There have been a lot of biscuits around the house lately. I have had an acute, late winter baked goods craving which I have been satisfying quite effectively with a succession of biscuit test sessions thank you very much. It's a good thing that the luscious, silky, and strangely creamy soup that accompanies the biscuits is a low-carb dream come true. And, it's insanely easy to make.
Do you get into fennel? I dig fennel a lot, but this soup doesn't hit you over the head with fennel flavor. The fennel, shallot, pecan, and cauliflower form a perfectly harmonized quartet which, combined with the biscuits, is reminiscent of biscuits and gravy. The tender, hearty, and somewhat addictive biscuits also play the roll of a dumplings when plopped down in the center of the puree. It's a good combo. Really good.
I've been making a cauliflower, pecan, and fresh thyme soup for clients for years, but I decided to shake it up, marry fennel to the cauliflower, and move the thyme to a biscuit. There is no need to purchase the more pricey whole pecans since the soup will be blended. Pecan pieces will do just fine. Take the time to slowly soften the fennel, shallot, and garlic, avoiding any browning that might introduce bitter flavors. This soup is all about soft and buttery. Don't forget to save some or all of those feathery fennel leaves to garnish or add to the soup.
The pecans mingle with the olive oil and veggies for a few minutes and toast slightly in the oil. The liquid, sliced cauliflower, and sea salt go into the pot next to simmer. Using water is perfect in this recipe and produces lovely, clean flavors. If you choose to use stock, use a mild home-made stock that won't overpower or muddy the vegetables in the soup.
After the soup has simmered, the pecans and all vegetables should be quiet soft. Just puree the soup until it is as perfectly smooth as possible, check the salt level, and season with sherry vinegar. If you don't have sherry vinegar on hand, I would suggest white balsamic or rice vinegar as substitutes. Chopping all of the beautiful fennel greens and adding them to the soup is also a great option, as well as finishing the soup with just a touch fresh ground white or black pepper.
And now for the biscuits....
These little babies, or a multitude of variations, are going to be a new go-to recipe in my kitchen. Inspired by a number of olive oil biscuit recipes I found, and an effective and easy folding technique gleaned from the heartofabaker.com blog, I crafted these little bites to satisfy in both taste and texture. The dough is soft and supple, barely pulled together, gently rolled and gently folded several times to produce a flaky, layered texture.
Greedily, I wanted more pecans even after including them in the soup, so I added finely pulsed pecans to the dough along with the fresh thyme and honey. I also prefer the texture and nuttier taste of whole wheat pastry flour, so I used half whole wheat pastry flour and half all purpose flour. This produced the perfect texture for me, not too cloyingly doughy and not too dense. Keep a light touch with the dough and you will get great results.
Get your oven hot ahead of time because these come together fast. Don't sweat the perfection of the folding. Roll minimally, keep the work surface and the dough floured, gently fold in thirds lengthwise, flip, turn and repeat two more times, then bake! Make them just before serving if possible because they are killer plopped right into the soup straight out of the oven. Enjoy!
Cauliflower Fennel Pecan Soup with Olive Oil Honey and Thyme Biscuits
For the Soup:
- 1 C Shallot, red or yellow, thinly sliced
- 1 C Fennel, thinly sliced
- 2 Lg Cloves garlic
- 1/3 C Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 C Pecan pieces
- 1/4 C Mirin
- 1 Lb Cauliflower, sliced in 1/2 inch thick chunks
- 6 C Water or stock
- 2 Tsp Sea salt
- 1 Tsp Sherry vinegar
- *Optional: fresh ground pepper
Peel and slice the shallots about 1/8th inch thick. Halve the fennel and slice it 1/8th inch thick as well. Reserve the fine, tender fennel leaves for garnishing whole or chopped like dill. You may also chop the fine leaves and incorporate them with the soup after blending.
Choose a heavy bottomed soup pot (at least 4 qt.), and saute the shallot, fennel, and garlic with the olive oil over low-medium heat until the vegetables are soft and becoming translucent. Do not allow the fennel and onion to brown. This will take about 10 minutes. Add the pecans and saute for an additional 4 minutes. Add the mirin and allow the liquid to reduce for 2 minutes. Now add the water or stock and salt and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
After simmering, the vegetables should be very tender. Puree the soup until it is completely smooth and silky. Check the salt level and add the sherry vinegar. Add fresh ground pepper to taste.
Yield: 7 1/2 C, about 6 servings
For the Biscuits:
- 1/2 C plus 2 Tbsp Whole wheat pastry flour (also extra for dusting)
- 1/2 C All purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp Finely chopped or processed pecans
- 2 Tbsp Corn starch
- 2 Tsp Roughly chopped fresh thyme
- 3/4 Tsp Baking powder
- Scant 1/2 Tsp Sea salt
- 1/2 C Almond milk (or milk of choice)
- 1/4 C Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp Honey, liquid
- 1/2 Tsp Apple cider vinegar
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flours, pecans, corn starch, thyme, baking powder, and sea salt. Mix these together well with a whisk. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. In a small bowl mix together the almond milk, olive oil, honey, and apple cider vinegar. Pour the wet ingredients into the well in the dry, and use a spatula to just barely bring together a wet dough. Turn the dough out onto a smooth, well floured surface. Gently shape the dough to form a very soft ball.
Gently roll the dough into a rectangular shape about 3/4 inch thick. Fold the dough in thirds lengthwise to create three layers. Turn the dough 90 degrees and flip the folded side down. Now repeat the process two more times, being careful to work the dough as little as possible.
When you have made the third fold and rolled the dough to 3/4 inch for the last time. Cut the dough in six, once cut lengthwise and two cuts across. Transfer the biscuits to a sheet pan with parchment paper, leaving at least two inches between biscuits. Bake for 18 minutes. The biscuits should turn golden brown and will have puffed up a little when they are done. Check them at 16 minutes in case your oven runs hot.
Remove the biscuits and serve immediately in the center of the soup. Garnish with the fennel leaves.
The soup and biscuits recipe serves six.