Fluffy biscuits with susage gravy

by Zac on December 20, 2011

I did not realize until recently that everyone did not grow up eating biscuits and gravy. During this fall farm stay season, I was told on multiple occasions that my biscuits and gravy where the first that a guest had ever had. Both my Mom and Grandmother made a point of making biscuits and gravy whenever time permitted. My Grandmother taught me to make biscuits from scratch and I have been using her recipe for biscuits and gravy ever since.

During the recent photo shoot a picture leaked of some biscuits and gravy, and Susan has been getting requests for the recipe. So this is an unabridged, full fat content, belly filling celebration of southern-style biscuits and gravy. I am very serious about biscuits and gravy,  so I have attempted to leave nothing out (that’s code for: very long post coming up).

The first step is to cut your butter into even small pieces. This will help later when you are cutting the butter into the flour mixture.

Next add the shortening. It is important to use at least two different fats inside of the biscuit because they will melt at two different temperatures, causing the biscuit lift and become extra fluffy. Butter begins to melt at 95 °F and shortening 117 °F.

Once you prepare the butter and shortening, put the bowl into the freezer. You need the fats in your biscuit to be cold when you cut them into the flour so that they form flaky layers instead of melting into the flour. The butter and shortening (for now on referred to as “the lipids”)  should be in the freezer at least 30 minutes but this is also a step you can do the night before you want biscuits.

The next step is to combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. At this point you can whisk it all together to combine the dry ingredients. I prefer to sift the dry ingredients because it removes any lumps from the flour and better incorporates the baking powder, which is the only leavening beyond the lifting power of melting lipids.

I also like sifting flour this time of year because it remind me of a winter wonderland.

Once the flour is sifted, I put it into a bowl and put the bowl into the freezer until the the lipids are ready. This helps keep the lipids cool while you are cutting them into the flour.

After the fats have fully cooled add them to the cool flour mixture. Once they are combined, you have to start acting quickly because the lipids will begin to warm up and melt.

Cut the lipids into the flour until the larges pieces are about peas size and are evenly distributed

This final step is to add the liquid ingredients. This is another opportunity to add flavor and more lipids to the biscuit. I love to use buttermilk, but often find that I do not have buttermilk when I want to make biscuits. A great solution is to keep powdered buttermilk culture on hand. You can add the buttermilk culture to milk to make buttermilk for recipes. This is great because it saves a trip to the store, and removes the problem of what to do with the leftover buttermilk. To add more lipids at this point, I like to use whole milk plus some heavy cream. Make certain to keep your buttermilk mixture in the freezer until you add it to the flour,  so that it does not melt the butter and shortening that you just spent so much time cutting into the flour. Pour the buttermilk into a well in the middle of the flour. Mix the buttermilk in just enough so that the dough begins to come together.

Once the milk is incorporated, dump the mixture onto a surface that you can kneed the dough on. You only need to kneed the dough enough to form it into loaf.

Form the dough loaf  into an even sheet that is about 1/2″ thick.

The next step is to cut out the biscuits. It is important to use a biscuit cutter that is sharp. You want the biscuit cutter to cut through the dough and not the crimp the edges. (I actually have a special biscuit cutter that I keep sharp using a sharpening steel but I understand that this might be a bit excessive.) If the dough is crimped, the biscuits will only rise in the middle and not make an even, fluffy biscuit. Take the biscuit cutter and press straight down and then remove the biscuit. Do not twist the biscuit cutter because this can also crimp the edges of the biscuit.

You can see the layers of lipids and flour. Once you cut all of the biscuits from the  dough sheet, you can re-knead the dough into a new sheet. The first biscuits you cut will always be the best, because the more you kneed the dough the less it will rise. But it’s always worth it to cut as many biscuits are possible.

When you place the biscuits on the sheet, you want their edges to be touching because, as they rise, the biscuits will help support each other. The final step before putting them in the oven is to brush them with heavy cream to help make a crisp golden top.

Preheat the oven to 450 °F, put the biscuits in the oven, and allow them to bake at this temperature for 5 minutes, or until the biscuits begin to rise. Then reduce the temperature to 400 °F for 10 more minutes or until the top of the biscuits are golden brown.

