Southern Buttermilk Biscuits with Chocolate Gravy is a southern favorite handed down for generations with roots from the Great Depression.
This biscuit post has been a long time coming. Week after week, as I’ve decided on new blog entries I would always consider the beloved southern-style biscuit. I dismissed it often because it seemed too daunting a task. Why? As a born-and-raised southerner, how could I possibly put into words something so deeply woven into the fabric of my life? How could I tell you what my Grandmother’s biscuits tasted like without also telling you about childhood summers on the farm, bottle feeding baby calves, gathering the daily eggs from nesting hens…
… falling and breaking said eggs and never once being chided for it; having tears wiped away and then being fed buttermilk biscuits with homemade apple butter.
I can’t help but get a little misty-eyed, and simultaneously feel silly for having such emotion for the humble biscuit. Clearly, it’s more to me than just flour, fat and buttermilk. It’s the memory of happy times and a grandmother’s love. As silly as I may feel, I know I’m not alone. The countless blog-writers dedicated to the celebration, sharing and heritage of their own foods is perhaps the strongest testament to that.
I’m so happy to be able to share my regional food with you. Just as I indulge my inner Parisian with financiers and the like, (but mostly by slaughtering their language) I hope you’ll indulge your inner southerner with one of these down-home favorites.
Another food that is a big part of southern heritage is chocolate gravy. It is a depression-era recipe that was most commonly eaten on big flaky biscuits for breakfast or dessert. Although it stems from meager beginnings, it is absolutely indulgent! My Aunt Grace would make this often and I’d always get excited to see it on her breakfast table. Chocolate for breakfast is a kid’s dream come true, and I must admit, I still find it quite exciting!
As a rule, White Lily self-rising flour is always used to make perfect southern style biscuits. The low protein and gluten content makes for a softer, fluffier biscuit. My grandmother used it, as does my mother, aunts, and cousins. If it is not available in your area you can order it online. If you’d like a good biscuit recipe that does not require White Lily self-rising flour I’d suggest you try this recipe courtesy of Alton Brown. I’ve made it twice before and it is very good – however, I urge you to read the footnote from his grandmother Ma Mae at the end of the recipe.
Working the dough… but not too much.
Biscuit making is really simple, and the only way you can mess it up is to fuss over it too much. First, cut the butter and shortening into the flour with a pastry blender (Mother and I use this doo-dad) until pea-sized crumbs have formed. Make a well in the center, pour in the buttermilk and mix with a fork until just combined.
Turn the sticky dough out onto a floured surface and fold (or knead) together about 5 or 6 times. Pat out dough with floured hands to about 1″ thickness. This is where my grandmother would abandon the biscuit cutter and start pinching off perfectly-sized little pieces of dough. Since I can’t get anywhere near her uniform and perfectly-patted pieces, I always opt for an old favorite…
…an old tin can with a sharp edge. I think it once held mandarin oranges. I’ve been using it for years – high tech stuff, people!
I’m including another little goodie in this post; a recipe for cinnamon-honey compound butter. It is another favorite way to add sweetness to biscuits and it’s super easy to make!
The following video uses bacon fat in place of butter, which brings a whole new smoky, savory note to the table. Again, I recommend using White Lily self-rising flour, but if you only have all-purpose on hand, see the recipe notes for adding baking powder and salt to the recipe.
- 2 cups White Lily self rising flour
- 3 tbsp cold butter cut into pieces
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 tbsp. melted butter
- 4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 tsp vanilla
Cinnamon-Honey Compound Butter
- 2 sticks 1/2 lb unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 heaping tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Put flour into a large mixing bowl. Fluff it gently and very briefly with a whisk. Add cold butter and cut into the flour with a pastry blender until pea-sized crumbs form. Make a well in the center of the mixture and pour in the buttermilk. Mix with a fork until the liquid and dry ingredients are just combined (if your dough is too stiff, add 1-2 more tbsp. buttermilk). Turn the sticky dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead 5 or 6 times and pat dough out flat with well floured hands to 1" thickness.
- Before you cut the dough into rounds, be sure that your cutter has a sharp edge. This helps them to rise accordion-style with a distinctive flat top that will brown evenly. Also, press the cutter strait down into the dough without twisting. Twisting the cutter can make the biscuit misshapen and hinder rising and it bakes.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush the biscuit tops with the 2 tbsp melted butter. Serve warm with chocolate gravy or compound butter
- In a medium sauce pan whisk together the dry ingredients. Pour in the milk and whisk vigorously to combine. Heat over medium-high until the mixture bubbles. Turn heat down to medium and stir until mixture has thickened to a gravy consistency. Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla. Let cool slightly then transfer to a gravy boat. Serve warm over buttermilk biscuits.
Cinnamon-Honey Compound Butter
- In a medium bowl, whip all ingredients together on low speed with a hand-held mixer. Pour mixture onto a length of parchment paper and roll into a log. Wrap butter and parchment in plastic wrap and let set for 2 hours in the refrigerator. Serve on warm biscuits or yeast rolls.
How could I let this post end without an appearance from Biscuit the pug? Below he is pictured with his likeness in portraiture (I call it Biscuit, with biscuit) by a friend (thanks VerySmallAnna).