October 14, 2016
My mom got up every morning and fixed a full breakfast complete with bacon, sausage, or ham with eggs and biscuits or sugar toast. Every now and again, she would make angel biscuits with chocolate gravy. This was a real treat. Back in the day, however, I didn’t care to eat breakfast. To tell you the truth, I didn’t care to eat much of anything. I especially had little appetite early in the morning. It was all I could do to gather myself to get dressed for school. I had a lot of long hair that was high maintenance and took awhile to get the fluffy Farah Faucet look that was all the rage at the time and still be on time to leave for school.
Now that I am a mom, I marvel at the fact Mom made three full meals a day—every day. She was remarkable for sure. She could be chatting with us and seemingly not really do anything then, all of the sudden, a full meal was on the table. Amazing. She never used recipes. She used specific bowls for specific recipes. She put various levels of ingredients into the bowls for each recipe. For example, she used a special dish to make biscuits, dumplings, and all manner of pastry, and another for pie fillings, etc. I have very few of her recipes because she didn’t use them.
Mom only used self-rising flour, unless she was making pie crust, and I never saw her cut butter or shortening into the flour to make biscuits. She would plop some shortening into a microwave safe bowl, put it in the microwave long enough to melt the shortening. Next, she added twice as much buttermilk to the melted shortening, eyeing the side of the bowl to make sure it was exactly twice as much. Then, she added some flour. How much is a mystery. She would add just enough flour to bring together a very soft dough. Then, she put some bench flour on the table and patted out the dough to about ¾ inch thick and used a biscuit cutter to cut them out. I wonder whatever happened to her biscuit cutter. It was solid on top with a red knob. It had a couple of small round holes along the top that didn’t make a pattern. Daddy probably drilled the holes so that air could prevent the suction that trapped the biscuits underneath.
Mom always put oil in the cooking dish, and when she put the biscuits in, she flipped them in the oil so that both sides were coated with oil. Biscuit flipping takes practice. She baked them at a high level of heat until golden brown on top. The oven was probably set at about 375o F or so, but I'm just guessing. It was mesmerizing to watch the whole process.
When Mom made biscuits for dinner, nothing was better than to have a little taste of the raw biscuit dough. I didn’t really like them once they were baked. For angel biscuits, she simply added some sugar and yeast—this made them heavenly, and it only added 10 minutes or so prep time to let them rise. There was nothing better than coming home in the late afternoon from school or a friend’s house and smelling these wonderful angel biscuits cooking in the oven. Although I didn’t often eat breakfast, I never missed dinner when angel biscuits and chocolate gravy were on the menu!
When I was looking for a dish to use to photograph the angel biscuits, I ran across the serving plate I got from Isaac Hayes’ restaurant and nightclub. When my husband and I heard he was opening a restaurant and nightclub, we quickly made reservations. The club was located in Peabody Place and is, unfortunately, now closed. Anyway, it was a glamorous evening filled with the local glitterati, and the food was fabulous. The night became even better when I got to meet Mr. Hayes one on one. He was a gentle giant and marvelously kind. He made me feel like I was the most important person in the room, although deep down inside I knew it was him not me. We talked at length about being brought-up (raised) in Tipton County (TN). We talked about how fun it was to swim across the Hatchie River at Rialto, the community where he lived. He remembered it vividly, and we reminisced for quite some time. It was an evening I remember as though it just happened even though it was years ago. Not long after meeting Mr. Hayes, Tipton County erected a road sign honoring him. Mr. Hayes has since passed on to that wonderful home above. The serving plate is a treasure and keepsake.
Here’s what I have figured out on the angel biscuit recipe:
Mom’s Angel Biscuits
1 Tbl Spoon Rapid Rise Yeast (or one ¼ oz. package—the kind that comes 3 packages to a pack)
3 Tbl Spoons Sugar
1/4 Cup Warm Water
1/2 Cup Vegetable Shortening
2-1/2 Cups Self-Rising Flour (plus a little more for rolling the biscuits out)
½ tsp. Baking Soda
3 Tbl. Spoons Vegetable Oil for the Baking Dish
Pre-heat the oven to 350o F. I used a 10 in. x 10 in. by 2 in. baking dish. If you don’t use a baking dish with high sides, the biscuits spread out too much and become more like angel disks rather than fluffy biscuits.
Here is the recipe for the chocolate gravy. My son wrote it down:
Here are the steps to make the Angel Biscuits
Preheat the oven to 350o F.
Heat the ¼ cup water to about 100o F. I heated mine for 15 seconds in the microwave.
Add the 3 Tablespoons of sugar to the water, and then add the yeast. Let this mixture rest while you move on to the next step.
Melt the ½ cup of vegetable shortening in a microwave safe bowl. It took about a minute in my microwave.
Next, add the 1 cup of buttermilk. This will cool the shortening down a bit.
Melt the Shortening Add the Buttermilk
Add 1 cup of flour to the melted shortening and buttermilk mixture and stir.
Next, add the yeast mixture to the bowl of flour, shortening, and buttermilk. Make sure you scrape out all the sugar when you add the yeast mixture as it tends to stick to the bottom of the dish. Stir it all up.
Here's what the proofed yeast looks like before you add it to the flour mixture:
Add the remaining flour and the ½ teaspoon of baking soda to the mixture. Stir until a soft dough forms. It is pretty soft.
Pat out the dough until it is about ¾ inch thick. Don’t knead the dough because we want fluffy, flaky biscuits rather than rolls.
Cut out the biscuits. I used a 2-1/2 inch cookie cutter.
Put the 3 tablespoons of oil into the baking dish, put the cut biscuits into the oil, and flip them so both sides are coated with oil. This might take a bit of practice. If you don’t want to flip the biscuits, only add a tablespoon or so of oil to the baking dish and brush the remaining oil over the top of the biscuits. The results are the same either way.
I used dough scraps to fill in the empty spaces in the dish. Once baked, these ragged bits are my favorite because they have cracks and crevices for the butter and chocolate gravy to accumulate.
Let the biscuits rise in the baking dish for about 10 minutes. I cleaned up the kitchen during this time and poured myself a cup of coffee.
Bake the angel biscuits for 10 – 14 minutes in a 350o F oven.
Remember to use potholders when putting baking dishes into and out of the oven. Real chefs often use their hands. I wonder if they still have fingerprints.
While the angel biscuits are baking, make the chocolate gravy. Simply add all the ingredients to a pan, place over high heat, and whisk the mixture until it comes to a boil. It will thicken quite quickly so no coffee drinking during this step.
Add all Ingredients Whisk until mixture comes to a boil
Slice open a heavenly angel biscuit, put a pat of butter on it, and smother it with chocolate gravy. Enjoy with a cup of piping hot coffee. Superb!
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