White Lily My Way: Erika Council of Bomb Biscuit Company
I grew up in North Carolina, and for decades my father’s side of the family has owned a soul food-style meat-and-three restaurant—Mama Dip’s in Chapel Hill. It’s the kind of place where you get a basket of biscuits and cornbread with every meal. My mother’s family was from around Smithfield—real hog and tobacco country. Around there everyone uses lard and is taught to never waste anything. From them I learned things like when you boil a spent corn cob in buttermilk, it gives it a sweet flavor, and you can bake with it and make corn milk biscuits. Most of the time we just used plain old Piggly Wiggly flour—I remember my great aunt Mabel using White Lily, but it was a luxury.
I never had any plan to work in restaurants—I went to school for computer science—but obviously, biscuits were just always a part of my life. I learned how to make them just by watching. When I moved to Atlanta, I started having Sunday suppers as a way to meet people and get a little of that “small town” feel. And I always made biscuits. That was how I met Bryan Furman, from B’s Cracklin’ BBQ. He’s the one who convinced me to start doing breakfast pop ups—and Bomb Biscuits was born. For my first pop up, I made more than 1000 biscuits—more than I ever expected—and it’s been like that ever since. Now, with the pandemic, I’ve been selling delivery biscuit boxes. It’s not unusual to sell out the entire run in 30 minutes.
My recipe has evolved over time but it’s basically a simple baking powder biscuit—it’s a classic African American style and easy to scale up. I like to use a really full fat buttermilk, not the watered down stuff. Our fried chicken biscuits are the most popular, but I also do biscuits and gravy, and even an eggplant sausage biscuits that’s vegan.
White Lily flour is actually the secret ingredient for my vegan biscuits—I’ve tried all sorts of flours but it just gives the best results. It’s something about the subtle flavor and the softness of the wheat— it holds up to the almond milk and olive oil or plant butter. And the biscuits seem to reheat better, which is important for the biscuit boxes.
I honestly don’t know what it is about people and biscuits. I’ve never lived with folks who can’t make biscuits, but I guess there are a lot! But I tell everyone: you don’t need to reinvent the wheel! Go find an old community cookbook and look at the recipes. They’re simple. You don’t need butter churned from goats or fancy pastry flour. A beautiful biscuit doesn’t have to be a project.