The first cut biscuits are on the right of the above picture and  second and third cuts are on the left.

You can see as the rise that the first cut biscuits are even and taller, while the second and third cut biscuits are less even.

Once removed from the oven, the biscuits are ready for some gravy. You can see that the biscuits on the right (the first cuts) really did turn out looking the nicest but the ones on the left taste just as good.

Now all that the biscuit is missing is heaping portion of sausage gravy. You can make the gravy while the biscuits are in the oven. This way you have fresh hot biscuits and gravy at the exact same time.

Start by browning the sausage in a large cast iron skillet. Start the sausage in a cold skillet and flatten it into a sheet. Do not turn or break up the sausage until it has formed a crisp bottom. It is best to have a silky smooth gravy with crunchy sausage bits.

Once the sausage has browned well you can easily break the sausage into bit size bits. Continue browning until all sides of the sausage are crisp.

Once the sausage is crisp check the pan for the amount of fat rendered. There should be about 2 tablespoons of rendered fat. If there is not you can add shortening until you have enough fat in the pan. Now for the thickening, I prefer flour for thickening because I think the flavor cooks out to be smoother.

At this point if you would like to add extra spices to the gravy you can. I like my gravy to be extra spicy so I add crushed red chili peppers and then add sage to help balance the spice.

Once you add the flour and spices you can begin to stir them in with the sausage and rendered fat.

Cook the flour in with the sausage until in begins to bubble rapidly. Then lower the heat and continue to cook for 5 minutes. This is an important step to prevent the gravy from tasting like flour and also allow the flour to brown a little which adds a nice depth of flavor.

Once the flour has cooked you can add the milk. Add the milk slowly while stirring the sausage and bring the skillet back up to medium heat.

Stop stirring once the milk, sausage and, flour have combined.  Over-stirring can cause your gravy to become too thick.

Once the gravy begins to bubble and visibly thicken, remove it from the heat. The heat of the cast iron skillet will keep it warm and it will continue to thicken. Before serving make sure to stir the gravy just enough to make it even.

If you have timed everything right your gravy and biscuits will be done at exactly the same time. Open up a steaming fluffy biscuit and put enough gravy on top to cover the top with a little running over the edge. One biscuit with gravy will leave you feeling really full and two biscuits with gravy will surely put you back to sleep. As I said before I am very serious about biscuits and gravy and love to make biscuits from scratch. I feel that nothing beats a warm biscuit with rich hot gravy on a cold winter morning.

 

Recipe

Biscuit:

8 tablespoons butter

5 tablespoons shortening

3 1/2 cups flour

2 tablespoons baking powder

2 teaspoons salt

1 1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon buttermilk culture

Sausage Gravy:

1 lb breakfast sausage

2 tablesp0ons of flour

1 tablespoon crushed pepper (optional)

1 teaspoon sage (optional)

2 cup milk

Biscuit:

Chop 8 table spoons of butter into pea size pieces and add 5 table spoons of shortening. Place the butter and shortening into the freezer for at least 30 minutes.  Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in bowl and then sift. Place flour mixture in freezer until time to remove butter. Meanwhile mix milk, heavy cream and buttermilk culture. Remove butter once frozen and combine with flour mixture. Using a pastry cutter or two forks combine butter and shortening with flour mixture. Once butter shortening and flour are combined create well in the center and pour the milk mixture. Stir together until just combined.  Flip onto a surface to kneed together until it forms a loaf that holds together (kneed 3-4 times). Flatten the loaf into a sheet 1/2″ thick and cut biscuits. Re-kneed leftover dough to form more biscuits. Place of a cookie sheet. Brush the tops with heavy cream. Place into a pre-heated 450 degree over for 5 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 400 for 10 minutes or until tops are golden brown.

