“…you dream about food – not just any food, but perfect food, the best food, magical meals, famous and awe-inspiring, the one piece of meat, the exact taste of buttery corn, tomatoes so ripe they split and sweeten the air, beans so crisp they snap between the teeth, gravy like mother’s milk singing to your bloodstream.” –Dorothy Allison (writer, 1949–)
Thinking of the Kentucky Derby this weekend – where “Always Dreaming” made two Brooklyn boys’ Derby dreams come true – Mother’s Day next weekend and The Blue Coffee Pot restaurant where I had the best biscuits and sausage gravy I’ve ever had in my life.
What made this unexpected, out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere breakfast on an Indian Reservation in Kayenta, Arizona something to dream about? The scrambled eggs and the sausage gravy were like taking a bite out of a perfectly seasoned feathery light pillow of deliciousness. Never, in all of my biscuits and sausage gravy travels, have I experienced such genuine affection for what typically is a heavy lump of a dish that favors the appetite attentions of hungry men.
Scrambling through recipes and cookbooks, I came up with three solid recipes for biscuits, the first of which is the one I chose to make – and I can attest to the ‘Perfectly Easy’ part. These biscuits were very easy to make and turned out to be just what one thinks a biscuit should be – light and butter-melting delicious!
I had no recipe for the sausage gravy part, so I made it up as I went and it turned out to be very close to the lightness and taste I was looking for. I used fresh ground pork, a little flour, a little milk, just a touch of cream and fresh parsley, rosemary, paprika and sage.
Enjoy as a special treat for Mother’s Day – or for when you’re “always dreaming” of heavenly delight!
Perfectly Easy Cream Biscuits (taken from Muffins and Biscuits by Heidi Gibson)
Note: Ms. Gibson is author of Grilled Cheese Kitchen and Owner of The American Grilled Cheese Restaurant in San Francisco (we’ve featured her Morning Glory Muffins recipe here).
1 & 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. sugar
2 & 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 & 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 & 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease the baking sheet with butter.
In a medium bow, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the cream and use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to stir, scrapping the flour off the sides of the bowl as you go, just until the dough forms a ball, about 30 seconds.
Scrape the biscuit dough out onto a lightly floured cutting board or countertop. Dust your hands with flour and gather the dough into a ball. Knead the dough 8 times, folding it back onto itself and rotating the ball a quarter turn (90 degrees) each time. Working your way from the center out, pat the dough ball into a round about 3/4 in thick, dusting with additional flour if the dough begins to stick to your hands or the board.
Using a biscuit cutter dipped in flour between each cut, cut the dough into 10 rounds, gathering the dough scraps and patting out for more biscuits as needed. Do not twist the biscuit cutter while cutting; this prevents maximum rise by sealing the edges together.
Place biscuits on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart. (At this point, biscuits can be stored covered in plastic wrap in refrigerator up to 24 hours.)
Bake for about 10-12 minutes until puffed and golden brown, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Brush the hot biscuits with melted butter and let cool.
2 & 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup buttermilk
4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
Preheat oven to 450 degrees and grease a baking sheet.
In a large bowl cut the chilled butter into the flour and work it until it resembles coarse meal. Stir in baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk. Mix with a fork until the ingredients are incorporated and the dough begins to shape into a ball.
Sprinkle work surface with flour, coat your palms, and rub some on a rolling pin. Turn out the dough onto the work surface and knead for 1-2 minutes, folding it over onto itself each time. Roll the dough to about 1/2 inch thick. Flour a 3-inch biscuit cutter (or the rim of a glass) and cut out the biscuits. Reshape the leftover dough into a ball, roll it out again, and cut out more biscuits until there is no more dough remaining.
Place the biscuits on the baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. While the biscuits are still hot, speed some softened butter on top of each one with a pastry brush and let it melt.
Angel Biscuits (taken from Muffins and Biscuits)
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes, plus 2 Tablespoons melted & cooled
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cake flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1 & 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast (not instant)
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. buttermilk
Put butter cubes in a small bow., cover with plastic, and chill in the freezer to 10 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients. In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, cake flour, sugar, yeast, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Remove butter form freezer and scatter the butter cubes over the flour mixture. Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter or fork until the mixture resembles a coarse meal but chunks of butter are still visible. Make a well in the center of the mixture, pour in the cold buttermilk, and use a wooden spoon or spatula to stir just until the dough comes together, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. The dough should be shaggy and a little sticky.
Turn dough out onto well-floured cutting board and knead gently with floured hands about 20 times, folding it back onto itself and rotating. Return the dough to mixing bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with butter.
Remove bowl from refrigerator and turn dough out onto a lightly floured cutting board. With rolling pin or hands, roll or pat the dough out into a 3/4-inch thick disk. Using biscuit cutter dipped in flour after each cut, cut out as many biscuits as you can. Gather scraps and press together and repeat process until no more dough. Transfer biscuits to prepared baking sheet 1-inch apart. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature so that the biscuits can rise and the dough relaxes.
Brush biscuits with the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Bake until puffed and golden brown, rotating baking sheet halfway through, about 10-12 minutes.