I want to be the mom that makes the world’s best biscuits and gravy. I want my biscuit making skills to be that of which legends are made of, a tale that my children will spread far and wide, allowing my name to live beyond my years. Yes. I have (unreasonably) high expectations for myself and these biscuits. But I have a confession: I have never made homemade biscuits. Unless, of course, you consider drop biscuits made from the likes of Bisquick powder homemade? I didn’t think so…
As you can see, I have quite the journey ahead of me. I did my research, however, and I feel this particular recipe is a great jumping off point, but I didn’t (and shouldn’t) expect to perfect this art right out of the gate. The ability to make buttery, flaky, light as air biscuits are something people take immense pride in. They guard these successful, secret recipes with their life, sometimes only passing them down once that life is coming to an end. Recipes of this caliber become family heirlooms, passed down from one generation to the next. Now, that’s what I’m talking about. I want a biscuity, buttery heirloom to bequeath to my grandchildren one day….
So how does one begin the art of perfecting the biscuit? There are so many variables within a biscuit recipe that can be altered, and the smallest of alterations can be the difference between a delicate cloud and a hockey puck. The ratio of butter to flour… the exchange of lard for butter… the inclusion of buttermilk or eggs… baking powder or baking soda or even cream of tartar… My head is spinning.
The best approach is trial and error, with documentation. This is key. Make your biscuits one way, take notes, and try something different the next time, and again note the difference in the end result. Was one flakier than the other? Did one variation result in a denser biscuit? I can tell you one thing I learned during round 1 of biscuit making: don’t put the biscuits in the oven for a few minutes, then decide to take them out because you’re running low on daylight (for purposes of photographing for this blog), and then decide that no, you should go ahead and put them back in the oven to finish baking. I am almost certain I compromised the integrity of these biscuits by doing so. But I’ll let you know for sure next time I make these. For now, I just want to eat. Biscuits taste so much better straight from the oven.
Cheddar and Black Pepper Biscuits with Spicy Sausage Gravy
2 ¼ cups, plus 2 tbsp all purpose flour, divided
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp kosher salt
¾ tsp baking soda
generous amount of freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup freshly grated sharp cheddar
1 ½ sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
½ cup buttermilk
2 eggs, divided
course sea salt
Spicy Sausage Gravy (see recipe below)
Thinly sliced jalapeno
Cooked bacon (optional, but you know you want it)
1. Heat your oven to 425º F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together 2 ¼ cups flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Crack a generous amount of black pepper into the bowl (once you think you’ve added enough, add just a little bit more) and stir together. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 2 tbsp flour and grated cheddar. Set the cheese aside.
2. Pull your cut pieces of butter from the fridge, and using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour mixture until roughly combined and the butter is the size of small peas. In a measuring cup, add 1 egg to the ½ cup buttermilk and whisk to combine. Add to the biscuit mixture, stirring with a fork until mostly combined. Add the cheddar and mix lightly. Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead briefly, until the dough just holds together.
3. Roll the dough out until about ½-inch thick. Using a 2-inch biscuit cutter, cut biscuits and place onto prepared baking sheet. (I was able to re-roll scrap dough to make more biscuits, and they still baked up beautifully!) Tip: push the biscuit cutter straight down, without twisting it. Twisting the biscuit cutter can result in less flaky and layered biscuits.
4. In a small bowl, whisk the remaining egg and a tablespoon of water. Brush the tops of each biscuit with egg wash and sprinkle with course sea salt. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden.
5. Slice each biscuit in half, top with a slice of bacon or two, ladle a healthy amount of gravy on top and garnish with sliced jalapeno. Serve warm and enjoy!
**The biscuits can be prepared ahead of time up to step 4 and then frozen. Bake directly from the freezer for a few extra minutes and voilà!
Spicy Sausage Gravy
3 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
1/3 cup chopped sweet yellow onion
1-2 serrano peppers, depending on how much spice you can handle
1 lb spicy breakfast sausage
¼ cup, plus 2 tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups milk
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat and melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the onion and serrano peppers and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the sausage and break apart, stirring frequently until golden and cooked through. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and melt.
2. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Sprinkle the flour over the sausage, stir, and let cook for about 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk, let simmer, while stirring frequently, until thickened, about 5-8 minutes. Add the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot over warm biscuits and enjoy!
Makes about 4-6 servings