Mary's Famous Vegetarian Biscuits and Gravy
November 15th, 2020
I call them "Mary's Famous Vegetarian Biscuits and Gravy" because I really think my recipe should be famous.
- 2 1/2 cups (325g) flour, I'm a big fan of unbleached flour myself
- 2 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 6 tbsp cold, unsalted butter
- 1 cup milk (or buttermilk, I just have milk on hand)
- 2 tsp honey
First, start preheating the oven to 425°F. I like to use the convection oven because I feel like the tops brown more evenly using convection, but no worries if you don't have a convection oven. I think my convection oven makes automatic adjustments to the temperature so my 425 setting is more like 400 with convection.
I measure the flour by weight, right into my big mixing bowl, then add the baking powder and salt. Then, I take a stick of unsalted butter out of the fridge, cut off two tablespoons and set that aside for the gravy. The rest of the stick of butter is cubed up and thrown into the bowl with the flour. Then, I take my pastry cutter and blend the butter into the flour, until there are tiny chunks of butter throughout. If you don't have a pastry cutter, I'm very sorry for your arms. I used to use two forks to do this, and I've tried it with my stand mixer as well, but the pastry cutter works best, in my opinion.
Once you have the butter cut in, begin adding the cup of milk or buttermilk. I like to add 1/2 cup of the milk and the 2 teaspoons of honey and stir with a wooden spoon until crumbly, then add a bit more milk, stir, until the dough is kind of loosely sticking together. It should be a bit crumbly and shaggy. I don't dump all the milk in right away anymore because once I had dough that was much too wet, it was hard to work with and made very poofy biscuits.
In my experience, a drier dough will result in flaky biscuits. A wetter dough will end in poofy, cakey biscuits. They're both really good, but I prefer flaky biscuits. If you want poofy biscuits, go ahead and add a bit more milk, you might like it.
Flour your work surface and dump out your dough. You want everything covered in flour at this point: the work surface, your hands... if you're like me the entire front of your shirt is covered in flour by now. The dough will start to get sticky as you work it, so keep the flour coming.
I start molding the dough into a lump, and then start smashing it flat with the palms of my hands. I do this quickly so I don't make the dough too hot, just slap, slap, slap that dough with your hands until it's about an inch or so thick and roughly square. Then, I take my bench scraper and fold the right and left sides of the dough towards the center, like I'm folding a letter. Then, I turn the dough rectangle 90 degrees, flour the top, flip it over, flour the top again, and start slapping again until I have an inch thick rectangle. Then do the same thing, fold the right and left sides in to get a square. Flour and flip. I repeat those two steps two more times to get nice layers. You should end with a nice layered dough cube at the end.
Start slapping the dough again, into a roughly 1-inch square. Then, use a biscuit cutter to cut out the biscuits. Or, if you're like me and don't have a biscuit cutter, use a small IKEA cup dipped in flour. Works just as well.
I like to use my cast iron skillet to bake these, so I arrange them in a circle with one in the middle. Depending on how thick I make my biscuits, sometimes I'll have a bit of dough left over, so I'll throw that into a ziplock baggie and put that in the freezer in case I want to make fruit shortcakes for dessert. These same biscuits make a great strawberry shortcake.
Put the skillet in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. If you're not using a cast iron skillet, reduce the time to about 15 minutes. The cast iron takes some additional time to heat up.
While the biscuits are baking, you have just enough time to make the sausage gravy!
- Lightlife Gimme Lean Plant-Based Ground Sausage. Listen. I've tried a lot of things to make veggie sausage gravy. I've tried lentils. I've tried other sausage substitutes. This stuff is my absolute favorite.
- 2-3 tbsp butter
- 1 1/2 cups cold water
- 1 cup milk or 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup flour
- Aleppo pepper, thyme, salt, and pepper, to taste
- 1/2 tsp cocoa powder
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a high-walled saute pan on medium-low heat. Once the butter is melted, add the plant-based sausage. Now, the Lightlife stuff is sticky. It doesn't like to separate very easily. It's kind of nice that it's not a nasty mess like real pork sausage, but it doesn't break down into crumbles on its own. So what I do is take a very stiff spatula that has a sharp edge, and start chopping away at the sausage log as it cooks. I chop it into medium-ish pieces, but you do you. I keep chopping up larger pieces and moving them around the pan so they don't stick, until they get a nice toasty brown on the outside.
Add in Aleppo pepper, thyme, salt, and cracked black pepper. I don't measure these. I add a generous sprinkling of the Aleppo pepper because I like it spicy, but you don't have to. Follow your heart. I also like to add a light sprinkling of thyme to give it more of that breakfast sausage flavor. And as usual, salt and black pepper to taste.
As you're browning the sausage, the bottom of the pan should be getting a nice fond, but we don't want it to burn. Keep that heat at a low medium. It should take about 10 minutes.
I like to add another tablespoon of butter to the pan before making the gravy, but it's not necessary. I do think the additional fat helps make a richer gravy. Next, add the 1/4 cup of flour directly to the sausage chunks. Stir it in until you can't see any more visible flour. It will coat all the pieces and the bottom of the pan. Cook that for 2-3 minutes to cook off any raw flour flavor.
Now, the fun part. Add 1 cup of cold water to the hot pan. It should sizzle, and you should be able to start scraping up the fond from the bottom of the pan. That's where the flavor lives! The gravy will immediately start to thicken, so add in 1/2 cup of milk, and keep scraping up the bottom of the pan. It'll thicken again, so add another 1/2 cup of water, and keep scraping. Hopefully by now the bottom of that pan is clean and all the flavor is in the gravy.
At this point, I add my secret ingredient: a little bit of cocoa powder. I guess I use about 1/2 tsp, but I generally don't measure. I use enough to give the gravy a nice brown color, but not enough to really taste the cocoa in the gravy. Stir it in well, it can tend to create lumps of cocoa if you don't stir it well. I've tried adding it at various points in the cooking process, but I think it works best when added just when the gravy comes together.
Finally, I finish the gravy off with 1/2 cup of heavy cream, but if you don't want a crazy rich breakfast, you can use a 1/2 cup of milk. If the gravy is a bit thin, just keep simmering a bit, and it'll also thicken as it cools. If it's thick, just add a bit more water or milk. Also, adjust the spices to taste one last time.
At this point, your biscuits should be ready to come out of the oven. Split each biscuit in two and spoon on lots of gravy. Enjoy!