Being from the south originally, there are a number of things I miss, now that I live in the home of the Yankees. There’s the random, and, now, sometimes unsettling friendliness of strangers (we got seriously FREAKED OUT one time in the mid-west when a stranger passed by us and suddenly, unprovoked, said ‘hello’); there’s the easy calm of the south and the seemingly supernatural slowing down of the clock; and then the impromptu, unassuming means of entertaining—swimming holes, house parties, garage shows…. Yes, we obviously need to get out of town for a bit, but, point being, the thing I miss most of all is the food.
Being vegan, a lot of traditional southern food’s a total no-go. But, having grown up around it and having those tastes imbedded into my gustatory memory, they’re foods I’m constantly trying to replicate and improve upon in their vegan version.
This past weekend, in the brief calm that came in the eye of the storm of awesomeness that was this past holiday weekend, Katie and enjoyed a much-needed lazy Sunday morning, taking our minds on a quick trip to the south. We made vegan bloody marys, kicked back, watched some World Cup, and whipped up a mean batch of homemade biscuits and gravy. In doing so, I was reminded of the fact that our ‘buttermilk’ biscuit recipe, originally posted on a friend’s blog—the Discerning Brute—in 2009, had been buried a bit in the e-stacks of interweb pages to come thereafter. Thus, with today’s post, we’ll re-publish said recipe and correct it a bit from our original post.
These warm, savory, buttery blocks of awesomeness were a mainstay of my extended family from Virginia and something that could be found on the table every Sunday and holiday. Being the transplant that I am, though, this particular recipe is an adaptation of a recipe from the Waverly Inn in the West Village, published by GQ a while back.
They’re best right out of the oven with some choice fruit preserves, smothered in a nice vegan gravy, or just eaten straight-up. Though we made a couple of leftover ones into some MEAN tempeh sandwiches yesterday. The trick with cooking these is to keep the mixture as cold as possible when making them and to touch them (warm hands) as little as possible so that the bits of margarine—which make them flakey—don’t melt before they’re baked. Make the whole batch and them freeze what you won’t eat for later. And this recipe can be doubled if you’re cooking for some sort of vegan army.
• 2 Cups All-Purpose Flour (we like King Arthur brand)
• 1/2 Tbsp Sea Salt
• 1/8 Tsp Baking Soda
• 1 1/2 Tbsp Baking Powder
• 1/2 Tsp Sugar
• 1/4 Lb. (about 1/2 Cup) Cold Vegan Margarine (non-hydrogenated, ideally with no palm oil—here’s why)
• 3/4 Cup Almond, Soy, or Oat Milk (ideally, unsweetened)
• 1/4 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
First, combine the dry ingredients in a large metal bowl. On a cutting board, dice the margarine into small cubes, about one inch square. Really try to touch them as little as possible, using a utensil to slide the cubes off the knife, and toss a little flour onto the pieces as you add them to the bowl of dry ingredients so they don’t stick together.
Take a stiff rubber spatula and mix the dry ingredients into the margarine, using the spatula to firmly break the cubes into smaller, pea-sized pieces, cutting the margarine into the flour mix. Be very thorough with this part, making sure you break up all the cubes into tiny pieces. This is what makes the biscuits flakey.
In a measuring cup, mix the milk and vinegar together to simulate a buttermilk and let it sit for a few minutes. If you’re not a huge buttermilk fan, use less or no vinegar, compensating with the milk so the total mixture equals one cup. Slowly add this to the flour-margarine mixture as you stir with the spatula. Once it’s mixed together, the dough will look pretty wet, which is a good thing with this recipe.
Now, flour a clean counter-top or cutting board and turn the dough out onto it. Sprinkle some flour on top of the dough and, using your hands, gently fold the dough over itself three or four times, evening it out and flattening it down a bit each time.
Using a rolling pin, gently roll the dough out so it’s about 3/4 to 1 inch thick. You can form an oval or keep the edges rough, for an old-school, uneven look. Using a knife, cut the biscuits into rough squares a little smaller than the size of the desired finished biscuits. I usually make mine a little big—about 4 inches square.
Put these on a cookie sheet and refrigerate them until you’re ready to bake at 375 degrees. They should only take 10-15 minutes, so watch them carefully, waiting until they get a golden brown look.
Now kick back on that imaginary front porch and git eatin!
Photo—us; Awesome napkins—my German grandmother.