White Lily My Way: Virginia Willis

It's almost embarrassing to admit, but there are of photos of me making biscuits at 3 years old--and there's probably a bag of White Lily in the background. I've cooked my entire life, and my mom and my grandma were both great cooks.

When I was younger, living and working in France, I'd have my mother mail me bags of White Lily from Georgia to France and I used to take some back in my suitcase everytime I came home. But truthfully, I think that country French cooking and country Southern cooking are actually pretty similar. Both put an emphasis on good, simple ingredients and on freshness and regionality. After all, boeuf bourguignon might sound fancy, but it's just beef stew!

I learned to make biscuits alongside my grandmother. I remember she would let me roll out the scraps and she'd cut out my tiny handprint and let me bake it. There was nothing I loved more than being in the kitchen with her.

It seems like a biscuit should be a biscuit, but there are millions of them out there. I like to say there are as many biscuit recipes as there are grandmothers! And in fact, my buttermilk biscuit recipe is a traditional one, based on the one my grandmother taught me--but it has evolved over the years. She would have used shortening or lard, but I prefer butter. And though my grandmother kneaded and rolled hers a bit more, over time I've learned to touch the dough even less. The result is super tender, almost cakey. I like them big, "cathead" style. But it's not complicated. Biscuits are the bread of my people, it's that simple. There's nothing more primal or basic than that.

Click here to find Virginia's biscuit recipe!

Baking Tip

When kneading yeast dough, coat your hands and rolling pin with flour or cooking spray. Add just enough flour to keep dough from sticking.

Baking Tip

For uniformly sized brownies, first trim off edges, then use a ruler and toothpicks as guides when cutting. For cleaner edges, freeze for 30 minutes before cutting.