the moveable feasts

James Beard’s Cream Biscuits

with 17 comments

cream biscuits

The past couple years, I’ve tried to usher a new tradition in with my family’s usual habits around the holidays. Now that the rest of my three siblings and I don’t wake up before 7 am on Christmas morning anymore, I’ve taken to waking up about twenty minutes earlier than everyone else to make a quick batch of cream biscuits. Once they are freshly baked, we spread the biscuits out on the coffee table along with butter and some jam, and spend a happy Christmas moment in front of the tree and presents and stuffed stockings. Only after we feel we’ve had our fill of breakfast indulgence do we then proceed to calmly exchange gifts with one another. It’s funny how as we’ve grown older it’s not really about the presents anymore.

cream, flour, baking powder

I don’t feel any longing to go back to the days where all I anticipated were the mounds of presents on Christmas morning, but I do have a sort of nostalgia for the days during Christmas break back in that era of elementary and middle school where I would wake up early in the cold morning and find my sisters and brother already playing Zelda (ocarina of time, of course) of Sims or some such other video game of my generation. Feeling a little disappointed that they beat me to the game, I would cry that they would have to let me play in approximately one hour—that was the time limit my mom forced us to abide by when we all wanted to play the same game.

buttered, best

Luckily enough, I came out into the kitchen a couple of days before Christmas this year to find my now 24-year-old brother (who is an engineer) installing and playing SimCoaster on an old laptop. (I guess now would be an okay time to admit that just last night I spent a good hour or two on that SimCoaster thing. What? I’m graduating college in a semester?) Maybe the good things about family and being together never change—we’re all kids when we’re home, whether we’re not crazy about presents anymore or not. Still kids, with more mature tastes and an appetite for cream biscuits and jam over hungerly grabbing for our weighty stockings. I’ll take it.

cream biscuits
i like mine with strawberry jam

Anyway, these biscuits are pretty perfect. They are as simple as can be: you add cream to a flour mixture, roll it out, cut out little biscuit shapes, brush a little butter on them, and bake them. They are most definitely simple enough to make Christmas morning, or really any morning at all. My poor brother has a birthday only three days after Christmas, and that morning I woke up just before him and, at the urging of my mother, made an impromptu batch of them to serve as his birthday breakfast (he really, really likes these biscuits). If you’ve got cream in the fridge, you’re good to go.

It’s important to draw a distinction about these biscuits, though. As Deb clearly states, these are not the sturdy buttermilk kind that you slather with pork sausage gravy or use to eat alongside some hearty stew or chili, but rather the kind you delicately eat with butter and jam. If I were being honest with you, this is my favorite type of biscuit, but I can so confidently assert that only because my sweet tooth tends to have more influence over my will than, say, my … savory tooth. (Really, why do we get a sweet tooth but not a savory one?) But I am that sure anyone would love to wake up to these, any morning of the year, but especially during the holidays.

christmas morning

Cream Biscuits
Adapted from James Beard’s Beard on Bread (found via Smitten Kitchen first)
Makes roughly 12 biscuits

I’ve made these using cutter-rounds ranging from a little less than 2 inches to almost 3 1/2. I like the smaller size, but I think that’s a personal preference. Whatever size you use, trust your instincts on taking them out rather than relying on a set time. If they’re about 2 inches, they might need no more than 9 or 10 minutes. If larger than 3 inches, they might take as long as 14 minutes. 

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a medium-large bowl to combine. Add the cream and gently fold it in until it’s a cohesive mass. Do not over-stir; if the mixture is looking dry or unmanageable add a tablespoon or two more of cream.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and, using your hands, begin pressing it together and out to form a thick rectangle. Gently fold over one half of the dough onto itself—this will create the layer in the middle of the biscuits. Re-pat it down to the thickness of about 3/4 of an inch. Using about a 2 1/2-inch diameter cutter, cut out the dough into rounds. Gently gather up remaining scraps to make more rounds. Brush the tops of the biscuits liberally with the melted butter, and before putting them on the prepared baking sheet, brush a bit of butter directly on the parchment where the biscuits will be set down.

Bake until the tops of the biscuits are just golden, about 10 to 13 minutes. Serve warm, with butter and jam.

