It’s our third week of meal planning and things are moving along. We’re enjoying inspiration from many cookbooks. This week, we thought a few recipes from Virginia Willis’ Basic to Brilliant, Y’all would carry us through. I’ve made several recipes from this book, and have had mixed results. I want to like every recipe, really I do. I love the way she introduces each recipe, and I enjoy her style of writing. I feel like I have gotten to know Virginia through the pages of this cookbook. I like that nearly every recipe has an alternative option or variation on the recipe to try. It’s a different approach that helps to make the dishes seem more attainable (if I can’t do version A, try version B). I have learned several new techniques and flavor combinations that have been wonderful through her recipes. But, there have also been one or two dishes from this book that I’d like to forget. Not everyone hits the mark every time, but for a published cookbook from someone of Virginia’s experience and renown, I want to trust every recipe in this book, the first time I make it, without having to try it again or to vary it extensively.
When you browse the interwebs and the world of food blogs, it seems that everything is honey and roses and great feasts of beauty. Unfortunately, this is not always so. I think it sometimes is worth sharing the mediocre things as well as the amazing things, if at least for entertainment and educational value. With that out of the way, I’d like to share these biscuits that I made from Basic to Brilliant Y’all. I had never made anything like this, so I learned several new techniques. I was careful not to rotate the biscuit cutter as I punched out the biscuits from the dough, as Virginia notes this can interfere with how they rise in the oven. I was also careful to not over mix or over knead the dough, as she notes in the recipe. Usually I can’t get enough sweet potatoes, so I thought this recipe would be a 5-star winner. I’m going to give it 3-stars, but I’m curious to hear your opinion. Do note that I substituted diary-free ingredients in the recipe. This usually works quite well. In this case, perhaps it’s the culprit of the flat and slightly chewy biscuits. I will say that the flavor is very good, so I think I just need to work on the texture.
NB: These are greatly improved with some jam, or dipped in the broth from the Grandmother’s Chicken (Poulet au Grand-Mere), featured earlier in Basic to Brilliant Y’all and one of the successful dishes from the book. It unfortunately, is less photogenic than the biscuits are and was quickly gobbled up.
Vegan Sweet Potato Biscuits
Modified recipe from Basic to Brilliant Y’all by Virginia Willis
2 medium sweet potatoes
2 c. flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
5 tbsp. chilled vegan shortening such as refined coconut oil or Earth Balance
1/3 c. milk alternative. I used unsweetened almond milk
1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick mat.
2. Prepare sweet potatoes by microwaving until tender. Don’t forget to poke them all over with a fork/knife so you don’t wind up with exploded potato. I use 10 minute increments in the microwave, turning them over after every session.
3. When sweet potatoes have cooled down enough to handle, peel and mash until smooth using fork/potato masher or in a food processor/blender. I used the food processor for greater ease. Set aside 1 c. mashed sweet potato. Use the remainder for another purpose.
4. In the food processor, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Pulse in the shortening to mix completely.
5. In a small bowl mix together sweet potato and milk alternative until smooth.
6. Add potato mixture to flour. Mix until just incorporated.
7. Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface. Knead lightly, about 5 times, until it comes together and is nice and smooth.
8. Use floured rolling pin to roll out dough to 3/4 thick. Cut out biscuits with biscuit cutter, end of a tin, drinking glass, etc. Be careful to press cutter straight down and not rotate it.
9. Press together scraps from biscuits and roll out again. Cut out more biscuits. Repeat if necessary, being very gentle with the dough so as not to overwork it.
10. Bake until lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool.
Best enjoyed warm or at room temperature, with a schmear of jam or dipped into a savory broth.