Posted by: A Part of the Solution | March 23, 2010

Potato Water Biscuits

When I was working for the vegan catering company down in the DC area, I tried making everything we cooked good enough it would be enjoyable by EVERYONE. Think about it. If you’re a vegan couple getting married, or a vegan organization holding a special event, the larger proportion of the people there (unless you’re cooking for PETA) will have driven in keeping a weather-eye out for the nearest fast-food joint so they can fill up on the way home. I took it as my job to make food so good people forgot it was vegan and only remembered to get seconds.

Biscuits were harder for me to get right than coffee cake, lasagna and even Not-Beef Bourguignonne. The reason is simple. In fact, the reason is simplicity itself. There aren’t a lot of ingredients in a pan of biscuits. They’re all about a few items combined with flawless technique.

My vegan biscuits came out damp in the middle. And kind of sludgy. They weren’t crisp on the outside. The best I could do in trial after trial was hard-crusted–and that wasn’t what I was after.

Happily, I read cookbooks. I read old cookbooks. I read regional cookbooks. I read cookbooks like other people read comic books. And one day, I read an account of the famous Harvey Restaurants’ biscuits. These were the restaurants at train stations across the west–most populous in Kansas. There was even a Judy Garland musical movie about the phenomenon.

Back in the day, cows only gave milk for about half the year. And everybody ate biscuits every day. So where was the ‘milk’ in those biscuits coming from, I asked myself. The answer was potato water. Boil the potatoes until fork tender to serve anyway you like. Drain the water off, reserving as much of it as you want. You may never make ‘milk’ biscuits again!

Potato Water Biscuits

2 cups, 9.5 oz,  unbleached white flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

2.5 TO 5 oz butter, margarine, lard, coconut oil or shortening, or combinations of these. Use less fat for less rich biscuits

1 TBSP vinegar

3 oz potato water (unsalted, or omit the salt above)

Preheat the oven to 425. Combine the vinegar and potato water and set aside. Whisk together the first five ingredients. Cut in the fat, with fingers, knives or a pastry blender (or do this in the food processor with a few short pulses). When it’s ‘done’ there will be no pieces of fat larger than a small pea. Add the liquids and stir together briefly (do this by hand, even if you did the rest in the food processor).

Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it together for about 30 seconds. Pat it into a rectangle about one inch thick. Using a knife or a bench scraper, lightly floured, cut the dough into biscuits about 1 1/2 inches by 1 inch. Put them on an ungreased baking sheet, set apart about 1/2 inch. Bake for 11-14 minutes, depending on your oven. They’ll have a nice golden crust when they’re done. And if you hold the pan to your ear, they will hardly ‘fizzle’ at all. Eat too many while they’re still hot.



  1. […] the potatoes (save the water for Potato Water Biscuits) and add them to the frying pan. Let the hash browns cook for five minutes. Turn them with a […]

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