Gravy:

Add 1 lb of breakfast sausage to a cool cast iron skillet. Bring temperature to medium high and cook until bottom in crispy and brown. Break sausage into bit size pieces and continue to brown. Once all pieces are crispy add flour and then crushed red pepper and sage (if desired). Stir to combine and cook at medium high until flour and sausage begin to sizzle. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook for five minutes. Then while continuously stirring add milk and then allow to rest on low. Once the gravy begins to bubble stir once or twice more and then serve. If the gravy over thickens you can add milk at 1 tablespoon increments to thin the gravy.

{ 35 comments }

1 Diane December 20, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Zac – thanks for sharing the true art of biscuit and gravy making!

2 Vicki December 20, 2011 at 5:43 pm

Zac….looks delicious!

3 Sarah V. December 20, 2011 at 5:50 pm

Wow… this is SO neat! I’m Canadian, and I’ve vaguely heard of biscuits and gravy but I’ve never eaten it, and certainly no one in my family ever made it. Thanks for sharing such a cool recipe! :)

4 mom December 20, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Zac….I am remembering the time when you were three years old and tried to make milky quartz rocks by putting milk and gravel from the driveway into a coke bottle and leaving it in the refrigerator until you discovered that your hypothesis was false. A true scientist! We will let you make biscuits and gravy for us over the holiday…and go for a long walk afterwards! ….Mom

5 Barbara S. December 20, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Oh my, thank you for sharing that recipe.
Also for sharing the info that there is buttermilk culture you can purchase to make buttermilk. Would I have to go to a specialty store to find this though?

6 Susan December 20, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Barbara, you can get it at fancier grocery stores. I’ve inserted a link for it on Amazon but they have it bundle in a three pack. You can probably find it in smaller quantity online for less, although it keeps forever.

7 Diane December 20, 2011 at 6:16 pm

my mouth is watering! i am adding the ingredients for this to the ones i noted from susan’s chicken soup. my family is going to love them both!

8 Anna December 20, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Wow Zac. Wonderful.

9 chackler December 20, 2011 at 6:45 pm

You will have to pardon me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard.

10 Louise December 20, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Zac thank you thank you! Where have you been all my life!!! Delish and my hips will meet you before i do!!!

11 Kristen December 20, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Thanks for the awesome tutorial Zac! I spent enough time in the South to have developed a huge fondness for biscuits and gravy, but I’ve never been able to replicate it successfully. I think you’ve shown me where I’ve gone wrong and I’m going to defrost some sausage this weekend and try it! I even have cultured buttermilk powder in my pantry, who’d a thunk it?

This may be dangerous information :)

12 Catherine December 20, 2011 at 7:15 pm

{{arteries hardening}} and so worth it!

13 turtle December 20, 2011 at 7:23 pm

so…. what time can we be over for this wonderful comfort food?? :)

14 Linda S. December 20, 2011 at 7:38 pm

Oh my. I hope you guys keep 911 on your speed dial!

15 Beverly aka bik December 20, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Zac, Thank you for your biscuit-and-gravy-making lesson. I see your Mom has responded. She is one lucky lady to have a son as down-to-earth as you are. Congratulations, Mom, you did a great job!

Happy holidays.

16 flarkin December 20, 2011 at 8:50 pm

Zac, I love this post and your techincal approach to making biscuits. You have explained very well the reasons for your precise approach. Well done!

Zac’s Mom, as a mother raising two young boys, I can only hope my sons will turn out to be half has talented as Zac is in the kitchen. You did good, lady!

17 Mary Stock December 20, 2011 at 9:07 pm

This may just become another once a year treat! Thanks for the tutorial…it looks fabulous!

18 farmer December 20, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Being from Nova Scotia we do not eat this but watching food network I have seen it made,it always looks so yummy!!
Why don’t we eat this?
I must make it, thanks for the delicious looking recipe :)

19 Christina Del Villar December 20, 2011 at 11:38 pm

Oh boy, those look amazing. I might have to make them for Christmas. Thanks Zac!

20 Tiz December 21, 2011 at 6:03 am

Ok, so an American biscuit is an Australian scone???? I have always wondered.

But we don’t eat them with gravy, we eat them with strawberry jam and fresh whipped cream (and everyone knows the best scones are made by the Country Womens Association ;) )
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scone_%28bread%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Country_Women%27s_Association

21 Susan December 21, 2011 at 10:59 am

Tiz, they are like a scone only not sweet at all and moister.

