It has all the carbs, fat and mouth feel that makes comfort food what it is. This dish got me through some pretty rough childhood moments, and was served for breakfast the day before every holiday. While travelling, Bob Evans and Cracker Barrel were really good standbys, and it seemed there was always one or the other at every exit.
Learning to make sausage gravy was the beginning of my passion for sauce making, and I always carried that with me as I explored Escoffier’s classic French sauces.
Biscuits are a quick bread. This means they come together quickly and do not rely on yeast for their rise. For that, we have baking soda and baking powder, as well as steam from the butter melting as it hits the hot oven.
Of course, we have to talk about gluten. In the recipe, we are combining all the dry ingredients, and then “cutting” in the butter before we add the milk. In baking, fats are sometimes referred to as “shortening,” which is what we are doing when we mix butter and flour: by coating the flour in fat, we are shortening those gluten strands. When we finally add the milk, we mix only until the dough forms, and then we go through a process of kneading.
My grandmother’s process is a little strange (I have never seen anyone else do it this way), so if you wish, you can knead for about 10 minutes. This develops the gluten, but the strands are shorter. This gives us a biscuit that can take a heavy sauce or thick jam but is still flaky and tender.
As promised, here is my grandmother’s buttermilk biscuit recipe and her notes on sausage gravy. I hope you don’t mind, but I edited a few things to make the recipes as clear as possible.
Gram’s Buttermilk Biscuits
Makes 12 biscuits
3½ cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
2½ sticks cold butter, cubed
1 cup cold buttermilk
1 egg, beaten
Flaked sea salt
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Mix flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and soda.
Cut in butter.
Add buttermilk. Mix with hands until a rough dough forms.
Put dough on a lightly floured table. Pat into a rectangle. Cut into fourths.
Stack each piece on top of the other. Pat into a rectangle.
Repeat three more times.
Roll dough to 1-inch thick. Cut, without twisting, with a 2½-inch round cutter.
Reroll and cut scraps.
Place 2 inches apart on lined pan. Freeze for 10 minutes.
Brush with egg wash, sprinkle with extra coarse salt.
Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
Sausage Gravy (for six)
Cut two packages (about one pound) breakfast sausage into quarter-inch pieces (Links are best. Patties work too).
Cook in skillet until done.
Add two tablespoons of butter. Melt.
Sprinkle about two to three ounces of flour into skillet. Stir with wood spoon for about two minutes to cook out raw flour taste.
Pour in about three cups of milk.
Whisk until smooth.
Season with salt, pepper and garlic. Cayenne is also good.