A friend on a forum I visit mentioned she’d like to know how to make homemade biscuits and gravy…and I had a lightbulb moment-I have no idea why I haven’t given y’all a tutorial on this before, b/c biscuits and gravy are one of my favorite things to make! So here it is, a pictorial on the making of biscuits and gravy from scratch:
First, I’d like to start by saying that there is no shame in using canned biscuits if you’re just not up for trying to make your own just yet…I grew up on canned biscuits and I still have a more than healthy obsession interest in biscuits and sausage gravy made at home-it won’t scar your children, I promise. In fact, this sausage gravy is one of the few things that I actually learned how to make from my mother, who was a wonderful cook that had an ungrateful daughter who remained entirely uninterested in learning to cook till well into adulthood. I know, I know, y’all thought I was always into cooking, right? Yeah, not so much. But I’ve learned to love it, and you can, too! This post will address the biscuit part of the recipe…
The biscuit recipe I like to use most frequently is J.P.’s Big Daddy Biscuits. It’s not that I don’t use other recipes, but this was the first recipe that really helped me learn to make biscuits that couldn’t effectively be substituted for hockey pucks (and taste the most like Bob Evans-which are my favorite biscuits). I also like southern buttermilk biscuits, so you could go that direction, too. One day, I’ll learn to turn Big Daddy Biscuits into buttermilk biscuits, but for now it’s one or the other.
*I was making a double batch of Big Daddy Biscuits, so please know that if you make a single recipe instead, your dough ball and quantity will be much smaller than what you see in the pictures. Also, I used half butter, half shortening, but all of either is fine in this recipe, no worries.*
First, preheat your oven to 425 degrees, and cut your butter into small cubes if you are using butter. (If using shortening, skip the cubes.)
Now, I sift my flour and other dry ingredients b/c I find it makes fluffier biscuits, but the whisk almost accomplishes the same thing (which is what the recipe calls for).
Then you put the butter/shortening in the bowl with the flour. Now is the time to employ one of two methods:
1.Use your fingers to coat the butter/shortening in flour, then continue rubbing the butter pieces between your thumb and forefinger, breaking it into smaller and smaller pieces, covered in flour until the entire mixture becomes a coarse, crumbly mess with most crumbles being similar in size to one another.
2.Grab a pastry blender or fork, and use the utensil to do the same thing.
Whichever method you choose, remember to keep your palms of your hands out of the whole ordeal, b/c your fingers aren’t as warm as your palms, and you are trying to keep the butter from melting. This is a hugely important step, probably the most important, so make sure that you have a good crumbly mixture before continuing on with the recipe.
This is the mixture before you begin blending, note the whiteness and tinyness of the particles of flour in this photo:
And here’s the mixture after you’ve worked the butter into the flour, see the larger, darker look to the crumbles in comparison with the first photo?
Measure out your milk:
Make a well in the center of your flour mixture, and pour in the milk:
Mix it into a big blob-y mess. This batch was a little wetter than most, but I don’t mind this b/c I flour my counter well and it is ALWAYS better to have too-wet dough than too-dry dough. Remember that you will be adding flour to the dough while rolling it out, so err on the side of too-wet, k?
Flour your counter (sprinkle flour on the counter so the dough doesn’t stick to it), plop the dough ball on the floured countertop, and sprinkle a teaspoon or two of flour on top of the dough and try to loosely work the dough into a ball. Try not to mess with the dough very much. Something I’ve learned about both bread and especially biscuits is that if the dough still feels cold and sort of wet (but not sticky), then you have reached your goal for having light and fluffy baked goods. Once you get too much flour worked in or the heat of your hands has warmed the fat in the dough, you’ve lost some of that luscious lift you so desperately want in heavenly baked goods, so less is more with biscuits, k?
Once you have it in a ball, LIGHTLY pat it out or LIGHTLY use a rolling pin to make the dough more flat. You are looking for the edges of the dough to be about 1/2 inch thick. You can use a ruler to check. Better to be too tall then too short on this:
Now it gets easy. Just use a glass (preferably with sharp edges) or a biscuit cutter (I use the medium size in my set of 3) dipped in flour to cut the biscuits. Cut straight down-don’t twist, or they won’t rise as high in the oven. Try to leave very little-to-no space between the biscuits and plan your cuts carefully to get the most cuts out of the dough, b/c you will NOT be re-rolling the dough to make more! We’ll get to that in a second…
But first, a tip on making non-floury tasting biscuits:
When I cut a biscuit and pick it up to put it in the pan, I turn it over to reveal the side that was on the bottom of the floured counter, and I use a pastry brush (or a silicone brush or even my fingers) to dust off as much of the loose flour as possible. I hate floury biscuits, and this fixes that issue.
Okay, back to the re-rolling issue. Sure you CAN re-roll the extra dough out and cut more biscuits, but quite frankly, it’s not worth it-they will be 10x tougher than the first ones and you just won’t like them very much. In fact, I believed so emphatically in not re-rolling my dough, that previously I have been known to throw the remaining dough into the trash, seriously. However, I found a neat trick that while it doesn’t produce the most beautiful biscuits, doesn’t compromise the lift and flavor of the “second round” of biscuits. Instead of gathering all the leftover dough from your first cut of biscuits and re-rolling it out to cut the second round-just do this: Take the scraps and gently form them together to make a biscuit-shaped circle approximately the size of the other ones, and cut the edges with your biscuit cutter. No kneading, no re-rolling, just shaping together without much pressure. It is much more effective and you don’t have to throw out the dough. They will be a little misshapen and ugly, but they will still taste good!
Here’s my “reworked” biscuit:
As with most of my baked goods, I use cast-iron for biscuits, but any old pan will do. Anything from a cake pan to a cookie sheet can be used-round or square it doesn’t matter. But if you want good rise on your biscuits (and you do, you really, really do), then you may wish to put them in the pan touching like I do. Some recipes tell you to put them 1 inch apart, and that’s fine, but just know that most restaurants that make those yummy, ultra-delicious, drool-worthy biscuits that you love (every place from McDonalds to Bob Evans) smushes their biscuits all together on the pan. So unless you really like a crisp outer edge on your biscuits, the touching-method is probably the one you want to use, no matter what the recipe calls for. Just a little hint from me to you.
Then just put your biscuits in the oven for appropriate time (in this case about 11 minutes is just right for me-but my oven also runs a little hot, so just follow the recipe on this one), and soon you’ll have fluffy, hot, yummy biscuits coming out of your oven. I brush some melted butter (or just rub a stick of cold butter over the hot biscuits fresh out of the oven) over them while they are still hot, b/c it gives them a better color and flavor…and here’s what you get: