When it comes to baking biscuits, just how important is your choice of flour? That's what we set out to determine during a biscuit workshop at Allrecipes HQ in Seattle. We tested five best-sellers and one under-the-radar flour from an urban flour mill in Pasadena to find the best possible choice for fluffy, flaky, golden biscuits. Here's what we discovered.
Bakers who keep a well-stocked pantry will sing the praises of all-purpose flour, and that was the requirement to land on this list.
- Gold Medal: This company has been around since the 1800s, but keeps up with trends in its extensive lineup of products that includes flour made with organically grown wheat.
- Stone-Buhr: Another mill with a long history, its origin dating to 1902 in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood. It was rebooted in 2002, its new mission focusing on sustainable sourcing from family farms by working with the ground-breaking Shepard's Grain Co-op.
- King Arthur: Based in Vermont since 1790, the company is an industry leader in its commitment to use GMO-free wheat. The AP flour is made with hard red wheat grown in the U.S.
- Bob's Red Mill: The employee-owned operation located just south of Portland, Ore., adds a bit of malted barley to its flour to give it extra character and little boost in the rising department.
- White Lily: A Southern favorite since the late 1800s, this one's a challenge to find outside the region. It's made with soft winter wheat, and unlike many flours on the market, it's bleached and pre-sifted.
- Grist & Toll: An artisan, small batch producer that uses a custom mill from Austria to process some obscure varieties of what such as Star, which is a hard white Spring wheat with a mild flavor developed in Spain, now growing in the Santa Ynez Valley, north of Los Angeles. Nan Kohler's fine flours are featured in pasta and baked goods at stellar restaurants including Union in Pasadena.
We followed a traditional recipe, swapping buttermilk for regular and doubling the batch. That makes half a dozen extra tall biscuits, achieved by folding the rolled or patted out dough over onto itself before cutting into biscuits. That trick makes for a natural place to split the biscuits just in case you're one of those brilliant biscuit lovers who crave one side slathered in something sweet like sorghum syrup, jam or honey, and the other side reserved for something savory like sausage gravy.
The biscuits emerged from the oven and it was clear that it was going to be challenging to single out a favorite. Whether baked in cast iron or on a sheet, all six batches looked like they were ready for a photo shoot. (And, of course, Instagram pics were taken.)
All agreed those made by Southern-bred soul singer and aspiring chef, Grace Love, were the best looking of the bunch. Her technique involved kneading the dough for a couple of minutes instead of handling it lightly. She also used a mug instead of a glass to cut the biscuits, scored the top of her biscuits with a knife and arranged the floury discs on the baking sheet so they weren't touching giving them a restaurant quality while the others were more rustic. Again, they all tasted tremendous.
The standouts, though, were the White Lily, King Arthur and Grist & Toll, all cited for having a fluffy, tender texture and outstanding flavor. They all tasted amazing on their own, and even better when topped with jam.