against White Lily flour, it’s easy to see why my Southern friends turned me on to this wonderful product years ago. The biscuits made with White Lily are softer, more pillowy, and more tender.

Most other brands use hard wheat for their all-purpose flour, which gives them a high protein content. You could get a similar protein content by using self-rising, cake, or even pastry flour, but White Lily also has a unique milling process. It’s bleached, but not as much as cake flour, and only the endosperm is used. All this adds up to a uniquely soft, delicate yet workable flour that makes the best biscuits. If you don’t live anywhere that sells White Lily, it’s worth buying some online. Or, throw a couple bags in your luggage next time you visit the South.

Read the original article on All Recipes.