Southern Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

My grandmother Lillie, AKA MeMaw, was the sweetest, kindest, most gentle soul in the world. She loved to cook, bake, and was the best biscuit and pound cake maker on the planet.When she would visit, I would awaken to the billowing smells of bacon, biscuits, sausage gravy and coffee coming from our kitchen. MeMaw always made her famous pound cake at about 5am. As a child, my mother taught me the skill of sopping biscuits in sorghum, always adding a pat of real butter, mashing and stirring until creamy. I can’t pass up good local sorghum when I find it at farmers markets, Muddy Pond is a favorite. I also enjoy Steen’s Yellow Label Pure Cane Syrup. Another indulgence, is to top hot biscuits with home made sausage gravy; I’m now drooling. MeMaw rolled her biscuits, cutting them in a round shape using what she found in the kitchen, while my mother used an aluminum cutter that had a small wooden handle on top.  I just ordered this cool hand crafted biscuit cutter. MeMaw used lard back in her day, which does make for a wonderful crisp biscuit, but later switched to Crisco. My mother and I use cold butter.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (not self-rising) I like Martha White or White Lily for biscuits.
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, lard or Crisco
  • 3/4 to 1 cup good  buttermilk. In my area I like Ocheesee, and in the Knoxville area Cruze Farms.
  • Butter softened for brushing the tops

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 500°F. In a wide and deep bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into small the flour mixture into each other until it looks like coarse meal. Pour in the buttermilk, and gently mix until just combined.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead lightly, and compress and push the dough away from you. Gently fold dough back over itself, giving the dough a small turn and repeat 8 or so times. Again, be gentle as you want to just barely want to activate the gluten, not overwork it. If it is too wet , add a bit more flour. Lightly dust the rolling pin with flour and roll the dough out 3/4 inch thick. Cut out rounds of dough with a 2 1/2-inch round cutter that has been dipped in flour, and press the cutter straight down. Pull straight up with no twisting, and the biscuits should rise evenly when baked.
  3. Place the biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet or in an 8-9 inch round cake pan. If the biscuits are baked close together the sides will be moist. If the biscuits are baked further apart, the sides will be crisp. I like crisp.
  4. Using a metal spatula, move the biscuits to the pan or baking sheet. Bake the biscuits on the top rack of the oven for 10 to 14 minutes total until light golden brown. When the biscuits are done, remove from the oven and lightly brush the tops with softened or melted butter.Transfer to a rack to cool just slightly. Serve warm with lots of butter, sorghum and/or sausage gravy.

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