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Buttermilk Biscuits Like Gram Used To Make

Sunday is a day when we need our fuel to tackle a day which should be for resting but usually winds up being a day of running here and there.  A breakfast of biscuits and gravy gets us through to the end of church at least and it is a family favorite.  It starts with homemade buttermilk biscuits.  My great-grandmother used to make the tallest little round biscuits and I had heard my dad say long ago  that her secret was the buttermilk.  I don’t usually purchase buttermilk because it’s not something I care to drink…kinda nasty if you ask me.  I did get a hankering for Great Grandma Virginia’s biscuits though and had to try it to see if what Dad said was true.  Turns out, it was.  I’ve been making OK biscuits for a while but when I tried Gram’s recipe I found the light!  I’ll never use anything but buttermilk from now  on, but I only need to purchase the smallest container.  Anything larger than a quart will go bad as I only need 2/3 cup per batch.  I would have to make biscuits every day for about two weeks to use a half gallon.  I love them but I couldn’t stand to eat them that often.

To start I’ll need 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda.   I mix that together, and measure out 1/3 cup shortening.  Sometimes I can eyeball the shortening pretty accurately just scooping out amounts on a fork.  Let’s see how accurate I really am.  The accurate way to measure shortening and not end up with it sticking to the measuring cup and spatula is to measure a certain amount of water, in this instance, I measure 2/3 cup water, and add 1/3 cup shortening making the water level rise to exactly one cup.  So I scoop out the amount I think is right and dump it in.  Voila!  Right on the money…well close enough.  what is stuck to the fork will bring it up to what I need.  I pour off the water and add the remaining shortening to the flour mixture.  Now that my measuring cup is empty, I go ahead and measure out 2/3 cup buttermilk. 

Next, it’s time to cut in the shortening.  I use my smush and swirl technique to make little curls of shortening that get coated in flour.  This makes flakier layers in the biscuits.  Once the lump of  shortening is whittled down to nothing, I continue to go around the bowl smushing the thin layers of shortening into the flour until it appears to have the texture of meal.  

Now, I’ll add 2/3 cup of butter milk and mix that in until the flour is well incorporated.  I need to add a splash or two more of buttermilk to achieve total incorporation.  When the dough cleans off the sides of the bowl, I’m ready to turn it out onto the counter that’s well dusted with flour.  I coat both sides, throw on a touch more flour to keep it from sticking to the counter and fold it over a few times to build more layers.  I don’t use a biscuit cutter because I hate messing with all those scraps.  What I do is shape the dough into a rectangle nearly one inch thick, trim off the sides (and those scraps make two round biscuits), then I cut the rectangle into 8 squares. 

Ten biscuits is enough for the five of us.  So now, all I have to do is cook them in a 450° oven for 12 minutes.

While those are going I start on the sausage gravy.  Brown and serve sausages are the easiest and fastest way, but if you like a certain kind  of sausage with more or less spice, or link sausage use them, but remove the skins before doing so and just brown off the sausage and set it aside, leaving any fat in the skillet to make a rue…a mixture of flour and fat. 

The brown and serve kind don’t render much fat but I use butter or sometimes olive oil to make the rue.   I want this rue to be liquid and bubbly for the proper thickening to occur.  Using 1 /3 cup flour and adding butter a tablespoon at a time…up to a 1/3 cup of  fat on medium low heat, to the right consistency.  I’m ready to add the chopped up sausages and stir those in.  About 1/2 cup milk is then added and stirred in until it makes a smooth mixture.  This helps prevent lumps of rue in your gravy in the end.  It’s time to add some flavor, so in goes a dash or two of garlic powder, about 3/4 teaspoon sage, same of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper.  You could add cayenne if you want more heat.  Stir that in.  Slowly I add more milk up to within 3/4 of an inch from the rim of the skillet stirring all the while, I bump up the heat to high and stir very frequently to keep the milk from scorching on the bottom and scrape the sides often as well.  The biscuits are done during the stirring and out they come.  They need a little while to cool.  When the gravy comes to a bubble it is nearly there.  I let it bubble a few more minutes until a light skin begins to form on top.  I stir this back in and remove it from the heat.  I place it into a serving bowl, and cover it with film.  This keeps the skin from returning.  It also thickens further while cooling slightly until it’s just right for serving.  Everyone’s pretty antsy by now after smelling all the delicious smells for the last 25 minutes.  Breakfast is now ready!  Some of us love gravy and some do not.  Those who do not, opt for butter and jelly.  But those who do, enjoy gravy over the  warm biscuits heartily.


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