Tuesday January 15, 2013 | 08:51 PM

That southern soft-wheat flours have garnered attention lately from bakers in other regions, it’s also interesting that the highly regarded northern mill, King Arthur Flour, has recently entered the marketplace with a self-rising  flour made from 100 percent soft-wheat.

The one drawback to pure soft wheat flour, however, is that it can’t be used in recipes that call for standard all-purpose without adapting it.  White Lily’s all-purpose, for instance, must be changed because it’s so light.  They recommend adding 2 tablespoons more flour per cup of all-purpose called for in a recipe.

That’s why I like Southern Biscuit. because it can be used in all baking recipes as is.  Their all-purpose soft flour is mixed with a small amount of hard wheat, eliminating the need to change the proportions.

This week I wanted to try self-rising flour for my biscuits to see the difference in flavor, rise and texture compared to adding the leavening and salt independently to regular southern all purpose.   (To make your own self-rising if called for in a recipe add 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and l teaspoon salt per cup of flour.)

The dough is ready to be rolled and cut into biscuits

A word about leavening agents:  Many brands have aluminum in the mix, which imparts a metallic taste.  For several years I’ve been making my own baking powder by mixing together Maine’s inimitable Bakewell Cream with baking soda in a 2 to 1 ratio respectively.  I prepare it in small batches with 8 tablespoons Bakewell to 4 tablespoons baking soda.  Whisk or sift it together and store it in an airtight container or jar.   The biscuits rise high and flavor is unaffected.

For this week's biscuit trials,I had good resuls using Southern Biscuit's self-rising flour, following their recipes printed on the back of the package. 

One tip in making the dough is that you might have to alter slightly the amount of liquid that’s specified in a recipe.  Instead, use the measurement as a guide rather than an absolute.  The dough should generally be just moist enough to form into a mass easily without residual crumbs.  Too dry and the biscuits are hard and crumbly. Too much liquid and the biscuits lack texture. Add the liquid gradually, either decreasing or increasing the amount as needed.   

As for the choice of fat, butter, lard or shortening are interchangeable.  I prefer pure leaf lard, which I buy already rendered from Rosemont Market on Brighten Avenue.

Here are two Southern Biscuit recipes, one for buttermilk biscuits and the other that uses heavy cream instead of any fat.  It’s a very  flakey, soft rich biscuit. By adding a touch more sugar it would be ideal for summer berry shortcakes.

Buttermilk Biscuits (adapted from Southern Biscuit)

Servings: 10 to12 biscuits

2 cups self-rising southern-style  flour
1/4 cup (2 ounces) rendered leaf lard, butter or shortening
1 teaspoon sugar
2/3 to 3/4 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Coat an 8-inch low-sided cake or pie pan lightly with nonstick spray.
Combine flour and sugar in a large bowl. Cut the lard (or other fat) using a pastry cutter or rubbing together with  thumb and forefinger until pieces are the size of peas. Add the buttermilk and stir slightly until the flour is moistened and easily holds together.  Do not over mix.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface.  Shape the dough into a ball using lightly floured hands, handling the dough as little as possible.  Press gently to flatten slightly and fold in half.  Repeat 3 times.  Roll out to 1 /2 to 3/4 inch thickness and cut using a 2- or 3-inch well floured biscuit cutter and place in the prepared pan.

Bake for 10 to 14 minutes or until lightly browned.  Brush with the melted butter.

Cream biscuits.  Follow the recipe for buttermilk biscuits, omitting the fat and buttermilk.  Instead, stir  1 cup heavy cream into the flour and continue in the same fashion as described above. 

Cream biscuits ready for butter and strawberry jam

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John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.

In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.

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