Saturday, March 1, 2008

Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

Biscuits and Sausage GravyWe interrupt our regularly schedule program for: The Breakfast of Champions and it definitely ain’t Wheaties.

This is pure Southern comfort food. I’m pretty sure this is as far away from Chinese cooking as you can get. Butter, milk, buttermilk, cheese, yeah… all that gooooood stuff. Did I mention 93% of the Chinese population is lactose intolerant (dude that’s like 1 billion people)? I’m pretty sure I’m mildly lactose intolerant but that doesn’t stop me from devouring ice cream/whipped cream like it’s a major food group, which I’m pretty sure it is (they just call it the milk and yogurt group, psh!).

First the biscuits. If you’re reaching for that tube of biscuits, put it down, step back, and run far, far away. Do you know what they put in that stuff? No? Neither do I. Well, there’s the problem! Who knows what junk goes in there! One biscuit contains close to 1324945 mg of sodium, which is about 139085 times more salt I use in the entire recipe (just an approximation but you get the idea). Then add in the trans fats, preservatives, and weird jiggly doughboy voodoo, and you have processed biscuits. The only thing they have going for it is that *POP* when you open the container, but that fleeting moment of amusement lasts what? 0.183 milliseconds? Okay nuff ragging on Pillsbury because I mean… they still taste good (must be that doughboy voodoo). I won’t hide it, I use to buy them, and yeah… I liked them too.

Until I started making my own biscuits and holy cow they were good. If you don't have much time then make these mile high buttermilk biscuits. They’re pure fluffy deliciousness and really quick to make. But when I used to buy the Pillbury ones, I always reached for the flaky kind. I liked to peel off the layers one by one, so much for not playing with my food. :) Again, it must be the doughboy voodoo because I dunno how they got the layers that perfect. If you have more time, then you can make the flaky biscuits at home too. The method for getting the flaky layers is a little like making puff pastry but nowhere near as complicated so don't be intimidated by the recipe's length, it's actually really simple. Flaky biscuits require more work than fluffy relatives but they're soooo good! They aren't as perfect as factory biscuits but that's because they're homemade. The biscuits are still flaky enough to have distinct layers I can peel off. Yum!

Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits
mmm look at those layers!

Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Makes 9 big fat biscuits

2 1/2 C unbleached all purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp shortening
1 stick very cold butter
1 1/4 C very cold buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and adjust an oven rack to the lower middle position.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut the shortening into 1/2 inch cubes and drop into the flour. Toss in the flour and break them up into pea size chunks.

Cut the stick of butter into 8 1 tablespoon slices. Melt, 1 tablespoon in a small bowl and set it aside for brushing the biscuits later.

For the remaining 7 slices of butter, take one piece of butter and toss in the flour mixture. Press the slice between your fingers, don’t worry if it breaks into small pieces, and press the pieces until they are the thinness and size of a nickel. Continue with the rest of the butter pieces. This will create thin sheets of butter that make the biscuits flaky, kinda like puff pastry.

Freeze the butter and flour mixture in the bowl for 15 minutes. This will chill the butter so it doesn’t melt.

If you have one, work on a silicone baking sheet like a silpat. Lightly flour your work surface.

When the flour has chilled, add all but 2 tablespoons of the buttermilk to the dough. Gently fold the dough together with a spatula, adding more buttermilk if needed. The dough should not have any flour pockets and should not be too sticky.

Transfer the dough to your work surface and pat it into a rough square on the silpat and roll to about 11 by 16 inches or about the size of the silpat. If your silpat is smaller than this then you will need to roll on a larger work surface.

Fold the dough into thirds, brush off any excess flour on the bottom and top of the dough. Rotate the rectangle 90 degrees and roll it out again into a 11 by 16 inch rectangle and repeat the folding process once more.

Roll the twice folded dough into a square or rectangle that’s about an inch thick. Use a 3in round cutter and cut out as many biscuits as you can (I got 6). Do not twist the cutter because that will seal the layers, press the cutter straight down. Dip the cutter in flour between each cut. Gather the scrapes and reroll the dough until it’s 1 inch thick again and cut out as many biscuits as possible. If there’s only a little bit of scrapes left, go ahead and toss them, but if there’s enough for 1 more biscuit, then gather the scrapes into a ball and flatten into a disc and this will be your last biscuit but it wont be as flaky as the rest. I ended up with 9 biscuits.

Brush the tops of the biscuits with the tablespoon of butter you melted earlier. Do not drip any butter down the sides of the biscuit because that will seal the layers.

Bake without opening the oven door until they look golden brown, about 15 – 17 minutes. Cool before serving, if you can wait that long.

Now onto the gravy. Since I’m only cooking for 2, I cut the recipe in half, and fried up the rest of the sausage into patties for the Breakfast of Champions.

Sausage Gravy
1 16 oz. tube of pork sausage (I like Jimmy Dean brand, regular, sage, or hot but maple is a tad weird)
Additional fat if needed: bacon grease or butter
4 Tbsp flour
3 C milk
A little bit of dried herbs (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil to a cast iron skillet or large saucepan over medium high heat. Add the sausage and break it up into bite size chunks, but don’t break it up too much, you want nice cocoa puff sized chunks. Brown the sausage and get some fond on your pan.

Turn the heat down to medium. Remove the sausage and drain, reserving the fat. Return about 3 to 4 tablespoons of the rendered sausage fat into the pan. If you don’t have enough fat, add a little bacon grease or butter to bring it up. Add the flour and cook while whisking until the roux is golden brown. Keep stirring and slowly pour in your milk, making sure to whisk out all the lumps. If it looks too thin, don’t worry, it’ll thicken once it simmers. If you like your gravy super thick, use less milk (2 or 2 1/2 cups). Once you added all the milk, return the sausage back to the skillet, add herbs if you want to get fancy, and season with salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper. Simmer the gravy until it’s thickened and serve it over your split biscuits.

Here's the most important part:

Don’t be shy.

Smother those biscuits.

Breakfast of Champions
1 split biscuit
Topped with:
1 sausage patty
1 fried egg, yolk still runny with a little more black pepper
Loads of gravy
Shredded cheddar on top

Dig in. Repeat if needed. (Eat it before Wheaties comes knocking on my door for using their slogan)

Now back to our regularly schedule programming: 3 more Chinese recipes to go!

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