White Lily My Way: Lesley Riley from Mama’s Biscuits
I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t baking and cooking. I grew up in Amish country and my grandma’s house was right down the street. She watched us kids everyday and had a big garden—so, in the summer we would always eat from that. We had fresh good food, always.
Grandma was the one who really started my love for baking. She would always write recipes down in a little book, and when she died, that book was the first thing I asked for. It is amazing, it has recipes and notes in it about dandelion wine and possum stew and all kinds of baked goods, going all the way back to the 1800s, from my grandma’s mom and her grandmother, too. It’s a piece of history. One of my favorite recipes is my her apple dumplings, which are a little unusual, with diced apples rolled like a cinnamon roll. In fact, when I started making my apple pear biscuits, the first thing my cousin said was that they reminded her of my grandma’s dumplings.
In my 30s, I moved to North Carolina and opened a restaurant—and I made everything in house, right down to the butter for the bread. I learned from all the older Southern ladies that I had to use White Lily for my biscuits—and they were right! It really does make a world of difference. When the restaurant ended, I kept on baking and making big feasts for family and got more serious about biscuits—my friends started calling me “Ma Biscuit” and kept telling me to do something with them. So, I started a social media page and started playing around with different flavors in the kitchen.
After a while I was making so many biscuits, I used to order White Lily directly from the mill and have it shipped to my house—because there’s no way to make a good biscuit without it. I’ve tried the competitors and there’s no comparison. Nowadays, I probably go through 10,000 lbs of flour in a month!
My first year doing Mama’s Biscuits, I was determined to make 50 different flavors—and I’ve tried to keep up that creativity ever since. I always say we like to encourage people to “find their flavor.” It’s all personal! But one variety that is always a hit is our S’mores biscuit. They’re just how they sound: there are these big milk chocolate chips, graham crackers, and marshmallow stirred into the dry biscuit base. I like to keep a few big chunks of graham cracker in there so you get some crunch, and when you take it out of the oven the marshmallows are all oozy gooey. But we don’t stop there—we top them with a piece of chocolate and marshmallow and torch them! Biscuits are just such a great blank canvas.”