“Christmas was a lot different for us growing up than it is today,” says Willie Nelson. “We never had a Christmas tree and couldn’t afford presents. Instead, we decorated my grandma’s biggest potted oleander bush and called it our Christmas tree. We decorated it with whatever we could find, like popcorn balls and a garland made from red and green construction-paper links we made at school.
Sometimes people would bring us gifts. I remember one year someone gave me some little dishes, along with a small stove and refrigerator. They weren’t new, but it didn’t matter. Willie would use the stove to make our mud pies. The sun would bake them and we would eat them! I preferred the real food we got at Christmastime. Willie was a great playmate. He was very patient and would even play along with me and the paper dolls I made from the old Sears catalogs. But he could only take that so long. Eventually, we would put the dolls in Willie’s truck.
In particular, I remember my grandma’s buttermilk biscuits and chocolate gravy with hot chocolate. The chocolate looked like gravy but tasted like chocolate pudding. Grandma made hot chocolate like nobody else because it was all the old-fashioned way; she used Hershey’s cocoa powder. It was delicious! Christmas was simple for Will and me, but it was as rich as our shared chocolate recipes.”
- 2½ cups self-rising white flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
- 1 cup buttermilk
- Flour for dusting
- 1½ cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch, optional
- 1¼ cups sugar
- ⅔ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3 quarts milk
To make the biscuits:
- Preheat the oven to 450° F. Grease a baking sheet.
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar and baking soda in a large bowl.
- With a pastry blender or fork, cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly.
- Stir in the buttermilk and mix until a soft dough forms.
- Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface dusted with flour and pat into a ¾-inch-thick circle. Using a 2-inch round cutter or glass, cut the dough into 12 biscuits, gently reshaping the scraps as necessary.
- Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet and bake for approximately 8 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly.
To make the chocolate gravy:
- Whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder and flour in a medium saucepan.
- Slowly whisk in 3 cups of water, followed by the vanilla. Turn the heat to medium and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, whisking constantly.
- To create a thicker gravy, blend together the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of cold water in a small bowl. Transfer this mix to the chocolate gravy and whisk the gravy over low heat until thickened.
To make the cocoa:
- Whisk together the sugar and cocoa powder in a soup pot.
- Whisk in 4 cups of water, followed by the milk.
- Turn the heat to medium and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking often. Turn off the heat.
Cut each warm biscuit in half horizontally. Lay both halves, cut side up, in a bowl. Spoon the warm chocolate gravy over the biscuits and serve with a mug of hot cocoa.