Saturday, December 28, 2013

Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

I riff on the basic rolled biscuit recipe in The Joy of Cooking and my gravy is very simple.

4 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup cold unsalted butter (12 tablespoons or 1½ sticks)
¾ cup whole milk

Someone (Alton Brown maybe) said that Southern biscuits tend to be much lighter and fluffier than biscuits made elsewhere. Whoever it was ascribed this phenomenon to the days when flour was usually sold regionally rather than nationally. The wheat grown in the South is softer spring wheat than the harder winter wheat grown elsewhere (or at least it used to be) producing a lighter baked good.  I suspect that the preference of Southern biscuits over anything else is just stereotype at this point, but I'm a Yankee so what do I know?

I use King Arthur unbleached white flour (when I bake with wheat). I stir the flour in the canister before measuring, then run it through a sifter to add some air. I use a pinch more baking soda than the recipe calls for, and toss it in the sifter with the flour, so it all gets well mixed and aerated.

For fat, I use cold butter (frozen works amazing but I never have any in the freezer) and GRATE it into the flour with a large grater. Mix the grated butter into the flour with a fork until the pieces are well separated and coated with flour.

Add the milk, I use whole milk, the more fat the better! Stir just until everything is wet. Then knead in the bowl, just until it all comes together and the dough will pick up all the flour and bits on the bottom of the bowl. Do NOT over knead.

Roll out to an inch thick (much thicker than The Joy says) and cut with a big ol' biscuit cutter. Mine is probably three inches across. I only get five biscuits out of a single recipe—not the twenty, two-inch ones The Joy says this will produce.

Bake in a very hot oven (450F) for 10-13 minutes or until golden and crusty.

My gravy recipe is not much of a recipe because I never measure anything that goes into it.  Brown some ground sausage in a skillet.  Sprinkle the meat with a few spoonsful of flour.  Stir to coat and break up any clumps of meat or flour.  When the meat is cooked through, add milk a bit at a time.  Stir and let it thicken from the flour as it gets hot.  Continue to add milk in bits until the gravy is no longer too thick.  Season with fresh ground pepper and salt (if needed).

To plate, split biscuits, spoon the sausage gravy over the bottom halves of the biscuits, top with the upper halves. Serve with strong black coffee, American style.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Caramel Popcorn

Adapted from ImaLazyMom.

I used 2/3 C popcorn kernels, popped with as little oil as I could.

For the caramel, I used 1/2 C butter, 2/3 C evaporated cane juice, 1/3 C coconut sugar, 1/3 C honey, not nearly enough salt, a splash of vanilla and 1/2 t baking soda. 

Melt ingredients except baking soda and vanilla in a big pot--my big soup pot, it hardly covered the bottom to begin with but you need that much room to coat the popcorn--when it comes to a heavy boil, quit stirring, and boil (medium heat) without stirring for 5 minutes (could have gone just a bit longer), the syrup should start turning a darker color but don't burn it.

The boiling is key to a crunch rather than sticky, rip-out-your-dental-work final product.

Add the soda and vanilla and mix briskly.  It will get very foamy.  Add popcorn quickly and toss to coat.  Pour out onto parchment paper and cool.  Break into bits. 

Next time I will try maple syrup rather than honey and/or some darker sugars.  Or some lighter sugars and different flavoring.  Or maybe a bit of chile pepper!  Love me some heat with my sweets.  I might also add some roasted nuts with the popcorn before coating with caramel.

Grain-free, 5-Minute, Spicy Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Orange Sauce

Orange Sugar:

The zest of one medium orange (or a couple small tangerines)
4-6+ T granulated sugar (or evaporated cane juice)
Grind together in a coffee mill or small food processor. The wetness of the zest will make it pasty. If you want it more granular like sugar, add more sugar, but it will dilute the orange flavor some.


1 T coconut flour
2 T cocoa powder
4+ T sugar or evaporated cane juice (or sweeten to taste with preferred sweetener)
1/4 t baking powder
pinch salt
1 t cinnamon
pinch cayenne powder (to taste)

Mix dry ingredients well and add:
1 egg
1 T oil (can be omitted if you use high fat milk, or makes a denser moister cake if included)
3 T milk (non-dairy, whole milk, I like half-and-half)
1/2 t vanilla extract

Combine until thoroughly blended. Microwave for three minutes. Tip out of bowl onto plate. Let cool while finishing sauce.

Chocolate Orange Sauce:

2 T cocoa
4 T orange sugar paste (or to taste)
1/4 t cinnamon
optional tiny dusting of cayenne
2 T half-and-half (or 1 T low-fat dairy alternative and 1 T oil)

Melt in tiny saucepan (I used a metal one cup measuring cup) over medium-low heat until glossy and smooth. Pour over cake. Dust with cinnamon.