Written by Amy

December 30, 2012 at 10:21 am

Posted in Breads, Breakfast

Tagged with , ,

17 Responses

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  1. I would wake up to these, I would go to sleep to these…I would eat them whenever, wherever. They look delicious! Nothing beats a tender biscuit topped with butter and jam.


    December 30, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    • Haha! I agree completely with you Amanda. :)


      December 30, 2012 at 10:49 pm

  2. Smitten Kitchen sifted her flour. You made no mention of sifting. Any particular reason? Those do look awesome!


    December 30, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    • Whisking the ingredients together tends to have the same effect as sifting (as long as you’re not working with ingredients that need de-clumping, like cocoa powder). I’m pretty lazy so I just whisk the dry ingredients together—though you could certainly sift them if you’d like. Maybe I should try that myself once to see if I notice a difference.


      December 30, 2012 at 10:46 pm

  3. I really love the look of these biscuits, I might have to invite a few friends over for an afternoon tea and some biscuits and scones to have a reason to make them. And you know, I just love the concept of an afternoon tea.
    I found that as we all got older the joy of recieving gifts changed into the joy of giving gifts. My littlest brother made the change this year I’d say, and exchanging gifts got even lovelier, I’d say.
    I don’t know what happened to your last posts in my google reader, but the only showed up last night, together with this post. And I have been patiently waiting for a post of you and did not realize that there were two new ones up already. The far breton you made looks great, I really wish to go back to Brittany right now. And before I forget it, I have a few French magazines at home that I brought home from my trips to France – I could send them to you if you want them.


    December 31, 2012 at 12:48 am

    • Ah thanks for your nice comment, Lena. Having these for some afternoon tea sounds so nice (and I love the idea of it, too). I can’t believe you’ve gone to Brittany! I have a friend who lives there, so I’m not sure why I haven’t used that as an excuse to go there and try some authentic far breton. And if you’re sure you are finished reading and looking over those magazines, I would love to take a look at them! That’s so awesome, thank you! Let me know if you’d like my mailing address and I can email it to you. :)


      December 31, 2012 at 11:14 am

  4. I’m obsessed with trying pretty much every yummy-sounding biscuit recipe I come across. This will, no question, be my next! Sound so good, and so easy! Only thing – going to have to make them for a crowd, or I am quite certain I will eat them all by myself…

    Little Kitchie

    December 31, 2012 at 6:16 am

    • Haha, I’ve been seeing all the biscuits you’ve been posting on your blog! I don’t think I could ever get tired of them… I think I need to start and try some variations though, like the ones you feature.


      December 31, 2012 at 11:15 am

  5. Amy these look like heaven! I’m so all about a perfect biscuit with a little bit of jam. It’s the best. That’s a great Christmas tradition!

    If you ever get down to Portland, you must try Pine State Biscuits. Talk about biscuit overload.


    December 31, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    • I go to school in the Portland area-ish, and I get to Portland every once in awhile. I’ve heard about Pine State Biscuits!! I’m for sure going to go next time I’m in the area.


      December 31, 2012 at 8:10 pm

  6. YUM!!!!!! These look amazing! Love Ty’s Christmas tradition… May just have to try it myself! ~

    Nerd With Taste

    January 1, 2013 at 8:01 am

  7. Whenever I see the word ‘biscuits’, I think of cookies as that’s what they are in the UK. But these look every bit as delicious as any cookie and a recipe I’d love to try – I imagine a bit like what we call scones over here?


    January 1, 2013 at 9:55 am

    • Haha and it’s the exact same for me but opposite every time I see “biscuit” on your blog! I think I’m getting the hang out it now though. And yes, very much like scones, but maybe lighter? I don’t know exactly, but I’m sure that’s a reasonable comparison.


      January 1, 2013 at 11:08 am

  8. These look wonderful! They remind me a lot of the biscuits my dad used to make every Saturday morning when I was growing up.


    January 3, 2013 at 4:52 am

  9. I made these back when Deb first posted them and they are so amazing! I can’t believe I’d forgotten about them!

  10. I made these this morning. They really came together quickly. I was pleased. Perfect with a good slathering of lemon curd.


    February 10, 2013 at 8:22 am

    • Glad to hear it, Katie. Lemon curd… that sounds so good!


      February 10, 2013 at 10:35 am

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