When it comes to biscuits, everyone has a different trick or method for getting the tallest, fluffiest, flakiest final product. But what about getting the most biscuits as possible? Here's a way to use up every last bit of dough and not waste a scrap: an edible gravy tray.
After cutting out the biscuits, you're left with perfect circles lining the rectangular sheet of dough. So instead of tossing the scraps, bake the whole thing and transform it into a tray, perfect for filling with rich chorizo gravy (see the recipe). Trust us, this is about to become your new favorite entertaining trick.
If you're scratching your head right now, maybe you've never worked in a restaurant kitchen before. When I worked on the line at Daniel in NYC, these kinds of leftovers kept us going through long days. The pastry team would always use molds to cut out perfectly shaped brownies or pistachio cake, leaving a rectangular tray of the scraps behind. These would never go to waste. I'll always remember the joy of happening upon the leftovers from the pastry team—the scraps, of course, are just as good as those perfectly shaped cakes.
Fast-forward to a few weeks ago, when I thought of applying this same concept to biscuits and gravy and never looked back. Using tips from some favorite biscuit experts to help perfect the dough, I created a showstopping brunch centerpiece you're going to love.
But first, what makes the perfect biscuit? "Lightness, a little bit of a crunchy top and bottom, and fluffy on the inside," Carla Hall, cohost of The Chew and owner of Carla's Southern Kitchen in Brooklyn, says. Let's break it down.
No matter which combination of ingredients you use, quality is key. Typically, you mix the dry ingredients with chunks of fat (grated butter or shortening), then add liquid (buttermilk or cream) and knead that into a dough. However, every Southerner has a different preference.
Hall is a fan of using grated butter and shortening with all buttermilk. Carrie Bailey-Morey, owner of Callie's Charleston Biscuits in Charleston, tells me that most of her biscuit varieties use a combo of butter, cream cheese and whole buttermilk. Chadwick Boyd, food personality and key player at the International Biscuit Festival and Southern Food Writing Conference, says that the more he makes biscuits, the more he doesn't discriminate between fats. He even dishes about biscuits he recently made with reserved lamb fat.
The Fold and the Beautiful
With biscuits, you are using a combination of chemical leaveners (baking powder/soda) with specks of butter in the dough that steam in the oven and cause flaky layers. To ensure that the butter doesn't melt into the dough before it hits the oven, "freeze the butter . . . and even the ingredients," Boyd recommends. This way, when you grate the butter (or you can use a food processor since it's frozen), you'll get even pieces of super-cold butter that won't melt when you're mixing the dough with your hands. You can even go so far as to freeze the flour to ensure your dough stays chilled.
Once your wet ingredients are incorporated, Hall has another trick: folding the biscuit dough like puff pastry. This way, you are able to get layers upon layers of butter for super-flaky biscuits.
Armed with these tips, you can now make that epic gravy tray (or play around with the scraps however you like). Our experts agree that the one condition is not letting any dough go to waste. To keep the dough from getting overworked, roll it out no more than twice, Boyd confirms. And here's what to do with the rest.
Boyd cuts the scraps into mismatched shapes and bakes them with the biscuits. He explains that kids and kitchen crews alike go crazy for the scrap biscuits. Similarly, Hall tries to have a minimal amount of scraps but combines them into what she calls one "granny" biscuit.
"We roll the dough and nestle it up alongside the biscuits that don’t have a full tray touching them, helping the biscuits rise evenly," Morey tells me of the long dough log she refers to as "the snake." "Once baked, I love to roll the snake in cinnamon and sugar for a Southern-style churro. I also like to take the leftover dough and roll it into balls and fry them for little biscuit doughnut holes!"
As for us here at TT, we'll be trying our jumbo-sized biscuit tray with a combination of biscuit dough and gravy for the foreseeable future. Think of it as a giant bread bowl you can share with your friends. We even give you permission to eat this for breakfast. Crack a few eggs into some of the holes a few minutes before removing the tray from the oven, and you'll have the ultimate egg in a hole. Whatever you do, it's time to get scrappy.