Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/gas 6. Place 3 cups of the flour in a large bowl. Chop ½ cup of the butter into 1/4-inch pieces and add it to the flour along with the leaf lard (or additional 5 tablespoons salted butter if not using leaf lard). Use a pastry cutter to work the fat into the flour until the mixture looks like cornmeal with pieces no larger than a small pea.
Pour half of the cream into the dry ingredients, using a butter knife to gently cut it into the dough. Add more cream, 2 tablespoons at a time, until there are no more dry spots remaining (you may end up with a bit of liquid left over, depending on the humidity and the age of the flour).
Melt ¼ cup of the salted butter in a 10-inch cast-iron frying pan over low heat. Turn off the heat and set aside.
Melt the remaining ¼ cup butter in a microwave-safe bowl and set aside. Place the remaining 1/2 cup flour in a medium bowl. Break the dough into 11 or 12 golf ball-size portions, dust with flour, and gently flatten between your palms as if they were snowballs. Dip the top of each slightly flattened biscuit (mine end up in a somewhat hexagon shape) into the melted butter in the bowl and place in the frying pan. Place the biscuits close together so the sides are touching (don’t worry, they separate perfectly once they come out of the oven). If there is any melted butter left over in the bowl, drizzle it over the biscuits.
Bake until the biscuits are golden brown and nearly doubled in size, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside for 5 minutes before using a cake server to remove the biscuits from the pan (the first one is a bit tricky to unwedge, but the rest pop out easily). Serve immediately, while hot, with plenty of good butter, crème frâiche, and jam.
Variation: Biscuit Addendums: Grandma Mae’s original recipe calls for self-rising flour, but I get very close using all-purpose flour to which I add 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder and 3/4 teaspoon salt. On rare occasions when I crave a sweet biscuit, I’ll add 2 tablespoons sugar and the zest of 1 lemon to the dry ingredients. To turn the biscuits into a more savory indulgence, I add 1 teaspoon ajwain seeds (also called carom seeds) and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper to the dry ingredients. Finally, if you are using sweet butter and not salted, add an additional 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt to your dry ingredients.
Recipe courtesy of Masala Farm: Stories and Recipes from an Uncommon Life in the Country by Suvir Saran with Raquel Pelzel and Charlie Burd. Published by Chronicle Books, 2012.