Sunday, June 8, 2014

Easy Like Sunday Morning

Buttermilk Biscuits with Cream Gravy, Strawberry Jam and Bacon

Awoke this morning to the sound of thunder….. Then went back to sleep and awoke famished! It’s still raining so I decided it was a good day to put up the buttermilk biscuit recipe and tutorial I’ve been promising. Threw in the cream gravy recipe for good measure because everyone seems to think it’s hard to make gravy. It’s not difficult on the stovetop, but I make mine in the microwave because I really don’t need more dishes to wash. (Sausage gravy can also be made entirely in the microwave, by the way.) I’ve been making three pounds of bacon a week in the oven (which takes just a little over an hour for three batches on a large baking sheet), so that’s already made and just needs a few seconds of reheating to crisp it.

The biscuits are just standard buttermilk biscuits with some yeast added. That does not make them a yeast bread! The reason for adding it is because it gives them a little more rise and it keeps them very, very tender. The only other difference is that these go straight into a cold oven – there is no preheating. As for the fat, chicken fat actually makes the very best biscuits and cakes due to the nature of the fat, but right now, home-rendered lard is what we have and that’s what I used. Butter is also fine. (You can also use Crisco or vegetable oil, but please don’t tell me about it!) Please keep in mind that you are not making a pie crust here and cold ingredients aren’t desirable.

This recipe should make no more than 9 biscuits in a 9” round pie pan. You can use a square casserole, but the biscuits won’t snug up against each other quite the same. You may notice at the end of this, there's almost NO clean-up unless you just enjoy making a mess.(wink)

So here’s the basic recipe with pictures to follow:

Country-Style Buttermilk Yeast Biscuits
*1/4 cup water
*tiny pinch sugar
*packet (2¼ teaspoons) yeast
*3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
*1 tablespoon baking powder
*1/4 teaspoon baking soda
*1 teaspoon salt
*1 tablespoon sugar
*1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons good lard, chicken fat or butter – melted
*about 1 cup whole fat buttermilk (or yogurt/sour cream thinned with milk)
(And do NOT add it all at once!)

Whisk together the water, sugar and yeast and set aside. (Stir it down if it tries to foam out of the container before you can use it!)

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.

Melt the ¼ cup of fat (stovetop or microwave).

Place the remaining 2 tablespoons of fat in the pie pan and melt that. Set aside.

Drizzle the melted fat over the flour.

Whisk it together thoroughly, then rub it between your hands or use a pastry cutter to mix it thoroughly. (The hands work best!)

Break it apart a little more with your whisk.

Make a well in the center and add your yeast mixture plus ½ cup of the buttermilk.

With a very sturdy fork or spoon, begin stirring in the center.

Continue to stir in the center until the dough won’t pick up anymore flour.

Add another small splash of buttermilk, maybe a couple tablespoons.

Continue to stir in the center until the dough again becomes too dry.

Add another splash of buttermilk

And stir again. At this point, the dough has picked up about as much flour as it can while stirring.

So, turn it over gently with your hands a few times, make a well in the center and add another splash of buttermilk.

Sprinkle some of the remaining flour into the well and knead gently a few times until most of the flour has been incorporated. At this point, it will feel mostly dry to the touch, but if you’re an experienced bread builder, if you were continue to knead, it would become sticky again. That’s the consistency you’re aiming for. Add a little more buttermilk if needs be, but be careful at this point.

Leave the dough in the bowl and flatten it with your hands (not a rolling pin) until it’s about ½” smaller than the pan you are baking it in. That’s the pan sitting on top of the dough as an example. (trust me, this works!)

Now, begin on the outer edge and start cutting out your biscuits. This is just a drinking glass that has been dipped in flour. A tomato sauce can with both ends cut out is about the same size. (I have real cutters somewhere…..) Continue along the outer edge of the dough keeping the cuts as close together as possible.

Do not place the biscuits in the pan yet. Just set them to the side.

This is what you will have left over.

Stick it all together, divide it in half and make a couple more biscuits out of it. Try not to knead too much.

Now, make sure that the fat is still warm in your pan and reheat it if necessary. Dip the smooth side of the biscuit into the fat and turn it over so all the biscuits are greased on top and bottom. Snuggle the biscuits together closely on the outside, but leave a little space around the center biscuit (if possible) so the center cooks all the way through.

Place the biscuits into a cold oven on the center rack and turn it on to 425 degrees. My oven beeps when it reaches the correct temp and here’s what they looked like between 4-5 minutes later when it beeped at me. (and that’s the yeast in action!)

After the beep, I set my timer for 20 minutes (during which time i made the gravy and got everything else ready). At exactly 20 minutes, this is how they looked:

Notice how brown the bottom and sides are:

A single biscuit, crispy on the bottom, soft, dense and cake-like on the inside. Perfection!

Simple Cream Gravy
You can make this with either flour or cornstarch. I prefer cornstarch because I like the silky texture better. I also like it with lots of black pepper, but someone in my household can’t eat it, so I leave it out. The chicken bouillon gives it a nice flavor and some restaurants in the south make it this way, but plain salt is traditional.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter or bacon/sausage drippings in a 4 cup measure.

Add a splash of cream if you’d like, then fill the measure up to the 2 cup mark with whole milk.
Whisk in either:
*1/4 cup cornstarch OR 1/2 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
*1 teaspoon salt OR 2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
*black pepper

Cook in the microwave for about four minutes total, whisking between each minute. (It might take a little longer or a little less time depending on your microwave.)

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