The Southern Biscuit Baker’s Not-So-Secret Weapon: White Lily Flour

The best biscuits are the ones you make at home.

Published July 14, 2021.

Ever since I moved to Nashville, I’ve had to start fielding a familiar question from friends planning a visit: Where’s the best biscuit? I have lived here for only three years and hardly consider myself an expert on every buttery, flaky breakfast quickbread in the metro area, but the answer, at least for me, is simple: It’s in my kitchen. 

Yes, there are lots of delicious brunches and breakfasts, and because this is Tennessee, biscuits will likely dominate the menu, but I have yet to find a place where the true star of the show is the biscuit itself. Instead, on many weekends, my boyfriend and I forego takeout or dining out and make them ourselves.

The secret to our success? While Lily Flour.

Cat Head Biscuits

As big as a cat's head, golden brown on the outside, but soft and fluffy as a dinner roll on the inside, these regional biscuits deserve national recognition.
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White Lily is the secret to great Southern biscuits.

Well, maybe not-so-secret. White Lily flour is beloved by chefs across the South—and hard to come by in supermarkets outside of it.

"White Lily biscuits is like biting into a literal cloud of buttery goodness," says Chris Scott, a Top Chef alum with Southern roots who is the founder of Butterfunk Biscuits in NYC. "There is no other flour like it." In fact, it's one of the few updates he's made to his family's biscuit recipe: "It's so good, they think I did more to the recipe than just swapped out flours."

Now owned by J. M. Smucker, White Lily flour has remained a regional brand, save for those willing to pay a markup to get it off Amazon. Made with soft winter wheat, its lower protein content produces less gluten and gives resulting baked goods a lighter, fluffy texture akin to that of baked goods made with cake flour. In Cook’s Illustrated’s guide to flour, it was deemed the best option if you bake a lot of biscuits. (One taster remarked that White Lily biscuits were like "a savory cupcake.")

White Lily makes an all-purpose flour, but I am partial to the self-rising variety. It uses the same exact low-protein flour but also includes salt and a rising agent. That means it is possible to make a two-ingredient biscuit similar to our cream biscuit recipe: I don’t need to add salt or baking powder, and I omit the sugar. The result is a tender biscuit that’s light and airy.

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One thing that I have not been able to do with White Lily flour, however, is make a good biscuit sandwich. These delicate treats are best enjoyed alone or with butter and jam. They don’t have the structure to stand up to a bacon, egg, and cheese filling. For that, all-purpose flour still wins the day. (In his restaurant, Chef Scott uses a mix of equal parts all-purpose and White Lily for biscuit sandwiches.) 

Between the cream biscuit and a more sturdy buttermilk biscuit, however, we also make Cat Head Biscuits, named for their size. Far easier to whip up on a lazy Saturday morning, with no cutting in of fat or folding and layering, you get a biscuit with a lot of craggy texture and height that’s still unbelievably fluffy inside. Can’t get White Lily flour? Cook’s Country’s recipe actually calls for a mix of equal parts all-purpose flour and cake flour to approximate the texture. 

And while they bake, we typically make a batch of sausage gravy to drown them in—without changing out of our pj's. As much as I love eating out, it’s hard to top that.

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