Ask anyone from the Southern United States to try a biscuit baked anywhere north of Tennessee and you’ll likely hear something along the lines of, “Bless your heart, but I’ll pass.” That’s because Southerners are picky when it comes to the popular breakfast staple — and they have the science to back them up, too.
Amanda Mull from The Atlantic, who grew up eating fresh biscuits in Georgia, was inspired to dive into what makes southern biscuits so special after failing to replicate her family’s recipe while living in New York. Despite following each step to the letter and experimenting with expensive buttermilk options, Mull was constantly left wondering why she couldn’t reproduce the same fluffy, crumbly biscuits from her youth. After several attempts, she finally learned there was one thing she’d overlooked: the flour.
As it turns out, not all “all-purpose” flours are made equal. Bon Appétit explains how it boils down to a difference in protein levels between hard and soft flour: Hard flour, which is more common in the North, contains more protein than soft flour, which is more difficult to find outside of the South. Mull spoke with a retired food scientist from the University of Georgia who confirmed that the extra protein makes the gluten stronger and more gum-like when mixed with water, resulting in a more dense biscuit. Basically, someone from the South is more likely to grab soft flour from their grocery store without even trying or thinking about it, but those in the North have to look a little harder.
Mull cites White Lily brand flour as the most beloved version of soft flour for Southern cooks. Although the bags sell for just a few bucks in stores down South, Northern buyers will have to be willing to pay $16 for a delivery that could take up to two weeks to arrive. When in stock, the combo pack allows you to choose a mix of four items including all-purpose, self-rising, and cornmeal mixes. That said, biscuit lovers in the North who have plans to visit the South any time soon might want to consider leaving extra space in their luggage to bring back plenty of the good stuff.