Saturday, August 13, 2011

My Son's Favorite Meal: Biscuits and Sausage Gravy From Scratch

It seems like a lifetime ago, but at one time I was the manager of a Hardee's. When I was the manager, one of my primary duties one summer was to train biscuit makers. I was running a restaurant that was going through a rough patch at the beginning of its busiest season. That's not the time to be training one of the key personnel in the hierarchy of a restaurant where one of the big day part sales depends on homemade biscuits made from scratch.

Needless to say, I have the recipe for biscuit and gravy etched indelibly on my memory-- the recipe for 20 dozen biscuits!

After a little experimentation I have been able to convert the recipe to a scant dozen Hardee's style and sized biscuits made in my counter top semi-industrial Kitchen-Aid mixer versus a mixer nearly as tall as I am.

This recipe make 1 dozen 4" diameter biscuits, using equipment found in your kitchen, and a Kitchen-Aid mixer.

In the bowl combine:

1 1/2 T. salt
1 T. sugar
6 tsp. baking powder
3 cups flour
1/4 cup vegetable shortening

I mix this using the wire whisk attachment. Then I switch attachments to the bread hook.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Then, I add:

1 cup milk

When this has mixed into a cohesive ball, I flour my counter. I use a air sheet cooing sheet, a marble rolling pin (but any rolling pin will do), and a large wine glass which is about 4" in diameter (to cut the biscuits). At Hardee's they have an actual ring biscuit cutter and a measuring blade so you do no roll the dough too flat. You can eyeball the height and use any jar or glass with a strong, but defined edge. The height of the dough should be about 1/2" to 5/8" tall when you roll it out in preparation for cutting.

You should dust your hands, the glass, rolling pin, and counter before you dump out the dough ball and begin to knead the dough. A couple tips here: If you overwork the dough the biscuits tops will be too flat and the biscuits will be denser. Working in too much flour will also result in tough biscuits. The dough ball should be fairly elastic, but smooth before you begin to roll out the dough. When you begin to lose the elasticity, you have begun to overwork your dough.

When cutting out the biscuits you want to cut out as many as you can in each roll-out of the dough. At Hardee's they only would roll out and cut biscuits twice, discarding any remaining dough after the second cut-out. At home I roll out the dough again and cut out the last one or two biscuits. The final remainder I roll into a flattish ball and bake for Faithful Companion.

When laying out the biscuits I place them touching on all sides in a four by 3 or so pattern on the ungreased baking sheet.

The biscuits take about 15 to 20 minutes to bake, depending on the size and height. They should be a light golden brown when done. Usually I can smell them about one minute or so before they are done. I run a stick of butter over the tops of the biscuits when I pull them from the oven.

Tomorrow: The gravy recipe!

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