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Virginia Willis' Black Pepper Cream Cheese Biscuits

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In lieu of using White Lily Flour (a self-rising variety sold everywhere in the South, but rare in our neck of the woods), Virginia Willis suggests using half all purpose flour and half pastry flour in these biscuits to achieve the tender crumb typical in Southern biscuits.  Popular brands of pastry flour include Swans' Down, available in most markets.  Unique to these biscuits is the use of room temperature ingredients (rather than super cold fat or liquid) - I made these gems on a 90 degree day so my butter and cream cheese were essentially melted - but my biscuits........fluffy, delicious, tender and light.  Enjoy these on their own, or paired with country ham and chutney or pear mostarda (as Virginia suggests)...or go Cali style and enjoy with proscuitto and my yellow tomato jam.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups EACH all purpose flour and pastry flour

2 TB baking powder

1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter - at room temperature

8 ounces cream cheese - at room temperature

3/4 - 1 cup well shaken buttermilk, plus more for brushing the biscuits

2 tsp freshly ground pepper, plus more for sprinkling on the tops

 

INSTRUCTIONS:

1.   Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat (like Silpat)

2.   Put the flours, baking powder and sea salt in your food processor outfitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to mix.

3.  Add the butter and cream cheese and pulse to combine (dough will look like fine shreds)

4.  Add 3/4 cup buttermilk all at once and pulse a few times until dough comes away from the walls of the processor.  Add a few drops more until that happens (that might be the case when using 100% all purpose flour).

5.  Onto a well floured surface turn out the dough.  Knead with the heel of your hand 4-5 times to pull the dough together (it should be very soft).

6.  Flour a rolling pin and roll the dough (use a LIGHT TOUCH) into a 9" square by 3/4" thick.  

7.  Using a long sharp knife cut the dough into 1 1/2" squares and transfer them to your baking sheet with an offset spatula.  Space them 1/4 - 1/2" apart.  Gently nudge the scraps together, re-roll, and cut a few more biscuits.

8.  Brush the tops with some reserved buttermilk and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.

9.  Put in the oven and IMMEDIATELY TURN IT DOWN TO 450.  Bake for 7 minutes, rotate the pan, and bake another 7 minutes -  and then watch carefully every minute until tops are light golden.  The total baking time will be 14-17 minutes, depending on your oven.

10.  Remove and cool on a wire rack.

Recipe courtesy of Virginia Willis - from Secrets of the Southern Table