Welcome to Biscuit Week, a special time set aside to cherish the most buttery and beloved of all quick breads.
Despite what many a wellness-focused cooking site may tell you, coconut oil is not a perfect replacement for vegetable shortening. You might call shenanigans on this claim, as The Takeout is pretty much the opposite of a wellness-focused site, but if you’ve ever eaten a coconut-oil-based biscuit that had the texture of wet sand in your mouth, you know I speak the truth. Coconut oil looks like shortening since it’s solid at room temperature, but it doesn’t act like shortening once it gets into the oven. I’ve got a little trick that solves this problem, and I use it in this recipe, which (true to form) has absolutely nothing to do with wellness. It is vegan, though! And it yields some crazy delicious biscuits.
The reason shortening makes such spectacular, fluffy biscuits is its high melting point of 117 degrees Fahrenheit; in the oven, the biscuit has enough time for its structure to set up before the shortening liquefies. Coconut oil, on the other hand, has a melting point of just 76 degrees. The only way you’re getting a coconut-oil-based biscuit that’s anywhere near the real thing is to make sure it stays solid in the oven for as long as possible, and the easiest way to do that is to freeze the oil until it’s rock solid. And how, you ask, are you supposed to cut coconut oil into tiny, biscuit-friendly pieces if it’s rock solid? You melt it, pour it out into a thin sheet, pop it into the freezer, and then once it’s set up, it can be broken up into little flakes that are perfect—and I mean perfect—for biscuit making.
While coconut oil does have a distinctive flavor, it’s not enough to make this biscuit taste like coconut. For the hit-you-over-the-head coconut flavor I wanted, this biscuit needed a three-pronged approach: coconut oil instead of shortening, full-fat coconut milk instead of buttermilk, and sweetened shredded coconut ground up into the flour, which evenly disperses the flavor and keeps you from having any odd stringy bits in your biscuit.
I also decided to add some crystalized ginger (snipped into tiny pieces with kitchen scissors for a bit of bite) and small cubes of guava paste, because if the opportunity arises to use guava paste in something, I will seize it every time. These additions are entirely optional, but the only reason to omit them is if you don’t currently have them in your pantry and want to make vegan biscuits posthaste. The ginger and guava take these biscuits from excellent to oh-my-god outstanding. You might even end up eating all eight biscuits by yourself, which is more than fine. In fact, that’s the best definition of “wellness” I can imagine.
Makes 8 biscuits
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut, plus additional for topping
- 1 Tbsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/3 cup coconut oil
- 1/4 cup guava paste, cut into small cubes
- 1-2 Tbsp. candied ginger, finely minced
- 1 1/2 cups coconut milk
Line a large rimmed plate or pie tin with three layers of plastic wrap. Melt the coconut oil and pour onto the plate, swirling around to make a thin layer. Freeze for 30 minutes until solid.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
Put the flour, coconut, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a mini food processor or blender and pulse until the coconut is finely ground. Dump into a large bowl. Add the diced guava paste and candied ginger and toss well to make sure nothing is stuck together.
Remove the coconut oil from the freezer, then roll up the plastic wrap to shatter the frozen oil into lots of tiny pieces, no bigger than 1/4". If there are any large pieces that decide to be stubborn, stab them with a fork to make them smaller. Use the fork to stir the solid coconut oil into the rest of the ingredients.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the coconut milk. Gently stir together with a fork, just until everything is fully combined.
Drop eight biscuits onto the baking sheet, leaving at least 3" of space between them. (They should each be about the size of a mandarin orange.) Sprinkle a bit of shredded coconut on top of each. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for another 8-10 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.