Loving the World...and Chocolate Gravy Biscuits

My work is loving the world.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me

                  keep my mind on what matters, which is my work…  Mary Oliver

 

Each night as I crawl into bed, the hum of my white noise maker next to me, I read poetry. Sometimes it's a few lines from Psalms. Or a love poem. Or Chen Chen. Or, in the case of last night, Mary Oliver, who’s words wrapped me in something that still felt safe and good. 

Her poem, Messenger, is longer than this. But these words kept jumping out to me. I read them over and over again. I feel helpless right now. Helpless in so many ways. But whether in times of immense stress or in times of prosperity and laughter, my work never changes. It is always to love. I needed that reminder. 

While I may crawl into bed each night reading poems, each morning I think about what we’ll have for dinner, because it's undoubtedly the first question my boys will ask. 

Today felt like a day for an extended wrapping of good and comfort. For us, here at the Smith Homestead, that means an Appalachian meal of soup beans, cornbread, pork chops, fried apples, and potatoes. I suppose when all feels un-right in the world, what feels most right are the foods we would eat if we could hide away from it all in a cabin in the woods. 

As a precursor to the meal, I called the boys down for an afternoon snack of biscuits and chocolate gravy (or chocolate sauce depending). I also recently learned it is known as ‘poor man's pie’. My boys think of it as hot-chocolate-on-a-biscuit and that feels right too. 

The biscuit recipe below is one that I use consistently. We make a variation on this at the bakery, but this is a little less complicated and that’s right up my alley when I’m baking at home. 

The chocolate gravy is rich and silky. And it takes like 5 minutes to make with basic ingredients probably in your kitchen right now. If you don’t have evaporated milk, swap out for whole or 2%. Or, if trying to keep it vegan, a can of coconut milk would work well here too. 

 

Cream Biscuits

  • 3 cups (415g) All Purpose Flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 hefty teaspoon salt
  • 2 ¼ cups heavy whipping cream

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the cream until a dough forms. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead just for a brief bit until smooth. Do not overwork the dough. 

Roll the dough into a 1 inch diameter circle or square and use a cutter or sharp knife to create the biscuit shape desired. Gather up the dough and gently bunch them into another dough ball and roll out to 1 inch thick again. Continue to cut biscuits until all that’s left are small scraps.

Place the biscuits on a parchment lined baking sheet (if you don’t have parchment paper, don’t stress...the biscuits will be fine!) and able at 450 degrees until puffed and golden brown. The cooking time will vary depending on the size of your biscuits. Generally speaking, they’ll need roughly 15-25 minutes. Set a timer and keep an eye on them. Serve hot. 

 

Chocolate Gravy

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa (I use a good quality dark cocoa powder)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 can (approx. 1.5 cups) evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla 

In a medium saucepan, stir together sugar, cocoa, flour, and salt.   With a wire whisk stir in milk a little at a time until all of the milk is in the saucepan, whisked smoothly into the dry ingredients.  Cook over low-medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Chocolate will easily burn so keep stirring and keep the heat at a reasonable temperature.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla until smooth.  Serve over warm biscuits. 

 

 

Messenger

My work is loving the world. 

Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird - 

                  equal seekers of sweetness. 

Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums. 

Here the clam deep in the speckled sand. 


Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me

                  keep my mind on what matters, 

which is my work,

 

which is mostly standing still and learning to be 

                  astonished.

The phoebe, the delphinium.

The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture. 

Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here, 

 

Which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart

                  and these body-clothes, 

a mouth with which to give shouts of joy

                  to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,

telling them all over and over, how it is

                  that we live forever. 


                                                                                          Mary Oliver