It’s hard to let go of a long-held belief in regional superiority. It was a crushing blow to my elementary school when we had to relearn the words to the state song, “Texas, Our Texas” and replace “largest and grandest’ with “boldest and grandest” as Alaska horned in and stole that billing from Texas.
Similarly, we Southerners have always prided ourselves on having the best biscuits. And Texas biscuits seemed likely to be the best of the best. After all, did any other state have a governor literally nicknamed for biscuits? Purists have argued whether the superiority of Southern biscuits was due to lower-protein flour such as White Lily or simply to centuries of practice, but there never seemed to be any doubt that the rest of the country couldn’t produce a biscuit as tender and fluffy, with that perfect combination of soft interior and crisp top.
At least, there wasn’t any doubt until recently, when a visit to Denver somehow led to eating incredible biscuits at two unrelated restaurants. Suddenly, the idea that Southern biscuits are the best seemed as outmoded as the notion that Texas is the largest state.
The Denver Biscuit Company began as a food truck and has since opened several locations serving biscuits all day, from breakfast sandwiches with the traditional eggs and bacon to dinnertime biscuit concoctions packed with fried chicken, barbecue or pimiento cheese (Thankfully, the South still holds the title of best pimiento cheese.) Where the Denver Biscuit Company really shines, though, is in its creative re-use of biscuit dough.
Most serious biscuit bakers warn against rerolling the scraps that are left when round biscuits are cut out of a slab of dough, because excess handling makes biscuit dough tough. Denver Biscuit Company solves this issue by gathering up the leftover dough and turning it into cinnamon rolls. Biscuit dough makes a denser cinnamon roll than the typical yeast-dough variety, and cuts hours of dough rise out of the process.
Biscuit bakers also caution against making more biscuits than are needed for one day, because they don’t keep well. Denver Biscuit Company has a solution for that as well, turning leftovers into biscuit French toast.
Making biscuits isn’t particularly difficult, but the dough requires a little bit of special handling. Nathalie Dupree, author of “Southern Biscuits,” advises handling the dough as little as possible, and cutting out the biscuits with a straight up-and-down motion. Twisting the biscuit cutter will seal the edges and impede rising.
Regional flours like White Lily and Martha White are getting harder to find, but Dupree suggests mimicking them by substituting cake flour for half the all-purpose flour. Cake flour is lower in protein, and produces less gluten, which gives structure to baked goods and makes them less tender.
For an easy baking session, there are recipes that call for self-rising flour, which is flour with baking powder and salt added to it. One of the simplest biscuit recipes Dupree has developed calls only for self-rising flour, salt and yogurt.