Imagine this version of biscuits and gravy: Ripe strawberries and tender cream biscuits under a blanket of warm, rich, silky chocolate gravy. Yes, gravy—the term comes from the old Southern practice of using the word “gravy” to describe any roux-thickened sauce made in a skillet, whether sweet or savory.
Also known as soppin’ chocolate, this sweet gravy is traditional in a small area of the central Appalachian Mountains, but virtually unknown elsewhere. Chocolate gravy is thicker than fudge sauce but thinner than pudding, and it delivers a solid, sincere chocolate experience. It is usually served over biscuits, but it’s equally divine ladled over pound cake, pancakes, or ice cream. For breakfast, try making it with bacon drippings instead of butter for a version that is reminiscent of molé.
But I love it with strawberry shortcake, which, also in spite of what its name suggests, is made with biscuits, not cake. These shortcake biscuits are substantial and delicately sweet, much like a good cream scone. The fresh strawberries should be fully sun-ripened, redolent with natural perfume, and ready to collapse into sweet pulp on our tongues.
Strawberry Shortcake with Chocolate Gravy
Makes 6 servings
For the cream biscuits
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cake flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and chilled
1 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing
4 teaspoons raw sugar, such as turbinado or demarara
For the strawberries
1½ pounds capped and sliced fresh, fragrant, ripe strawberries
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
For the chocolate gravy
¼ cup cocoa powder
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (use 3 if you'd like it extra-thick, like pudding)
Pinch of kosher salt
2 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 equal pieces and chilled
1. For the biscuits: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.
2. Whisk together the all-purpose flour, cake flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Use a pastry blender or your fingertips to work in the cold butter until the pieces are the size of small peas. Stir in the cream to make shaggy dough.
3. Pour the dough onto a very lightly floured surface and gently knead two or three turns, just until it comes together. Roll or pat the dough into a rectangle that is about ¾-inch thick. Stamp out five biscuits with a 3-inch cutter. Push the cutter straight down without twisting so that the biscuits can rise evenly to their full potential. Gently gather and roll the scraps of dough and stamp out the sixth biscuit. Gather any remaining scraps to form an oddly shaped bonus biscuit.
4. Transfer the biscuits to the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops lightly with cream and sprinkle with the raw sugar. Bake until golden, about 25 minutes. Cool to room temperature on a wire rack. These can be made up to 2 days ahead; store at room temperature in an airtight container.
5. For the strawberries: Toss the berries with the sugar in a large bowl. Set aside for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. For the gravy: Sift the cocoa, sugar, flour, and salt into a large skillet (preferably cast-iron). Slowly add the milk, whisking until smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously with a heatproof spatula, until the gravy comes to a simmer and thickens to the consistency of thin pudding, about 8 minutes. The gravy will thicken around the edge first, so keep stirring it from the bottom and sides. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the butter one piece at a time, stirring until it melts before adding the next. (Note: As the gravy cools, it will get even thicker. If it cools completely, you can thin it back out with a little cream or milk or, even better, a splash of strong coffee.)
7. To serve: Split the biscuits in half and divide among serving plates. Top with the berries, juice, and warm gravy. Serve immediately.
Biscuits keep, in an airtight container, for up to 2 days. Gravy and strawberries keep refrigerated for 2 days, but re-warm or thin out gravy before serving (see note in instructions).
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