When I visited Maine Pantry shop downtown Portland, I picked up a canister of Bakewell Cream, a Maine stalwart product since the 40’s. I was only vaguely familiar Bakewell Cream and was curious. I know most people decide what they want to cook and then buy the ingredients, I sometimes BUY the ingredient and then figure out what to do with it.

From Cook’s Illustrated: “Bakewell Cream was invented during World War II, when cream of tartar and baking powder were in short supply. The product contains no dairy: The “cream” in its name refers to its use in traditional Maine cream biscuits. It’s actually a mixture of sodium pyrophosphate, a mineral acid, and cornstarch, added to prevent moisture absorption. It can be substituted for cream of tartar or combined in a 2:1 ratio with baking soda as a replacement for baking powder. “

The traditional recipe for biscuits using sodium pyrophosphate instead of cream of tartar appears on the King Arthur Flour website. And I am sure is all well and good, but it starts with 4 cups of flour, which would make way more biscuits than I can consume in well…a very long time. So I cut the recipe into my standard 1 cup of flour proportion. And I am very impressed with the results.

I made two batches, 1 plain and 1 cheddar cheese. For the plain batch they were cut smaller with a glass, and yielded 5 biscuits, the cheese biscuits I used a 3 inch biscuit cutter and got exactly 4. I also cheated and added a little bit of soft butter on top of the 2 tbls of cold butter. I couldn’t get a uniform crumbly texture with just 2 tbls to 1 cup of flour. So I changed MY recipe to 3 tbls. I also want to use the biscuits with strawberries, so I put a smidgen of sugar in the ‘plain’ ones. For the Cheddar Cheese biscuits, I should have cut back on even the 1/4 tsp salt as this cheese was a little strong.

The traditional recipe also instructs the oven to preheat to 475 and the bake time being 5 minutes ON and 5 minutes OFF. However my oven goes from 450 to Broil. So I just baked them at the traditional 10-12 minutes and let them rest in the oven 5 minutes and they came out perfectly. In 1940s using an oven which you can run that hot for that long will get you an even bake, but unless you get the biscuits to dry out completely inside, they will be gummy. So longer is better than shorter.

Bakewell Cream Biscuits for one.

1 cups AP Flour
1 tsp Bakewell Cream
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tbls cold butter
1/4 cups + 2 tbls cold milk

Preheat the oven to 450
Use greased sheet, airbake, parchment or baking sheet.
Whisk the dry ingredients together.
Work in the butter until crumbly.
Add the milk, stirring till everything is moistened.
As with other biscuits, don't overwork.
Turn out onto a work surface.
Pat to ¾" thick, cut biscuits.
Bake at 450 10-12 minutes, then turn off oven and let rest 5 mins.
For Cheddar Cheese:
use 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese and cut back on the salt.

The results are indeed taller than Baking Powder biscuits. though the chemical reaction starts in the bowl and as long as you don’t roll the air out or overwork the dough, it should stay tall. The high temp bake reminds of a good flaky pastry crust; bake it fast and hot before it melts. I will definitely be cooking these again, but I also picked up Bakewell’s Baking Powder (made with Bakewell Cream and Baking Soda) which should be a good 1:1 replacement for other Baking powders.