I recommend preparing the biscuits first (not baking them), getting the gravy started, and then baking the biscuits while the gravy is thickening up. That way you can stir the gravy frequently which is hard to do when your hands are covered with flour and dough.
If you don't have self-rising flour, you can substitute using a ratio of 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, plus 1/8 teaspoon of salt, for every cup of self-rising flour.
For the Buttermilk Biscuits:
- 2 1/2 cups self-rising flour (plus extra for flouring your surface)
- 2 tsp sugar (optional)
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 4 Tbsp vegetable shortening (see Baking Tips below)
- 4 Tbsp butter, cut into cubes, chilled
- 1 cup chilled buttermilk, plus 1-2 Tbsp more, if needed
- 1 Tbsp melted butter (optional, to brush on top of biscuits after baking)
For the Sausage Gravy:
- 1 lb sage-flavored pork sausage
- 1/4 cup finely chopped white or yellow onion
- 6 tbsp all purpose flour
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1-2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
- 1-2 dashes of Tabasco sauce, cayenne pepper, or other hot sauce
- 1-2 Tbsp butter or bacon grease (if needed)
To make the Buttermilk Biscuits:
Baking Tips: 1) Spoon the flour into your measuring cup, and level it off with the back side of a knife. If you scoop the flour, it will pack into the measuring cup, yielding too much flour, 2) Instead of 4 Tbsp each of butter and shortening, feel free to use 8 Tbsp of shortening or butter, or any combination up to 8 Tbsp.
1 Preheat oven to 450°F. Prepare a floured surface for shaping the dough and have an un-greased baking sheet ready (lined with Silpat sheets if you have them).
2 Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in a medium-sized bowl.
3 Using a fork or a pastry blender cut in the shortening and butter. Work quickly, you don’t want the fats to melt – the key to fluffy biscuits is minimal handling. The mixture should be crumbly.
4 Make a well in the flour mixture, and pour in the buttermilk. Stir with a spoon and blend just until the liquid is absorbed and the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl – add 1-2 tbsp more buttermilk if the dough is dry. Do not over mix; the dough will be tacky, neither wet nor dry.
5 Fold and shape dough: With lightly floured hands, turn out the dough onto a lightly-floured surface and gently fold it over on itself 2 or 3 times. Shape into a 3/4” thick round. If you use a rolling pin, be sure to flour it first to keep the dough from sticking to the pin.
6 Cut out biscuits: Using a 2-inch biscuit cutter, cut out the biscuits pressing straight down (avoid the temptation to twist the cutter as twisting keeps the biscuits from rising). Dip the cutter in flour between cuttings to keep the dough from sticking to the cutter.
Place biscuits on the baking sheet so that they just touch (for crunchy sides, leave space in between). Reshape scrap dough and continue cutting. Remember to handle the dough as little as possible.
(At this point you can start on making the sausage gravy below, and put the biscuits in the oven right before adding the milk in the last gravy step.)
7 Bake: Bake at 450°F for 15-18 minutes or until lightly golden brown on top. Turn the baking sheet around halfway through baking.
8 Brush with butter: (Optional) Brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter.
To make the Sausage Gravy:
1 Brown the sausage, stir in onions: Preheat a 4-quart saucepan over medium high heat (put a few drops of water in the pan – when they evaporate, you know the pan is ready). Crumble the sausage into the pan and let it brown for a minute or two, then turn down to medium heat.
Continue cooking, breaking up the sausage into smaller pieces, until no pink remains. Stir in the onions and cook until they are transparent.
2 Adjust fat, add flour, brown the flour: Remove sausage with a slotted spatula or spoon, leaving the drippings in the pan. If less than 3 tbsp of drippings remain, add enough butter (or bacon grease) to equal about 3 tbsp of drippings.
Add the cooked sausage back to the pan on medium heat, and sprinkle the flour over the sausage.
Stir in the flour and cook for about 6-8 minutes, until the mixture starts bubbling and turns slightly golden brown.
3 Add seasonings: Stir in poultry seasoning, nutmeg, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce and salt – cook for 1 minute to deepen the flavors.
4 Add the milk, and cook until thickened: Slowly add the milk and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened (about 15 minutes). Be patient, it will thicken!
To serve the Biscuits and Gravy:
To serve, break a biscuit in half and put it in a bowl or on a plate. Spoon a generous portion of sausage gravy over the biscuit half and top with the other biscuit half.