Monday, January 2, 2012

Black Pepper Biscuits

Happy new year! Here we are in the future - ain't it grand? Today's illustration is brought to you by the dual influences of the Sci-Fi Channel's annual Twilight Zone marathon and the lingering memory of the black pepper biscuit I had last week at Veggie Galaxy. "I'm Talkie Biscuit, and you're going to eat me!"

Anyway, a few days after Christmas, we finally got around to checking out this new addition to Cambridge's Central Square: a diner with a classic, old-school chrome and formica aesthetic and an all-vegetarian/vegan menu, and we were only sorry we hadn't done so sooner. I wanted breakfast (tofu omelet w/portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions, and homefries), while my partner opted for a black bean burger. The burger arrived topped with two of the most epic onion rings I have ever stolen from another person's plate; so good were those onion rings, in fact, that I need to go back for dinner so I can have the house-smoked tofu fried in the same batter.

But, as noted above, what I really want to talk about is that biscuit, which may have been the most delicious one I have ever tasted. Considering my devotion to the herby specimens at True Bistro, this is saying' summat, and I've been excited to try my hand at recreating them for a week now. So I fired up the Google, cast about in my usual way, and decided that Bobby Flay's recipe looked plausible with a few substitutions. Within the hour we had a ginormous batch of flaky, baked goodness cooling on the counter. I dialed back Bobby's pepper a bit since my youngest isn't the hugest fan, but you should obviously adjust such things to suit your own personal taste. Not only did this recipe produce great biscuits, it is ridiculously easy; it had never occurred to me to use a food processor for biscuit dough, but I'll definitely do so from now on. So what are you waiting for? Get those fiery biscuits in the oven!

Black Pepper Biscuits
~ 2 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
~ 4 cups all-purpose flour
~ 4 tsps. baking powder
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, baking soda
~ 1/2 tsp. sage
~ 4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (more if you like)
~ 12 tbsp. cold vegan margarine or shortening, cut into small pieces

~ Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
~ In a beaker, combine the soy milk and the vinegar, mix, and set aside for about 10 minutes.
~ In a large food processor, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sage, and 3 tsp. of the black pepper and pulse to combine.
~ Scatter the margarine or shortening over the top of the flour mixture and pulse a few times, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
~ With the food processor running, add the soy milk/vinegar mixture in a thin stream, until the mixture just begins to come together.
~ Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured counter, and roll into a 10 by 12-inch rectangle about 3/4-inch thick.
~ Use a 3-inch round cutter - I actually use the floured rim of a water glass - to cut out biscuits, and place them on a non-stick baking sheet. Press together the scraps of remaining dough, and repeat process until you've used it all up. (I got 16 biscuits from this recipe; your mileage may vary.)
~ Brush the tops with a little soy milk mixed with the remaining teaspoon of black pepper.
~ Bake at 450 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.
~ Remove from the oven and serve hot as a side dish, with gravy, as part of Tofu Benedict, or (as I did), all by themselves.

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