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.

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