22 Lisa Stockebrand (lasdcm) December 21, 2011 at 7:11 am

yummmmmmmm! Here in Philly we have frenchfries and gravy – best diner food!

23 Genevieve December 21, 2011 at 7:49 am

Zac, you are a gracious person to share your recipe. I know what to make on Christmas this year.

What do you think of square biscuits. They would look wrong but you could probably get all first cuts…

24 Zac December 21, 2011 at 8:00 am

Genevieve, I would do square biscuits if I could find a square biscuit cutter that was sharp and did not crimp the edges. One of my favorite Southern style restaurants has square biscuits and I would love to be more like them.

25 Melanie Sherman December 21, 2011 at 8:23 am

WOW, something I learned to admire since living in the US – unfortunately I only spent one year in the South, but they had their biscuits and gravy down to a T. Not so much here in the Midwest. So thanks for the recipe! I will definitely try it!!

26 Krysta December 21, 2011 at 9:43 am

Zac- You can send me your 3rd cuts anytime. ; ) They all look fabulous. So good, (and detailed) I may make these for my brother Christmas morning. He is a real biscuits and gravy afficianado, yet no one in my family makes them at home.

27 Lotsofhermies on Rav December 21, 2011 at 10:30 am

Thanks so much for the tutorial. We love biscuits and gravy and eat it for dinner a lot!I can’t get my biscuits to rise like yours so this is great my family will love it.

28 herbi December 21, 2011 at 12:13 pm

My 17 yr old has been obsessed with this dish. She will LOVE having another recipe to try. I never grew up eating it, but it is on the menus here in MN. Hey Canadians, how about pasties and gravy? When I used to cook at a cafe’, those even further North than I would order pasties with gravy(we just use ketchup here).
I think I may whip up some biscuits. Sounds good today (and PS my black cake turned out fine-not gonna frost it either-good stuff!)

29 Sheila December 21, 2011 at 12:52 pm

S O D E L I C I O U S !

30 Diane Shepherd-In-Waiting December 21, 2011 at 3:10 pm

I gotta tell you there is nothing better than getting up before dawn cracks, doing all the chores that require doing for the grrrranimals & THEN sitting down to this breakfast! All us otherwise polite & well-behaved shepherds-in-waiting @ Shepherd School licked our plates clean

31 Christine December 22, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Two questions: Can I use soured milk like I normally do when I don’t have buttermilk? And can I just cut the fat in with my fingers like for regular biscuits or pie crusts? I don’t want to get this wrong.

32 Zac December 22, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Christine, I use a pastry cutter or fork because the heat from you hands melt the butter which will cause your biscuits or pie crust to be less flaky. As for using soured milk, I still will prefer buttermilk (or buttermilk culture) because it has more complex flavors because of the bacteria creating lactic acid which then creates the buttermilk.

33 fran December 22, 2011 at 10:22 pm

Zac, you will never want for a home, I think there are lots of us who would adopt you if we thought you would agree!! Hey everyone, don’t forget about King Arthur’s flour. There is a web site, however, I get there paper catalog and spend a ton o’ money in a wish list every time. I bet there would be the buttermilk culture on their site!! One of these days I will try this. Love me some biscuits but never ventured into the gravy department. Maybe it’s time I did. Thanks much for all the wisdom and the recipe!

34 fran December 23, 2011 at 6:32 am

Zac, since sharp edges are the prerequisite for cutting biscuits, if you want square biscuits, can’t you just use a knife? Or is the blade too wide? What about the dental floss trick? (I don’t do a lot of baking but I do do a lot of using things in an unconventional way… I figure you have more dental floss laying around then piano wire but knowing your household…)

35 Mary December 27, 2011 at 7:57 pm

Zac, this is a amazing recipe!!!! Thanks so much for sharing! I was a hero today and there will probably be fights over the leftovers tomorrow. I found the buttermilk culture which works great, and I had to substitute whole milk and half and half as I made these away from my home kitchen and the market only had those things. But the biscuit revelation was still the same! A thousand thanks.

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