I was recently presented with the task of reinventing a classic comfort food found in diners: biscuits and gravy. The challenge was to elevate this dish using real, whole food ingredients. Skeptical at first that I could accomplish this with much success, I was incredibly impressed by the outcome. So much so that I knew it was imperative to share it with you all! And hopefully in time for you to serve it a special holiday breakfast.
Biscuits and gravy is the ultimate comfort food. It’s amazingly delicious when done well, but when poorly done it results in a mess of mushy biscuits and gloopy gravy. My goal was to not only prepare the dish with better ingredients but also make sure the final result ventured well beyond expectations.
The best part of the following recipe is that you can (and should) prepare it in advance. This makes it a perfect option for a last-minute festive breakfast or special occasion—or any occasion, really. You can even just spend a lazy morning enjoying your favorite people and pastimes instead of slaving away in the kitchen.
I started by updating the biscuit recipe. Biscuits have a propensity to come out like tough hockey pucks. If you’re not careful, subbing whole grain flour for traditional refined white flour will test that boundary further. Also, these biscuits are prepared with two different fats. The lard makes them surprisingly light and flakey, and the big chunks of butter add a nice depth of flavor.
After much research, I discovered a couple of tips that make these biscuits delectable to taste and unbelievably time-saving to make. I found a recipe that helped them rise well in the oven—but that worked even better when I froze them first. I was so amazed that I couldn’t resist taking photos of two types of biscuits to spread my joy and amazement.
The frozen batch (on the right) clearly gained more loft over the batch I baked from fresh dough (on the left). They also had a more delicate and flakey crumb, resulting in a better biscuit with much less headache! So baking these from frozen is my first tip. My second tip is to cut the butter and lard two different ways to create a perfect balance of tenderness and flavor.
Though the country sausage gravy may not win many beauty contests, it can still be a truly magical thing. I used two types of bulk and loose sausage meat to create a subtle variation in flavor from your typical diner fare. With minimal ingredients and not too much thickener, the gravy turned out hearty and flavorful without overpowering the delicate biscuits.
You can prepare and enjoy these two components separately, if you desire. I can only imagine how scrumptious the gravy would be over a piece of fried chicken or steak, or even ladled over rice or mashed potatoes. As for the biscuits, slathered with butter and jam they are To. Die. For. They’d also be a nice accompaniment to a dinner spread and would make excellent sandwiches for breakfast or lunch.
I plan to make a couple batches of these biscuits and keep them in my freezer. Then I can bake a batch anytime I want a freshly baked breakfast or unexpected company arrives. They’ll keep for at least 2–3 months if sealed well in a Ziploc freezer bag. But first you’ll have to resist eating them all in one sitting.
Make-Ahead Einkorn Biscuits with Country Sausage Gravy
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
For the biscuits:
3 cups whole grain einkorn flour, whole wheat pastry flour, or other delicate whole grain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk, plus a little extra for brushing the tops of biscuits
1 tablespoon honey
3 oz. cold butter, cut in ¼-inch squares and kept in freezer until ready to mix
3 oz. frozen (or well-chilled, if frozen isn’t possible) lard, shaved into thin leaves
For the sausage gravy:
½ lb. loose Italian sausage
½ lb. loose breakfast sausage
¼ cup einkorn flour
2½ cups whole milk
Salt and lots of cracked pepper, to taste
1 pinch cayenne (optional)
- Prepare biscuits: Sift flour into a bowl with baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine and set aside in the freezer. Whisk together the buttermilk and honey. Set aside. Using your hands, gently toss the flour mixture with the cubed butter and the shaved lard. Make a well in the center and pour in buttermilk. Using your fingertips or a wooden spoon, gently mix until dough just comes together. It will look really Don’t worry if not all the dry ingredients are mixed in (the less you handle the dough, the better). Set dough aside in freezer for a second while you prepare the workspace:
- Sprinkle a little flour on a clean counter. Dump dough out and gently press into a 2-inch thick rectangle. Slide a spatula under dough to be sure it’s not sticking to counter. Using your hands, fold one half of dough over the other, like a book. (Imagine a clock and slide the 9 o’clock position over to the 3 o’clock position.) Gently pat out into a 2-inch rectangle again. Fold dough over from 6 o’clock to 12 o’clock. Repeat patting the dough into 2-inch thick rectangles. Fold from 9 to 3, then again pat and fold from 6 to 12. Each time you fold, the dough will come together a little more. You’ll likely need about 4–5 folds (but it could be as many as 6 or 7) before the dough is ready to be rolled out and cut. Just remember to handle as little as possible, move quickly to keep it cold, and fold just until dough comes together and no excess bits of dry flour remain. The more you practice, the better you’ll get at feeling when the dough is ready.
- Using a biscuit cutter or sharp knife, cut into 2-inch biscuits. Be careful not to drag your blade and cut straight down instead. Transfer biscuits to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush with buttermilk and freeze. Transfer frozen biscuits to a Ziploc freezer bag and store in freezer until ready to bake.
- Prepare gravy: In a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat, brown sausage until cooked through. Sprinkle flour over sausage and stir to combine. Cook until flour is golden-brown, about 3–5 minutes. Add milk, whisking constantly until combined with sausage and flour. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until gravy is thickened and no flour taste remains, about 10 minutes. Season with salt, lots of cracked pepper, and cayenne if desired. Keep warm if serving immediately. Otherwise cool and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Bake biscuits: Preheat oven to 450° Place frozen biscuits, buttermilk side up, on a baking sheet, leaving at least a couple inches between. Bake for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to 400°F. Continue baking until golden-brown and lofty, about 10–12 minutes. Let cool for at least 3–5 minutes, then serve warm or at room temperature.
- Plate biscuits and gravy: Heat gravy on stovetop until hot. Split warm biscuits in half and arrange on serving plates. Ladle hot gravy over biscuits and serve.
Images from Briana Goodall.