Born to Be Alive

Today I’m officially 40 (the party was on the 13th). Yes, friends and family, I greet you from somewhere near the beginning of the last part of my life while eating my birthday breakfast– three eggs, instead of two, and toast, with butter(!). Please indulge me as I consume this opportunity for cliche’d reflection along with my extra helping of cholesterol.

My dad always said he never thought he’d live past 30 (he’s still kicking around down here) and my mom always says life gets better every year, so I tend to think of each new birthday as a bonus. With every passing year, I’m more aware that while many things matter, people and for some unshakeable reason, God are the only ones I can’t seem to be happy living without. Thankfully, the older I get the more folks I know and meet. I’m so grateful for my family and friends. I wish I were better at communicating this more often.

So I want to say thanks to whoever is reading this, whether you’re a family member who’s known me since birth or someone I’ve not even met face-to-face (yet) for being a part of my life. In your honor, I’d like to give you a gift–the recipe for what I WOULD be having if I were celebrating my birthday at my mom and dad’s house–Chocolate Gravy and Biscuits (it’s fabulous-trust me on this.).

Miss Katy’s Chocolate Gravy

No other recipe I know elicits more skeptical looks when described than this one. Nearest I can tell it is most common in the Ozarks of Arkansas and the western parts of Mississippi. But if you are someone who likes a muffin or doughnuts in the morning, you’ll like this. As a kid, chocolate gravy served over biscuits was our birthday breakfast.

1 cup sugar
3 tbs. cocoa
3 tbs. flour
2 pinches of salt
1 cup water
2 tsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix dry ingredients in a medium saucepan. Add water. Cook, stirring frequently, really well over medium heat until thick, about the consistency of honey. Mixture should be hot and bubbly while cooking. If it gets to thick, add a little milk. Once thickened, turn down heat and add butter. Once melted, turn heat off and add vanilla.


(Cooks Illustrated recipe. Pillsbury Frozen Biscuits are pretty good, too. )

2 ½ cups all purpose flour (plus 1/3 cup for work surface)
1 tbs baking powder
1 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp soda
2 tbs shortening, cut inot ½ inch chunks
1 stick cold unsalted butter, lightly floured and cut into 1/8 inch slices
1 ¼ cup cold lowfat buttermilk

Adjust baking rack to lower middle position. Heat oven to 450.

Stir dry ingredients together.

Add shortening to dry ingredients. Break up chunks with finger until only pea-sized pieces remain.

Working in small batches, drop chunks of butter into flour mixture, coating with a little flour. Pick up pieces and press between floured fingers into nickel-sized pieces. Repeat until all butter is pressed, then toss to flour mixture to combine.

Freeze mixture in bowl for 15 minutes (Note: mixture can be frozen at this stage for several weeks).

Spray work surface with cooking spray, spread with paper towel until evenly coated. Sprinkle 1/3 cup flour over sprayed area, spread with palm until area is evenly coated.

Add all but 2 tablespoons of buttermilk to flour mixture and stir with fork until ingredients ball up and are no longer dry (dough will be shaggy, but should still pull away from sides of bowl). Add additional buttermilk if needed.

Transfer dough with rubber spatula onto work surface. Sprinkle flour over dough surface and use hands to bring into a ball.

Pat dough into about a 10-inch square. Roll into a 18 by 14 inch rectangle about ¼ inch thick. Dust dough and rolling pin as needed.

Use bench scaper to fold rectangle by thirds, like a business letter. Then fold short ends in by thirds as well. Give dough a quarter turn and repeat.

Roll dough into a ½ inch thick square. Turn the square over. Using a sharp-edge biscuit cutter, press straight down in dough to make 9 biscuits (dipping edges of cutter in flour after each press). Invert the biscuits and place them 1-inch apart on a (ungreased?) baking sheet. Gather scraps into a ball. Roll and fold a couple of times until smooth, then repeat above process for 3 more biscuits. Discard scraps.

Brush biscuit tops with melted butter.

Bake without opening over door for 15-17 minutes, until tops are golden brown and crisp.

Using a fork stir in enough milk to make a dough that sticks together. Roll out on a floured board, don’t handle too much or dough will get tough). Brush tops with milk. Bake on a greased baking sheet until browned.

(Note: If you haven’t replaced your baking soda and baking powder in awhile (within a few months) you may want to. I have a theory that inactive soda may cause biscuits not to rise.)

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10 Comments on “Born to Be Alive”

  1. kara Says:

    Yum – I love chocolate gravy too! However, I could probably eat chocolate-covered hay and love it as well!

    Happy Birthday!

  2. jennie Says:

    Her recipe really is the best I’ve ever had. It amazes me that it’s made with water instead of milk! I also know that Miss Katy once told me she adds more than two tablespoons of butter – I’m not going to argue with her – I just follow her directions! 🙂

    Happy birthday, Troy. I’m thankful I can say I’ve met you face to face.

  3. crystal Says:

    oh my..i might have to steal this for this weekend.
    happy birthday troy and many many more!!
    i don’t know u that well, but i do have to say, you have a knack for capturing moments and eloquently putting them into words!

  4. Jim Says:

    Happy Birthday Troy, welcome to the over 40 club…
    Life does get better past 40, sometimes it doesn’t feel that way but overall it gets better.

  5. Citizen D Says:

    From someone who hasn’t met you face to face, Happy Birthday! I think you are meeting 40 with a great attitude. I certainly like the idea of giving gifts to others on your own birthday – I seem to recall that is a German tradition.

  6. Katy Says:

    Thank you for the “thank you”. You would certainly have had Chocolate Gravy and biscuits if you were at my house, a birthday tradition until you left home. I still like it myself, and try to create an opportunity to have it whenever possible, which is mostly when Kate is here.
    I am glad you have had a wonderful birthday, a little extra butter on your birthday is good for you.

  7. Nancy Says:

    I grew up in the Ozarks & my dad (whose family also grew up there) made this on special occasions. It was my sister’s wedding day breakfast request. Thank you for sharing your recipe, and Happy Birthday!

  8. juliebelle Says:

    hap, hap, happy birthday!!!!!
    hope i can hug your 40-year-old neck in person sooooon!

  9. […] 25th, 2007 · 1 Comment Happy Birthday, Amy and Troy. I just realized that my two good friends share the same special […]

  10. […] (aka PAAY-pur!) using one of Duane’s Chocolate Gravy […]

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